The Canberra Raiders have claimed the ultimate revenge, ending the Sydney Roosters’ hopes for a third straight premiership in a stunning 22-18 win at the SCG.
The Roosters downed the Raiders in last years’ grand final and were looking to deliver the first three-peat since the 1981-83 Parramatta Eels side, but the Raiders handed the two-time defending champions a straight sets exit from the finals.
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The Roosters, to their credit, never gave up in a tremendous game of football, hitting back hard after a brilliant first half from the Raiders.
Canberra led 16-6 at the break, but both sides had tries disallowed after the Raiders’ Jack Wighton was deemed to have benefited from an obstruction and the Roosters’ Joseph Manu was denied for a double movement.
Five tries were disallowed in the match — three for the Raiders and two for the Roosters.
But with 22 minutes remaining, Manu brought the defending champions back into the game with an incredible solo try.
On an attacking raid, a ball went to ground into back play, but Manu burst off two tackles and slid into the in-goal.
The question was asked however if it was another double movement.
Greg Alexander was confident it was a try but Steve Roach wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t know, has he advanced the ball?” Roach asked.
But Alexander was confident. “That’s a try every day of the week,” he said.
“We try to look at things and pick them apart when we should just react to how it happens on the field, how it’s seen live.”
It set up a grandstand finish with a 37-year first still on the line.
But the Raiders then responded as George Williams put in an awkward grubber that wrong footed James Tedesco with Wighton grounding it in goal to re-establish a 10-point lead.
“What a cruel bounce at the back there from James Tedesco, he didn’t deserve that bounce, but he chased so hard Jack Wighton,” Roach said.
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It was particularly brutal for Tedesco who had run 264m with eight tackle breaks in a masterclass performance at the back.
It didn’t take long though for the Roosters to hit back with a Sonny Bill Williams’ offload going to Sitili Tupouniua, who tossed it on short to Tedesco to redeem himself.
But with just a minute remaining, Tedesco was again involved, reaching for a pass in front of him to knock on.
The Raiders held on for one more set, leaving the Roosters one last kick but it wasn’t enough as Canberra moved on to play the Melbourne Storm for a place in the NRL Grand Final.
The game couldn’t have started in worse fashion for the Roosters with Josh Papalii scoring after just four minutes and Luke Keary leaving the field for a head injury assessment.
The Raiders were given a penalty and field position after a hit that was deemed late by referee Ashley Klein.
The Raiders got another boost when second rower Hudson Young grabbed the boot of Tedesco, tripping him over in defence and being awarded a six again.
“Tedesco’s tripped over and there’s six more tackles here,” Dan Ginnane said of the moment.
But from close range in as big a game as it was, Raiders heavyweight Papalii could not be stopped with Keary diving in late for a desperate last ditch attempt.
The Roosters superstar sent a scare through the defending premiers after a head clash with Papalii.
With a history of concussion that ruled him out of the entire State of Origin series last year, it was a scary scene for the Roosters star.
Even Papalii seemed to need to shake it off as he walked back to the line.
But Keary stayed down and eventually left the field for a head injury assessment.
“Luke Keary now becomes the story, we understand it’s a head clash that sees him in a bit of trouble, he certainly did after the try had been scored,” Ginanne said. “We know the dramas he’s had.”
“Horror start for the Roosters,” Ginnane added as Keary left the field.
Luckily for the Roosters, Keary returned in the 20th minute, straight after George Williams scored off a line break from Jordan Rapana as the Raiders opened a 12-0 lead.
On Channel 9, Andrew Johns explained that Keary wouldn’t have been sent back onto the field if he wasn’t alright.
“Luke Keary will be back, he’s passed all the tests,” Johns told Nine.
“People at home don‘t jump up and down. If there’s a club that looks after their players with concussions it’s the Roosters.”
The Raiders’ Joseph Tapine then scored an absolute screamer of a solo try to make it 16-0 after 22 minutes.
Getting the ball with nothing going on, he probed across the field and burst through a gap and streaked to the line.
The Raiders almost had another one as Rapana made a break down the sideline kicking for himself but he was pushed into touch as Josh Starling caught the ball and flicked it back for Rapana to cross the line — only he came from touch back into the field.
While it looked bleak for the Roosters, some hope on halftime came when Josh Morris made a break and kicked back on the inside for James Tedesco to cross under the posts.