British international Adrian Morley has scored a sensational match-winning try to see the Sydney Roosters home by 18-14 over a gallant St George Illawarra Dragons outfit tonight.
Played in front of an Aussie Stadium crowd of 27,183 people, the match saw both sides play some tremendous football as the Roosters came back from a 14-nil deficit to take out the match.
With a number of their star players missing, the Dragons opened the scoring after 17 minutes with a try to winger Nathan Blacklock, playing in his first NRL match since round 11. The try coming courtesy of a kick ahead from left winger Reece Simmonds; Blacklock storming up the centre of the park to regather and score.
Saints then scored ten minutes later with centre John Carlaw barging over. Carlaw was denied an opportunity moments earlier after being tackled in the air, an infringement which earned Roosters� centre Ryan Cross 10 minutes in the sin bin.
The Dragons went further ahead in the 32nd minute following a Mathew Head penalty goal and at half time, Saints held a handy 14-0 lead.
With second rower Craig Fitzgibbon posting 34 first half tackles, the Roosters finished the first half strongly and came within a whisker of scoring on two occasions. Meanwhile hooker Craig Wing was finding some space with two first half line breaks. But the more enterprising Dragons were handling the Roosters with some classy play, front rower Jason Ryles leading the way. Half back Mathew Head�s kicking game also being a feature of the Dragons� game plan.
The second half saw both sides throwing the ball around before the Roosters began to find space out wide. The turning point of the match came in the 53rd minute when stand-in Dragons fullback Clint Greenshields was sin binned for a professional foul. Moments later, Roosters front rower Peter Cusack backed up to score within good range for Fitzgibbon�s conversion. Down by 14-6, the Roosters lifted a gear and for a while, Saints went with them.
But the tiring Dragons defence had no answer to a flying Anthony Minichiello who chimed into the backline and scored 15 metres in from touch. With 20 minutes remaining, the Roosters continued to hit the line hard before Morley burst through from 20 metres out, leaving a number of would-be tacklers in his wake. Ironically, the last attempted tackle was from Greenshields, who had just returned from the sin bin moments earlier.
The final 15 minutes saw plenty of action as both sides launched a number of attacking raids. The Dragons, playing to keep in touch with the competition front runners, almost pulled off victory in the dying minutes. Mathew Head put up two bombs, one which was spilled in mid-air and over the dead ball line by the player chasing through.
In other news, match winner Adrian Morley has a nervous wait ahead of him after being placed on report for a high tackle. But replays show his shoulder, and not his arm, coming into contact with the head. Meanwhile, the post-match injury woes continue for the Dragons with reports that Origin star Shaun Timmins has a suspected broken cheek bone.
ROOSTERS 18 Tries: Cusack, Minichiello, Morley Goals: Fitzgibbon 3/3 defeated DRAGONS 14 Tries: Blacklock, Carlaw Goals: Head 3/3
Aussie Stadium. Crowd: 27,183 Referee: Paul Simpkins Video Referee: Graeme West Touch Judges: Steve Chiddy, Steve Carrall
By the clock: 0 min: Players getting ready to coming onto the field, a fine night at Aussie Stadium. Round 19 about to kick off.... Kickoff!
5 min: NEWS - Fairly evens with the Roosters getting 55% posession early on.
15 min: NEWS - No change to score with Roosters still with their noses slightly in front with 53% possession.
17 min: TRY - Dragons. Saints looking good in attack. Nathan Blacklock the scorer in his first match back since last May. Follows a deft chip over the top from Reece Simmonds. Conversion Mathew Head is successful. Dragons 6-0
24 min: NEWS - Dragons now dominating play just wide of the ruck with more completions and the Roosters making an error on the first tackle. Possession favours Dragons 54%.
27 min: TRY - Dragons. John Carlaw crosses for the red and whites. Conversion from Head OK. Dragons 12-0
27 min: NEWS - Ryan Cross (Roosters) has been put in the sin bin for 10 minutes.
32 min: PENALTY GOAL - Dragons. Saints playing all over Easts at the moment. Head makes no mistake. Dragons 14-0
38 min: NEWS - Roosters coming back just before half time. Saints losing the ball on the first tackle. Saints hang on before half back Mathew Head attempts a long range field goal attempt. The Dragons hold a handy lead at half time.
HALF TIME: After holding some advantage early on, the Roosters have been unable to contain the Dragons strike power just wide of the ruck. For the Roosters, Craig Fitzgibbon is working hard as usual while Craig Wing is proving dangerous at times with two line breaks. For the depleted Saints outfit, honours are evenly spread in the pack with Dean Young, Brent Kite and Jason Ryles all working up a storm. Half back Mathew Head risng to the occasion with a top class kicking game.
Completions: Roosters 15/21; Dragons 19/23 Tackles: Roosters 164-142 Mistackles: Roosters 10-9 Possession: Dragons 53% Score: Dragons 14-0
Second half underway...
50 min: NEWS - Still early days in the second half with poessesion fairly evenly spread. Roosters making a few errors. Overall possession favours Dragons 52%
53 min: NEWS - Clinton Greenshields (Dragons) is sin binned for 10 minutes.
54 min: TRY - Roosters. Peter Cusack scores. Follows sustained pressure. Conversion Craig Fitzgibbon. Dragons 14-6
60 min: TRY - Roosters. Anthing Minichiello scores following a bust through a disjointed defensive line. The Roosters are back. Conversion Fitzgibbon OK. Dragons 14-12
63 min: TRY - Roosters. Adrian Morley bursts through to score. The Roosters devastating in scoring three tries in 10 minutes against a tired Dragons' defensive line. Conversion Fitzgibbon. Roosters 18-14
70 min: NEWS - We're in the final 10 minutes now and possession is dead even. Both sides now completing their sets in what might be a close finish.
76 min: NEWS - Roosters still just in front, 18-14.
FULL TIME: Roosters win 18-14. Saints will rue a 10 minute period when their fullback was in the sin bin, the Dragons missing a multitude of tackles while the Roosters went up a gear.
Completions: Roosters 32/43; Dragons 34/42 Tackles: Roosters 313-298 Mistackles: Dragons 29-16 Hit ups: Roosters 177-156 Errors: Dragons 13-12 Penalties: Roosters 8-6 Score: Roosters 18-14
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - C Fitzgibbon (Roosters) 2 - M Head (Dragons) 1 - J Ryles (Dragons) -----------------------------------------