The Sydney Roosters have sent a reminder to the other top 8 teams not to write them off come finals time after defeating the 2nd placed North Queensland Cowboys 32-18 at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday afternoon.
The afternoon had mixed emotions, starting with a moment of silence for Paul Green who passed away on Thursday. Green was a part of both clubs during his career, playing for the Roosters in 2001 & 2002 before returning to the club in 2013 as Trent Robinson’s assistant coach. In 2014, he began his 7 years of coaching the Cowboys, including the unforgettable 2015 grand final between the Cowboys and the Broncos. The Roosters had extra motivation with captain James Tedesco running out for his 200th NRL game.
Prior to kick off, Roosters coach Trent Robinson said he wanted his team to “start fast & live” which had Cowboys coach Todd Payten a little concerned. The Roosters did exactly that, spending a lot of the first half attacking the Cowboy’s defence. It took just 4 minutes for the Roosters to get on the board, with young gun Joseph Suaalii going over for try 14 in 14 games after receiving a “harbour bridge” pass from Victor Radley.
The Roosters pushed the Cowboy’s defence to their limits in the first 20 minutes, forcing drop outs and not giving the visitors much room to move. After 43 games without scoring a try, Roosters mid-season recruit Matt Lodge found himself over the line after another pass fro Victor Radley. Lodge hadn’t scored since round 19, 2019 when he was playing for the Broncos against the Titans.
The Cowboys persevered, and in the 33rd minute they got some points when Murray Taulagi scored wide off a flick pass from Luciano Leilua and it was 10-6 with 5 minutes to go. The Roosters hit back when towering winger Daniel Tupou scored in the corner in the 37th minute and the tricolours went into the half time break leading by 8 points, 14-6.
At halftime, Todd Payten said his side needed to be more aggressive and disciplined in the 2nd half. Meanwhile, Trent Robinson said his side needed to challenge the bench pack of the Cowboys. Roosters hooker Sam Verrills scored in the 52nd minute off a scrum feed, and the Roosters weren’t slowing down any time soon. The Cowboys found themselves over the line in the 57th minute through Reece Robson and it was back to an 8 point game with 20 minutes to go.
Veteran Rooster Jared Waerea-Hargreaves put cracks in the Cowboys defence when he went over the line in the 65th minute, adding to his mammoth effort for the day.
Sam Verrills went over for his 2nd try of the game, although he wasn’t sure if he had scored – the bunker confirmed a try and the confusion turned into celebration, the Roosters finding themselves 20 points in front with 10 minutes to go.
The Cowboys started to look fatigued, constantly on their line defending while the Roosters continued to push hard. With 2 minutes to go, Cowboys flying winger Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow joined the other 3 wingers (Suaalii, Taulagi & Tupou) in scoring when he ran 40m down the field off a Tom Dearden pass.
Post-match, Todd Payten said the squad spoke about performing well for Paul Green and his family but they couldn’t achieve that. Cowboys captain Jason Taumalolo reflected on his time as a player under Green who made him “carry tractor tyres around” and “work hard”. “Paul has helped me a lot and helped me establish my career, my thoughts go out to Amanda and the kids right now.”
Trent Robinson said his team established a platform to play off, also saying they ran and defended well. He was also happy with his side performing for longer periods but believes they could have been more ruthless throughout the game. He praised Sam Verrills for “dominating the ruck”, and Victor Radley for setting up Matt Lodge to score.
Today’s victory makes it 5 in a row for the Roosters, and the 6th defeat for the Cowboys in 2022. Next week, the Roosters host the Tigers at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Cowboys will play the Warriors at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS: 32 TRIES: J. Suaalii, M. Lodge, D. Tupou, S. Verrills 2, J. Waerea-Hargreaves GOALS: S. Walker 4/6
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS: 18 TRIES: M. Taulagi, R. Robson, H. Tabuai-Fidow GOALS: V. Holmes 3/3
LOZ’S STAND OUT PLAYERS: J. Suaalii (SYD), J. Waerea-Hargreaves (SYD), V. Radley (SYD), L. Leilua (COW), M. Taulagi (COW), V. Holmes (COW)