The Canberra Raiders travelled to the Sydney Cricket Ground to face the Roosters in a repeat of last seasons Grand Final, as they attempted to remain inside the top eight at the half-way stage of the season.
In a game that was expected to be very low scoring, the opening ten minutes were niggly, with neither side giving much away.
However, it was the Roosters who began to took control of the territorial battle.
After Jack Wighton forced a knock-on from Jack Friend, the Raiders quickly turned defence into attack.
Wighton dummied to make a half-break on the left edge, and his quick play-the-ball allowed Siliva Havili to jump from dummy-half and pop the ball to Joseph Tapine.
Tapine then twisted out the tackle and offloaded to Dunamis Lui who barrelled under the posts to score.
The Roosters didn’t take long to equalise though, as ill-discipline from the Raiders allowed the home side to start a set inside the ten-metre line.
James Tedesco picked up the ball at second receiver, stepped inside Jarrod Croker, then pushed a pass out to Brett Morris to slide over in the corner.
Just minutes later, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad failed to deal with Kyle Flanagan’s high bomb and after the ball was thrown around by the Roosters, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves crashed over.
Unfortunately, Josh Morris knocked the ball on after the fumble from Nicoll-Klokstad and the try was disallowed.
Just before the 20th minute, further ill-discipline from the Raiders gave Flanagan the chance to give Sydney a two-point lead with a kick in front of the posts and he duly delivered.
The next ten minutes belonged entirely to the Roosters as they forced multiple repeat sets, piling the pressure on the Raiders.
With half an hour gone, Luke Keary collected the ball at first receiver, played the ball out the back to Kyle Flanagan who then floated a pass over the top of the defensive line to Brett Morris for his second of the night.
With half-time fast approaching, the Roosters were hoping they’d be further ahead after all their dominance.
The Raiders had a chance to pull the scores closer with a few minutes to the break as they looked to exploit a three on one overlap on the left-hand edge, but a poor decision to hold onto the ball from Nicoll-Klokstad allowed the Roosters to hold firm.
HALF-TIME: Sydney Roosters 12-6 Canberra Raiders
The Raiders started the second half in a much faster fashion than the first started.
The Roosters right-side defence was at sixes and sevens and Nicoll-Klokstad noticed this as he skipped back against the grain.
He kicked in behind the line and Croker raced forward to ground the ball. He then converted his own try to level the scores.
With 30 minutes to go, and the scores tied up, Josh Papalii and Angus Crichton blew up after Crichton elbowed Papalii and the Raiders player reacted.
The referee awarded a penalty to the Roosters, for Papalii’s reaction, and Flanagan converted the penalty to put his side back in front.
The back and forth continued, this time Cordner was penalised for a dangerous tackle, to put the Raiders in good field position.
The left-edge of the Roosters defence shot up quickly in defence, but the middles stayed still, this allowed George Williams to step back inside both Sio Taukeiaho and Friend, then beat the desperate tackle of James Tedesco to score under the posts.
The Roosters levelled up extremely quickly though.
Keary and Tedesco combined to get the ball out to Josh Morris, who then stepped off his left foot, beat the tackle of Jordan Rapana and flicked the ball out the back to Matt Ikuvalu to dot down in the corner.
Flanagan then converted from the touchline to make it 20-18.
With 15 minutes to go until the break, the lead changed once again.
Tom Starling had to ball in hand and put a little pass into Papalii who was given free rein to run straight past Lindsey Collins who didn’t even attempt to make a tackle and the prop forward scored the easiest try he’d ever score.
After Croker knocked the ball on inside the Roosters 20-metre line, Tedesco picked up the loose ball and the home side charged upfield with the Raiders on the back foot.
Keary attacked the short side, and once again Josh Morris released Ikuvalu down the left, but before the winger could cross for his second, the play was brought back for a forward pass from Morris.
The Raiders were doing well to keep the Roosters inside their own half in the closing stages, but after a set restart on the half-way line, the home side were doing everything they could to grab a last-minute winner.
However, when Brett Morris attempted an offload, the ball hit the deck and all the Raiders had to do was hold on for a minute with the ball in hand.
Tom Starling looked to drill the ball over the touchline but his kick ricocheted off a Roosters defender for Keary to pick up, but Keary was offside and the Raiders picked up the two points.
FULL-TIME: Sydney Roosters 20-24 Canberra Raiders
Tedesco, Ikuvalu, J. Morris, Manu, B. Morris, Keary, Flanagan, Waerea-Hargreaves, Friend, Collins, Cordner, Crichton, Taukeiaho
Interchanges: Lam, Tupouniua, Aubusson, Liu
Tries: B. Morris (2), Ikuvalu
Goals: Flanagan (4/5)
Nicoll-Klokstad, Cotric, Croker, Oldfield, Rapana, Wighton, Williams, Papalii, Havili, Lui, Young, Whitehead, O’Donnell
Interchanges: Tapine, Starling, Sutton, Valemei
Tries: Lui, Crokerm Williams, Papalii
Goals: Croker (4/4)
Referee: G. Sutton
Touch Judges: D. Munro, T. Smith
Video Referee: B. Galea
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)