NRL Grand Final: James Tedesco seals back-to-back NRL crowns for Sydney Roosters
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 06/10/19 12:02pm
James Tedesco's try eight minutes from time saw Sydney Roosters claim back-to-back NRL triumphs with a 14-8 victory over Canberra Raiders in Sunday's Grand Final.
A converted try from Sam Verrills and penalty from Latrell Mitchell put the Roosters ahead, but Jack Wighton's try and the conversion from Jarrod Croker ensured the Raiders trailed by just two at the break.
Croker pulled his side level with a penalty in the second half following the sin-binning of Cooper Cronk on his final appearance before retiring.
But Dally M player of the year, Tedesco, ensured Cronk got the perfect send-off by finishing a devastating 72nd-minute counter-attack which made the Roosters the first side to win back-to-back titles in a unified Australian competition since Brisbane Broncos in 1992 and 1993.
It was a fast-paced start to the contest from both teams, but a repeat set of six which came about in unusual circumstances allowed the Roosters to draw first blood in the seventh minute.
Sio Soliola did superbly to charge down Luke Keary's attacking kick, only for the loose ball to hit one of the trainers on the field and handing possession back to the Roosters from a scrum.
The defending champions were then able to build pressure and, after Boyd Cordner was held up over the line, took the lead when rookie hooker Verrills scooted out of dummy-half to race over for a score converted by Mitchell.
The Raiders rallied from that setback and went close to hitting back five minutes later when Elliot Whitehead was held up after Wighton's attacking kick on the fourth tackle had caught Sydney off-guard.
A high tackle allowed the Roosters to edge further ahead just after the midway point of the half as Mitchell kicked a goal from the penalty, but Canberra kept their cool to get themselves back in the break nine minutes before half time.
Ricky Stuart's men slowly built pressure and got their reward when half-back Wighton stepped the defence and sprinted through the gap to score, followed by Croker landing the conversion.
Mitchell missed the opportunity to extend the Roosters' lead on the stroke of half-time when his touchline penalty attempt was off-target and the Raiders were back on level terms within 10 minutes of the second half getting underway.
Cronk was deemed by the video referee to have committed a professional foul on Josh Papalii for tackling him before the prop could take a pass 10 metres from the line, resulting in the former Australia international being sin-binned and Croker kicking the goal.
The Roosters were able to hold out during that 10-minute period, though - with the closest Canberra came to scoring being just before Cronk returned to the field when Jordan Rapana was denied a try due to the final pass from Joey Leilua being forward.
Mitchell then missed a second penalty attempt at the other end with 12 minutes to go following a high tackle on a repeat after Siosiua Taukeiaho's break had splintered the Raiders' defence.
But when Canberra played on thinking they had a repeat set deep in Roosters territory after referee Ben Cummins had signalled to reset the tackle count before quickly changing his mind to signal fifth and last, Sydney launched a devastating counter-attack.
Mitchell's offload sent Daniel Tupou sprinting away down the left wing before passing back inside for man of the moment Tedesco to finish a try converted by the player who started the move to put Sydney within touching distance of back-to-back title triumphs.
And so it came to pass as they thwarted the Raiders' desperate efforts to try to force golden-point extra-time, clinching the club's first back-to-back Premierships since the 1970s.