16 Reasons This Is The Grand Final The NRL Had To Have
Roosters 12, Rabbitohs 4
The Sydney Roosters have beaten the South Sydney Rabbitohs in a scrappy but engrossing preliminary final at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, and will meet the Melbourne Storm in the NRL Grand Final next Sunday.
The Roosters had lost three of the last four preliminary finals they'd contested. This year, they finally won one, despite being their own worst enemy at times, not least through some truly atrocious goal kicking in the absence of regular kicker Latrell Mitchell.
The grand final will now be interesting in all sorts of ways, partly because of Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk, who'll be up against his old mates at the Storm, where he played 323 games over 14 seasons. That is, assuming the shoulder he injured just before half-time holds up.
But the main reason the 2018 season-decider should be a ripper is that -- including this year -- at least one of these two teams have featured in 15 of the last 21 NRL Grand Finals.
One more time. Either the Roosters or the Storm have been there, at the pointy end of the season, in 15 of the last 20 years. This year will make it 16 of 21, but get this: it's the first time they've met in the decider.
So in a sense, this is a match to decide the unofficial title of the team of the century to date. It's also a Sydney versus Melbourne thing, which is always a good fun rivalry.
On a night when the soon-to-be-demolished Allianz Stadium recorded its biggest ever crowd of 44,380, the big Rabbitohs forwards monstered the Roosters early, and forced a couple of turnovers.
But there is never an easy way through the Roosters defense, and Souths were forced to notch first points through the boot of Adam Reynolds.
2-0 Rabbitohs. But moments afterwards, Roosters winger Daniel Tupou scored on the back of a super slick passing move involving off-season acquisitions Cooper Cronk and Tedesco.
Remember the last time the Roosters went on a pre-season shopping spree? That would be 2013, when they brought in Sonny Bill Williams and Michael Jennings and James Maloney and won a premiership. Anyone want to bet against something similar happening this year?
This was a strange match. There was plenty of dropped ball, and moments of brilliance were few and far between. One such moment occurred when Joseph Manu somehow got a pass away to Blake Ferguson, who improbably wrong-footed two defenders to score.
And oh, that Roosters defence.
The Roosters' third try, like the match itself, was a bit of a mess. But they all count.
The Roosters scored three tries to nil in the end, and though they didn't kick a goal, it didn't matter.
Souths were not at their best tonight, showing very little of the attacking flair which made them the top-scoring team this NRL season. But they weren't given much chance by that Roosters defence.
Immediately after the game, Roosters coach Trent Robinson said it was too early to speculate on Cronk's availability for the grand final.