Full-Time Report: Roosters Defeat Storm 21-6 In NRL Grand Final Shock
The Sydney Roosters are the champs.
The team from Sydney's eastern suburbs has won its 14th premiership, defeating the Melbourne Storm 19-6.
The Roosters last won the NRL title in 2013, and this year's premiership has strong echoes of that one. Before the 2013 season, the Roosters had shopped astutely, adding Sonny Bill Williams, James Maloney and others to their ranks.
This year, the two big signings were James Tedesco from the Tigers and Cooper Cronk from the Storm, who now has the rare distinction of winning back-to-back NRL titles with different clubs after ending his 14-year Storm career and heading north in the off-season.
Again, the Roosters' off-season strategy paid off. The Roosters dominated early, were never headed on the scoreboard, and were never seriously threatened.
But it was a man the Roosters recruited from Souths a couple of years earlier who really set up this win. Playmaker Luke Keary lived up to his midweek promise to control the play regardless of whether Cooper Cronk played, and was a deserved winner of the Clive Churchill Medal for best onfield.
Either the Roosters or the Storm had featured in 15 of the past 20 NRL Grand Finals. Without question, these are the two teams of the past two decades. Yet they had never met in the Big One.
They have now, and while the argument over unofficial team-of-the-century honours will rage on, the Roosters won this one fair and square.
"I don't think we've played a better half of footy," Roosters enforcer Boyd Cordner said after the game. "Mate, how good's this?"
That was a rhetorical question but we'll answer it. Bloody good.
"I'm grateful for what rugby league's done for me," retiring Storm legend Billy Slater said after the game.
"It's taught me a lot of things, selflessness, respect... I appreciate everything the game's done for me."
Slater had a touching moment with Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk immediately after the final siren, when he told his good mate that he was proud of his courageous effort.
The injured Cronk -- who only confirmed his participation in the game an hour before the game -- wasn't a huge factor in the match in terms of his play, but his directional skills were put to good use throughout.
Storm captain Cameron Smith said his team's slow start in the first 40 minutes just made the job too hard.
"Sometimes you've just got to take your hat off to the opposition when they play too good," he said.
The first half of the NRL Grand Final between the Sydney Roosters and the Melbourne Storm was the most un-Storm like performance imaginable, which in a sense says everything you need to know.
The Storm don't normally panic. The Storm don't normally bleed points. The Storm don't normally drop the ball in their own half. All of these things happened.
But that's not giving the Roosters enough credit. They were brilliant. They always say that you're more likely to score points if you win the early physical exchanges, and the Roosters dominated the centre of the field, then capitalised out wide with the brilliant play of Luke Keary, Latrell Mitchell and others.
These two teams had met in Adelaide in round 16 this year, with the Storm winning an engrossing arm wrestle 9-8. Most people expected a similar sort of game between the two teams with the NRL's best defensive records this year.
But no. There have been points-a-plenty -- and all of them scored by the Roosters.
The Roosters opened the scoring with an early penalty to Latrell Mitchell the Roosters after an infringement in the play-the ball. He hasn't been the best kicker in the NRL this year but that one came off the boot nicely. Roosters 2-0.
Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary had spoken confidently all week about how he'd step up and organise the team if Cronk couldn't play. Well, he stepped up with Cronk there, throwing an absolutely beautiful pass to winger Daniel Tupou for the first try of the night.
Such great vision.
The conversion missed. But before long, the Roosters went left again. This time, it was Latrell Mitchell putting on the finishing touches with a beautiful step.
Not until the 22nd minute did the Storm get their first attacking set up the Roosters' end of the field. They earned a repeat set off the back of it, but their attack has looked as disjointed as the rest of their general play.
Another Roosters penalty extended the lead.
And then a sensation. Cameron Munster was ordered to the sin bin for a 10 minute cool-off session after attempting to slow things down.
The Storm could do nothing right. And when James Tedesco threw the sort of slick pass he's been throwing all year to put Joseph Manu over in the corner, it was 18-0.
Mitchell missed the conversion but it remained 18-0 at the break, the same score by which the Storm led the Cowboys in last year's grand final. And they won that match 34-6.
The first 10 minutes of the second half were even enough. Then finally, the Storm got some possession in good field position. But their three back-to-back sets came to nothing after Nelson Asofa-Solomona was ruled to have taken out a Roosters defender which meant Cameron Munster's try was disallowed.
Already, the game had reached a point where the Storm needed to score within a few minutes. Their chance came. A perfect Cameron Smith pass put Munster in space on the last tackle as the Storm elected to run the ball instead of kick.
But Munster blew it. He delayed his pass by a millisecond too long, and the play came to nothing. Melbourne Storm destroyed a simple three-on-one situation they'd score from every week 100 times at training and most weeks a few times in matches. Did someone say they were Un-Storm like tonight?
With 20 minutes to go, even a positive Storm play turned bad. Cameron Munster legally stripped Mitch Aubusson one-on-one, but Josh Addo-Carr went into touch around halfway off the ensuing break, meaning the Roosters got a fresh set in good field position.
And then, the game-changer! An intercept off a Luke Keary pass by that man Josh Addo-Carr finally got his team on the scoreboard, after the speedster ran the best part of 90 metres. It was the first blemish of the night for Keary. 18-6 after the kick. Game still on.
But the Roosters were next to score. To keep the game alive, it had to be the Storm to score next. But it wasn't. The single point from the boot of Luke Keary -- who else? -- was invaluable because it meant the Storm had to score three times to win in the last 11 minutes.
The field goal looked controversial at first, when it appeared Victor Radley had extended a leg to impede Billy Slater to block the field goal attempt. On replay, it became clear Slater had tried to milk the penalty by running into Radley.
The wily old fox had been caught out. And the pro-Roosters crowd -- who had booed Slater all night because of the judiciary hearing earlier in the week -- loved it.
As time ticked down, the Storm threatened no more. A later Roosters penalty extended the lead and that was that. 21-6, the Roosters over the Storm.