Sydney will play off for a spot in this year’s NRL grand final in two weeks, after a nine-point semi-final win over Cronulla on Saturday night.
Played in slippery conditions at Allianz Stadium, 24,588 people witnessed the Roosters progress to their fourth preliminary final in five years, thanks to a hard-fought 21-12 victory.
Speaking on Channel 9 after the match, Roosters playmaker Cooper Cronk said: “Finals footy is a tough brand of footy, it’s why you do all the stuff during the pre-season.
“This time of year is about doing the little things right, doing it for longer than your opposition, and I thought we did that really well tonight.”
Cronulla will now face Penrith in an all-or-nothing semi-final on Friday night, after the Panthers ended New Zealand Warriors’ season with a 15-point triumph in the first elimination final at ANZ Stadium.
“That’s what big games are all about – grinding away and creating those opportunities. We did do that, we grinded away really well,” Cronulla’s Paul Gallen said on Channel 9.
“In big games you’ve got to take your opportunities.”
The Sharks opened the scoring after just five minutes, when Sosaia Feki went over in the left hand corner.
Cronk tied things up when he scored under the posts on 13 minutes, and when Latrell Mitchell converted, the Roosters led 6-4.
The Sharks’ hopes were cruelled by a knee injury to second-rower Wade Graham, who was assisted from the field.
The Roosters took a 10-6 lead into the sheds after Joseph Manu went over on the stroke of half-time following a penalty.
A brilliant Chad Townsend kick created a try to Edrick Lee, and when Valentine Holmes added the extra points, Cronulla was back in front (12-10).
Mitchell was the beneficiary of a smart Cooper Cronk kick in the 52nd minute, the Sydney centre going over for his 16th try of the season to hand his side a 14-12 advantage.
The Roosters were in again just moments later, with Daniel Tupou sliding over in the corner to extend the margin to six (18-12).
With just eight minutes left, the Sharks’ Chad Townsend kicked for Luke Lewis to regather in goal, but Mitchell’s wrapping hand knocked the ball free.
Cronk slotted a field goal – the 21st of his career and first of 2018 – seven minutes from time, before Mitchell converted a penalty on 75 minutes.
In the end, it was just what you expected from the minor premiers against the side that finished fourth.
James Tedesco and Mitchell, who were both pivotal in New South Wales’ origin success early this year, were outstanding for Trent Robinson’s side.
But Mitchell is likely to come under the scrutiny of the match review committee after slamming Josh Dugan to the ground in a grapple tackle early in the second half.
Penrith advance, Warriors out
Meanwhile, Penrith fought back from a 12-2 deficit to win 27-12 in front of 17,168 fans at ANZ Stadium.
The Warriors’ hopes were dealt a huge blow when captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck succumbed to a knee ligament injury with 13 minutes remaining in the first half.
— NRL (@NRL) September 8, 2018
Centre Tyrone Peachey crossed twice for the Panthers, while skipper James Maloney was exceptional.