The Sydney Roosters outplayed the Melbourne Storm in front of a sell out crowd on Friday night at AAMI Park, defeating the home side 18-14.
Emotions were running high before the ball was kicked, with the hatred running strong between the 2 most successful teams in the last 10 years.
The match was also the final home game for the regular season for 4 big names departing the Storm system at the end of the year, with Felise Kaufusi heading to the Dolphins alongside Kenny & Jesse Bromwich, and Brandon Smith heading to the tricolours in Bondi.
It all started in the opening minutes when the Roosters were awarded a penalty, opting to kick for 2 points to get on the board early.
It wasn’t long before the Storm looked to be over for a Justin Olam try, but Olam was ruled to have knocked on in the 3-way battle with James Tedesco and Joseph Suaalii to ground the ball first.
The Roosters worked their way down field with towering winger Daniel Tupou scoring in the corner off a Luke Keary-Drew Hutchison pass combination, with the extras added by Sam Walker.
Tupou left the field not long after with a suspected groin injury and did not return for the rest of the game.
In the 18th minute, the Roosters extended their lead courtesy of Joey Manu who scored off a Keary kick after the ball was passed from side of the field to the other until there was a crack in the Storm defence.
Walker’s conversion was successful and the Roosters had themselves a comfortable 14-0 lead after 20 minutes.
It wasn’t long until the tension on the field was at its peak, and tempers shortened as the 2 sides got up close and personal. Roosters veteran Jared Waerea-Hargreaves found himself face to face with Storm giant Nelson Asofa-Solomona on more than one occasion.
Referee Adam Gee was heard pulling both captains in and telling them to calm their teams, otherwise players would be sent.
On the very next play, that is exactly what happened when NAS ran towards JWH who initially made contact on his chest before wrapping his arm around the neck of NAS, earning himself a 10 minute rest in the sin bin and a date with the judiciary next week.
The Storm weren’t at their usual clinical standard during the first half, making 7 errors in the first 30 minutes. The AAMI park crowd hadn’t had a lot to cheer for until Xavier Coates scored in the corner minutes before half time, taking advantage of the tricolours being a man down.
Nick Meaney nailed the conversion from the sideline, and the Storm were continuing their mission to close in on the Roosters’ lead before half time. Justin Olam was hit high right on half time, taking the kick to go into halftime trailing by 6 points.
The second half saw the Storm come out with a second wind, showing more intensity and gaining more metres, and it wouldn’t be 40 minutes of footy without JWH going on report for the 2nd time in the game when he made high contact on Justin Olam.
Joseph Suaalii looked certain to score, until Jahrome Hughes denied him with what only can be described as a “koala hug” tackle, holding Suaalii up over the line.
But that wasn’t the last we would see of Suaalii, with the youngster being awarded a try minutes later, but Walker couldn’t extend the lead by an extra 2.
Storm fullback Nick Meaney scored and converted his own try with 15 minutes to go, set up for a tight finish, but it turned ugly with 8 minutes to go when Victor Radley suffered a sickening head knock that left him laying on the ground motionless and appearing to have a seizure.
Radley was taken from the field on the medicab, with an update reporting that he was sitting upright and talking in the medical room during initial assessments and FOX Sports disclosing they will not replay the footage due to the graphic nature.
The Storm were piling the pressure onto the Roosters’ defensive line, hoping for a slip up which came through a penalty given after Nat Butcher wasn’t square when making contact with Storm hooker Harry Grant.
Roosters interchange Lindsay Collins was put on report with four and a half minutes to go after Tom Eisenhuth was assisted from the field for a leg injury caused by Collins who appeared to perform a hip drop during the tackle.
Kenny Bromwich was confident he had levelled the score when he charged over, but Tedesco and Nat Butcher appeared to hold the ball up and the bunker concluded he had not scored.
The last 2 minutes had it all – wild passes, knock-ons and 6-agains.
With just over a minute to go, the Roosters just needed to hold the ball and wind down the clock. The Storm ran out of tricks to pull out of their hats, and the Roosters took the win 18-14 and extended their winning streak to 7.
Storm assistant coach Stephen Kearney fronted the media for the post match press conference in the place of Craig Bellamy who was unwell and left at the end of the game.
Kearney said there are areas they will need to look at over the next 6 days before they take on the Eels in their final opportunity to lock in a top 4 spot.
Captain Jesse Bromwich said they need to be confident in what they’re doing and have momentum going into finals, and they need to work on their discipline.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said “they wanted to come down, get a result and win some footy” and described the game as “scrappy” and as a “dog fight”.
He also went on to say they’ve “been working on things defensively all year”. He wasn’t sure what the penalty was for when JWH was sent for 10, but that Jared “got down and dirty” and made it a “forwards fight”.
On the injury front, he said Radley remembers the game up until that contact, and that Tupou’s groin injury “is a concern”.
The final round of fixtures will see Melbourne travel to CommBank Stadium to play Parramatta Eels, and the Roosters will host their biggest rivals in South Sydney Rabbitohs at their newly built Allianz Stadium.
MELBOURNE STORM: 14 TRIES: X. Coates, N. Meaney GOALS: N. Meaney 2/2 PENALTY GOALS: N. Meaney 1/1
SYDNEY ROOSTERS: 18 TRIES: D. Tupou, J. Manu, J. Suaalii GOALS: S. Walker 2/3 PENALTY GOALS: S. Walker 1/1
LOZ’S STAND OUT PLAYERS: J. Olam (MEL), J. Hughes (MEL), N. Meaney (MEL), J. Tedesco (SYD), J. Manu (SYD), L. Keary (SYD)