Almanac Rugby League – NRL Finals Week 2 + NRLW Round 2 Wrap: Roosters bow out and the NRLW gets brutal

The Sydney Roosters’ quest for three successive NRL premierships came to an end while the Canberra Raiders and South Sydney Rabbitohs remained in contention for this year’s title.


As expected, there were plenty of talking points over the weekend in Week Two of the NRL finals and Round 2 of the NRLW. It was disappointing to see Michael Jennings and Tristan Sailor make headlines for all the wrong reasons. (Rugby league has a tendency to do that at any time, but I don’t want to dwell on that here).


Later this week, the Melbourne Storm take on the Raiders while the Penrith Panthers contest the Rabbitohs with the winners to square off in the Grand Final. The Grand Finalists in the NRLW meanwhile have been decided already, with one round left in the three-week round-robin competition.


Despite injury troubles, the Roosters appeared to have a realistic chance of becoming the first club to achieve three successive premierships since Parramatta did so from 1981 to 1983. As it turned out, the Roosters bowed out of the finals with their third consecutive defeat. An horrendous 60-8 loss to the sixth-placed Rabbitohs in the last round before the play-offs suggested they had lost their aura before they were edged out 29-28 by minor premier Penrith in a thrilling start to the finals series. The Roosters’ contest last Friday night was sure to be eye-catching as they not only tried to keep their season alive but also encountered their Grand Final opponent from last year.


There were plenty of marginal decisions throughout the game, even if not as controversial as those that dogged last year’s Grand Final. Both teams were denied by The Bunker. The Raiders forged to a 16-0 lead but the Roosters were not about to surrender like they did against the Bunnies two weeks earlier. Having fought back from a 28-10 deficit against Penrith, the Roosters produced another comeback. A fine try to gun fullback James Tedesco from a break and chip-kick by Josh Morris enabled the Roosters to trail 16-6 at half-time. It’s not often that Tedesco is made to look foolish but he made two costly mistakes in the last 11 minutes. With the Roosters trailing by just four points, he looked set to field a grubber-kick comfortably only for the ball to roll past him and enable Canberra’s Jack Wighton to bag a try. But the game was not yet over. In what could have been the dying minutes of his stellar career, Sonny Bill Williams set up another try for Tedesco. There was still a chance of a Roosters’ miracle as the margin was back to just four points with only a few minutes remaining. But another error from Tedesco, this time as he reached out and spilled a pass in the final two minutes, was the final nail in the coffin. Despite the closeness of the result, the Raiders were deserved winners after strong displays from Wighton, Josh Papalii and Jordan Rapana in particular. The Raiders contained the Morris brothers for the most part, while powerful Roosters forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves paid for his ill-discipline in the first half.


The second NRL match of the weekend had a similar theme to the previous week’s matches as one team had a useful lead before being run down. You could say it was a game of two halves as Parramatta led 18-8 at half-time before Souths scored 30 points to six afterwards. Yet the outcome could so easily have been vastly different as a couple of speculative second-half incidents turned the momentum sharply in favour of the Rabbitohs.


Souths led 8-0 before the Eels scored three tries in just seven minutes. Fullback Clint Gutherson scored his team’s first and third tries and had a hand in the other. As the second half showed, it is not unusual to see a 10-point lead turn into a two-point deficit. But the biggest turning point came as Mitchell Moses sought a simple penalty goal to level the scores. The Eels simply did not pay the required attention as the ball cannoned off the left upright and enabled the Rabbitohs to counterattack when the Eels could have regained possession. Up the other end just moments later, Gutherson came up with a fumble which enabled Souths to pounce and make the score 26-18. Check the 60 seconds of madness here:


As if that eight-point turnaround wasn’t enough, the Eels spread the ball with 10 minutes remaining and threatened to create an overlap when Jaxson Paulo took an intercept and raced 50 metres to score. I know I’ve said this before, but an intercept really is a dramatic game-changer. In this game, two key incidents – a goal-kick hitting the post and an intercept try – made a 14-point difference. Fourteen points just happened to be the final margin after Parramatta’s George Jennings bagged his second try of the match before Rabbitohs rake Damien Cook scored a fine try from broken field play.


In the NRLW, the Broncos and Roosters booked their respective Grand Final spots as they won for the second successive Saturday while the Warriors and Dragons were beaten for the second consecutive week.


The halves pairing of Corban McGregor and Zahara Temara proved a winner for the Roosters while rugby union convert Charlotte Caslick shone at fullback after playing in the halves a week earlier. The Roosters were lucky to be awarded their first try after a blatant knock-on on the previous tackle was overlooked. But the Warriors simply could not find a way to score until the final three minutes when a 22-0 defeat beckoned. The Roosters led 12-0 after Quincy Dodd scored a try resembling her four-pointer from a week earlier as she darted over from acting-half. A great second-half try to Temara was followed by a try to Bobbi Law who received a bullet-like pass from Shanice Parker. Kirra Dibb scored a consolation try after chasing her own grubber-kick before a runaway try to Evania Pelite just moments later took the final score to a respectable 22-12.


The Broncos versus Dragons tussle was the most brutal NRLW contest in the competition’s three-year history, as multiple players from both teams sustained injuries which left them in agony. The ferocity was perhaps a little too much for some of the players to handle. There were numerous stoppages as various players were assessed and treated, and the Broncos were down to 12 players for the final seven minutes. A second-half try to Jessica Sergis gave the Dragons hope of a comeback after they trailed 12-0 at half-time but the momentum was cruelled when Jaime Chapman delicately fumbled the ball as she dived over for a certain try. A try to Lauren Brown from dummy-half secured a gutsy 18-4 victory for the Broncos but there were concerns for the competition pacesetters in the lead-up to their two upcoming encounters with the Roosters (including the Grand Final). Skipper Ali Brigginshaw was reported for dangerous contact after diving at her opposite number who put in a kick and was in distress from the contact. Broncos second-rower Amber Hall was also involved in an unsavoury incident as she grabbed the hair of Isabelle Kelly who then fell awkwardly and injured her ankle.


Stay tuned for more NRL and NRLW news later this week.


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About Liam Hauser

A Queenslander through and through, Liam went out of his comfort zone as he had a thoroughly worthwhile time in Tumut and Gundagai from 2008 to 2016 before enjoying a year in Gunnedah. His strongest sporting interests are State of Origin, Sheffield Shield, Test cricket and the NRL. His sporting CV doesn’t have many highlights, although he once top-scored in a warehouse cricket match with 54 not out at number 10, and shared in an unbroken last wicket stand of 83 with the number 11 who scored an undefeated 52. Liam has written books including State of Origin 40 Years, A Century of Cricket Tests, A History of Test Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Cricket, The Immortals of Australian Rugby League, and The Great Grand Finals: Rugby League's Greatest Contests. Also a huge fan of Electric Light Orchestra.


  1. That Broncos v Dragons game certainly was a ‘demolition derby’! This week’s Broncos v Roosters match, and the Grand Final a week later, should be a cracker.

    Souths won’t want to give the Panthers a head start if Bennett’s boys want to make the Grand Final. But, at the same time, the pressure is more on the Panthers to maintain their streak. Defence v flair, perhaps.

    And what an effort by the Raiders! They were out on their feet for the last 10 minutes but hung on. Have they gassed themselves to get this far? The Storm will be a different type of obstacle to overcome.

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