ROOSTERS 13 d. DRAGONS 12 @ Allianz Stadium
The Roosters and Dragons delivered on ANZAC Day yet again, producing an intense golden point thriller in front of a record crowd.
THE MATCH: A 40,864-strong turnout for the traditional showdown and the spine-tingling ANZAC Day formalities ensured a powerful atmosphere, and the Dragons scored the only try of a gripping first half via Joel Thompson’s barnstorming 19th-minute effort.
The high-flying Saints suffered a critical blow just before the break, however, with Gareth Widdop hobbling off with a medial ligament strain.
The Roosters landed on the scoreboard nine minutes after the resumption as Blake Ferguson latched onto a Jake Friend grubber, while they took a 10-4 lead with 15 minutes to go as Mitchell Pearce speared his way over under the posts.
A 76th-minute penalty goal ensured the Tricolours wouldn’t lose in regulation time, but an unbelievable solo try from 10 metres out by Dragons winger Nene MacDonald gave stopgap goalkicker the opportunity to send the match into extra-time, which he duly did from the sideline.
Pearce overcame some field goal demons to drill the match-winner between the sticks to seal an emotional victory for the Roosters in the fourth minute of extra-time.
THE MAN: Pearce claimed best-on-ground honours for a gritty halfback’s display, making two line-breaks – including the crucial go-ahead try – along with 25 tackles, before nailing the all-important one-pointer.
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THE MOMENT: The oft-maligned Roosters No.7 had not kicked a field goal since 2011, missing 18 in the interim – few times more notably than in the club’s loss to Manly earlier this season. That he still stepped up to take the match-deciding shot when the likes of Luke Keary and Michael Gordon are in the side speaks volumes for Pearce’s leadership and determination. Blues coach Laurie Daley would have been extremely impressed.
STORM 20 d. WARRIORS 14 @ AAMI Park
A late surge by the ever-clinical Storm overcame a brave Warriors effort in an absorbing clash to end the ANZAC Round.
THE MATCH: It was clear early that the Warriors had come ready to wipe away the memories of their humiliating 42-0 loss in the corresponding encounter last year, and they posted first points through David Fusitu’a in the 10th minute.
Stout defence kept the Storm at bay, until the half-hour mark when forward giant Nelson Asofa-Solomona powered over under the posts. The rivals traded penalty goals in the dying minutes of the half to create an 8-all scoreline at the break.
Fusitu’a had a double just four minutes into the second stanza, finishing off superb inside work by the all-international spine of Luke, Foran, Johnson and Tuivasa-Sheck. But Melbourne replied immediately, with Kangaroos hopeful Will Chambers burning Bodene Thompson – who had only just slotted into centre for the injured Solomone Kata – on the outside, before finding Cooper Cronk to finish off an 80-metre movement.
Johnson nudged the Warriors back in front with a 52nd-minute penalty and the Warriors hung onto their 14-12 lead grimly, until some brilliance from Cronk and Suliasi Vunivalu saw the Storm bust out of their own territory. The Warriors scrambled, but two plays later Cameron Smith’s vision produced a try in the corner for Josh Addo-Carr.
The Warriors struggled to work their way into position to strike back and the Storm turned the screws, before Felise Kaufusi’s 77th-minute try from close range sealed the deal for the home team.
THE MAN: Nelson Asofa-Solomona was an absolute brute, scoring a great try, racking up 88 metres and 26 tackles, popping offloads at will and generally causing mayhem on both sides of the ball. It was an eye-catching display that surely has catapulted him into Kiwis reckoning for the ANZAC Test, with his ability to do damage on the edges and in the middle with the ball in hand and a thirst for inflicting pain with his defence certain to make the Kangaroos more than a little wary.
THE MOMENT: Addo-Carr’s try gave the Storm their first lead of the match in the 66th minute and showcased the team’s brilliance right across the park. But the fact it wasn’t sent up to the Bunker was diabolical. Although the video evidence wouldn’t have been enough to overturn the live decision had it been sent up as a try, the on-field officials were just an inch away from disaster. Dumb luck, rather than astute officiating, saved them from another blow-up.
— CommentaryBoxSports (@Comm_Box_Sports) April 25, 2017