Raiders see off Roosters’ hopes
22 Raiders 18 Roosters
The Sydney Roosters’ dream of an NRL three- peat is over after a 22- 18 defeat to the Canberra Raiders last night.
In a repeat of last year’s grand final, Canberra started with an intensity the defending champions struggled to match, and the Raiders raced to a 16- 0 lead inside the opening
22 minutes at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine were outstanding for the Raiders, both scoring strong solo tries, while a Papalii offload was also instrumental in George Williams touching down for his side’s second.
Siosiua Taukeiaho was one of the few Roosters forwards matching it in the middle of the park but he was forced off with a serious knee injury around the half- hour mark, replaced by Sonny Bill Williams.
Canberra fullback Charnze NicollKlokstad also impressed, with the former Warrior making a try- saving tackle as the Roosters were repelled for most of the first half.
His opposite James Tedesco gave the Roosters hope with a 35th- minute converted try set up by a run down the left wing and astute infield kick from Josh Morris. That closed the gap to 16- 6 at halftime.
The Roosters posed a much sterner challenge in the second half.
Joey Manu closed the gap to just four points when he took advantage of some weak Canberra defence in a
30m run to the line.
But a 78th- minute Jack Wighton try put the Raiders back in control.
He pounced on a George Williams grubber that bamboozled the otherwise excellent Tedesco to ground the ball in goal.
But the Roosters weren’t quite done yet.
Tedesco scored his second of the match with six minutes remaining, with Sonny Bill Williams offloading close to the line, as the gap again closed to four.
But the Raiders kept the game tight enough that the Roosters were never given an opportunity to snatch victory at the death.
The Roosters had looked strong title contenders as recently as three weeks ago on the back of a five- match unbeaten run which included an 18- 6 win in Canberra on September 5.
But then finishing the regular season with a record- breaking 60- 8 thrashing by the South Sydney Rabbitohs suddenly destabilised their campaign.
That was followed by a 29- 28 loss to the Penrith Panthers in week one of the playoffs, which saw the Roosters last night on the brink of a rare three defeats in a row.
The Raiders advance to play the Melbourne Storm next Friday in one of two preliminary finals.
The Rabbitohs take on the Parramatta Eels at Bankwest Stadium at 9.50pm tonight, with the winner of that match squaring off in a week against Penrith, with the minor premiers on a 16- game winning run.