‘Best side in the comp’: Red-hot Roosters ice Raiders
With snow on the nearby Brindabella Range, the Sydney Roosters iced one of the best games this season.
A dramatic 22-18 win over Canberra gives the Sydney Roosters a fourth successive win. The premiers have momentum, they're hungry and are back to defend their title.
The weather was cold at GIO Stadium, the game was hot. It was a titanic match. This was high class.
Victory just about guarantees the Roosters a top-four position.
To overcome Canberra in front of a hostile home crowd showed this Roosters side has the focus and mental toughness to go back to back.
"The Roosters are the side to beat - they're the best side in the competition," former Queensland forward Darryl Brohamn told 2GB.
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Played before a crowd of 19,530, it had a real semi-final feel to it. These two teams will meet again.
One final Canberra surge failed - coach Ricky Stuart, sitting sideline, spitting out his chewing gum and kicking it away.
With little possession in the second half, the Roosters played tough in hostile conditions and freezing conditions.
And they did it without Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend and Siosiua Taukeiaho. Hooker Sam Verrills didn't come back for the second half, Victor Radley shifting into dummy half.
It was a stirring afternoon in Canberra. The Viking clap bought goosebumps, GIO Stadium was pumping.
The Roosters were behind 12-6 in the 15th minute but lead 18-12 at half-time, the opening 40 minutes having a series of momentum changes.
There was one piece of pure magic from Roosters fullback James Tedesco.
He threw one of the finest try assists you will see in the second half when he floated a no-look pass - cutting out Latrell Mitchell - to winger Daniel Tupou, who scored.
Tedesco is going to another level with every game.
He also made a break which led to the Roosters' first try, scored by Radley.
Tupou was another strong performer, as was back-rower Angus Crichton.
Mitchell scored a brutal try in the 24th minute when collecting a loose ball and bulldozing over two defenders to score.
The Roosters had lost five in a row at Canberra before this match.
Canberra lost no mates.
They threw everything at the Roosters and could easily have won late, when they secured momentum.
"Canberra has a team that can win the title," said Brohman.
Raiders forward Elliott Whitehead was placed on report for contrary conduct.
It went on for most of the game, a former NSW star and an Englishman.
Sydney Roosters star Latrell Mitchell had a running battle with Canberra's British bulldog, John Bateman.
They niggled and taunted each other throughout.
At one point, Mitchell reeled backwards seeking a penalty after a collision with Bateman.
Bateman cheekily flicked Mitchell in an attempt to embarrass Mitchell back to his feet.
Is Jarrod Croker the most underrated player in Canberra's 37-year history. He's never played for NSW, nor Australia.
But this wonderful tryscoring, goalkicking centre completed his 250th NRL game.
The Daily Telegraph spotted Croker arriving at GIO Stadium several hours before kick-off to prepare. He missed a one-on-one tackle on James Tedesco that led to the Roosters first try but soon balanced the ledger.
He scored a try in the 15th minute to celebrate his milestone. The conversion gave Croker 1000 points at GIO Stadium. He became the 48th player to achieve the 250-game milestone.
Sadly he ended the game off the field with concussion.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 22 (D Tupou 2 L Mitchell V Radley tries L Mitchell 3 goals) bt CANBERRA 18 (J Croker J Rapana E Whitehead tries J Croker 3 goals) at GIO Stadium. Referee: Chris Sutton, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 19,530