Roosters stun Storm in grinder

Sydney Roosters 26 def Melbourne Storm 16

The Sydney Roosters have pulled off the upset of the NRL 2007 season tonight with a hard fought, grinding win over NRL leaders the Melbourne Storm.

Roosters coach Brad Fittler now equals the current NRL record for sequential wins by a coach taking over mid-season. He shares the record with former Manly coach Peter Sharp, who jointly holds the record after taking over from Bob Fulton at Manly in 1999.

Fittler had the Roosters primed for this contest, they bolted out of the gates and played a physical, committed style for which the Melbourne Storm had no answer. Man of the match Braith Anasta spoke after the match about the belief Freddy Fittler has instilled in the club, as they sent the Storm home with their tails between their legs. The Roosters handing other clubs a blueprint for how to beat the Melbourne Storm – through a controlled game of simplicity, gang tackling and good field position – through smart touch finders from tackle 5.

First Half:
The Roosters started the game with the expected enthusiasm, hitting the Storm with brutal front on defence and gang tackling in most cases. With speed off the defence line and numbers into tackles – the Roosters looked similar to yesteryear when they pioneered the brutal gang tackle style.

The Storm seemed a little put off the Roosters style and through frustration and lack of possession they gave away a couple of penalties that kept the Roosters on the early roll.

The Roosters began to take advantage of their early possession, touching down through Anthony Topou on a nice wide movement, then a 5m charge from Ashley Harrison saw them score again near the posts, after a good dummy run from Craig Wing that drew several Storm tacklers.

When the Roosters scored again through John Williams out wide, the score was 20-0 to the Sydney City Roosters and Melbourne were absolutely shell-shocked. Fittler’s game plan looked to be going well, the Roosters finding touch on most final tackles – keeping Anthony Quinn busy in his corner.

The possession evened out slightly towards the end of the first half, the Storm getting some quality ball from penalties and managing to score a scrappy try off a Rooster fumble late in the half. The Roosters defence answering all that the Storm could throw at them in the first period.

Second Half:
The Roosters maintained their up-tempo and committed style of play and continued to dig in for the second half. As the half wore on, it became a grinding war of attrition – the flamboyant Melbourne Storm seemingly lost, in a style of game they aren’t used to. Used to leading by big margins in most matches, the Storm didn’t know how to handle the dog fight and changed their style.

Instead of their usual pinpoint kicks and sweeping, precise attacking plays – the Storm chipped too early, threw hospital passes and sent their wide men into touch. The Roosters also struggled with 5th tackle options – but were doing enough in defence and adjusted to the arm wrestle much better than the Storm did.

The clock became the Storms enemy, they pushed the envelope and just couldn’t remain calm in the face of a defeat. The outcome and reluctance of the Storm to adjust to a grinding style game of NRL – will play on the mind of Craig Bellamy and his officials. A style that is always seen in semi-finals and grand finals in the NRL.

Match 2; Canberra Stadium

Canberra Raiders 34 def Penrith Panthers 30

It was scrappy in patches, a quality of NRL certainly a few pegs down from the previous Roosters and Storm clash – but flashes of brilliance from the Raiders and a minute occasional sprinkling from the Panthers gave some excitement to fans.

The Raiders continue to win well at home, the scoreline flattering the Panthers who ran in 2 late tries. The Panthers will certainly deserve their wooden spoon this year – the Matt Elliott coached side looking woeful on many occasions. Silly offloads, dropped ball and a continuing lapse in concentration at crucial times will see Penrith struggle to win any more games this season.

Reports after the game suggest their were racial slurs made by the Canberra crowd towards the Penrith team and Panthers officials have lodged an official complain with the NRL over the matter.

The full match report courtesy of AAP is below:

CANBERRA were denied three tries by the video referee but still managed to hold out National Rugby League cellar dwellers Penrith 34-30 at Canberra Stadium tonight.

Video ref Chris Ward refused Raiders centre Colin Best twice in the first half while replacement forward Tom Learoyd-Lahrs was ruled to have been held up after dashing 25 metres to cross the line early in the second half.

But it did not stop the Raiders, who have struggled with consistency throughout the season, from maintaining their strong home record in a game where the score board failed to show the true extent of Canberra’s dominance.

Penrith held the lead only once, in the first half, before the Raiders grabbed two late tries to head 18-10 at the break.

A hat-trick to centre Phil Graham and moments of individual brilliance from five-eighth Todd Carney and winger Bronx Goodwin help inspire the Raiders to a convincing win.

Goodwin left Penrith’s Richie Williams bright red with embarrassment in the first half when he snuck under Williams’ watch to ground a down field kick as the Panthers fullback stood over it, waiting for the ball to run dead.

In the second half, Carney showed what the Raiders have missed for a good portion of the season when he stepped around a string of Panthers defenders and sprinted 40 metres to score.

While Best was twice denied his centre partner Graham was red hot in just his second match back from a lengthy injury lay-off.

As good centres do, Graham was always in the right place to finish off work started in the middle of the field by Carney and halfback Michael Dobson.

Penrith came home strongly in the final 10 minutes with three tries against lacklustre Canberra defence, but it will be little consolation for coach Matt Elliott in his first game back at the capital since leaving the Raiders at the end of last season.

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