2019-10-07 by W.M.
Grand larceny: ‘Worst call in history’
Instead it was Federal Highway robbery that overshadowed a blockbuster grand final and a Roosters historic 14-8 win.
Canberra fans were left heartbroken and rightly so.
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With the scores level and the Raiders on the attack, lead referee Ben Cummins signalled six to go from a kick for the Raiders — only to change his mind and rule a handover when Canberra’s livewire five-eighth Jack Wighton was tackled.
Wighton rightly protested but the Roosters were given the ball just metres from their line.
The Tricolours went the distance that set with a matchwinning try for James Tedesco. Before that call, the Bondi Boys were on the ropes.
Souths tragic Russell Crowe summed up the feelings of neutrals backing Canberra, tweeting: “Horseshit result … Yet another Rugby League embarrassment. Raiders ripped off.”
Canberra’s normally outspoken coach Ricky Stuart was more diplomatic at the post-game conference, maintaining that he didn’t want to detract from the Roosters’ victory.
“You all saw it,” Stuart said. “None of us will be commenting on it.”
NRL head of football Graham Annesley said the original call to award six more tackles was wrong and he backed the decision to overrule it, despite the fallout.
“It’s very disappointing the game has been mired in controversy,” he said.
Up until that point in the game it looked like Cooper Cronk’s farewell might have been remembered for another controversial referring decision — to sin bin him for a professional foul in tackling Raiders behemoth Josh Papalii in the first half.
It was Cronk’s ninth grand final and sixth premiership.
He became the oldest halfback to play in a premiership decider and finished with the second-most first grade appearances in Australian rugby league history.
Only Cronk’s personal achievements could outdo the Roosters. He won his third consecutive premiership having had success in his final appearance for the Storm in 2017.
The Roosters broke a record of their own, becoming the first team in 26 years to win back to back titles.
The last side who did in a unified competition were the Broncos in 1992-1993.
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And there is no reason why the Roosters can’t do it again next year. Cronk may be riding off into the sunset but superstars Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell, Luke Keary and Boyd Cordner remain.
The Raiders’ time without a title will extend to 26 years next year but they wiped away one record, having to wait the longest of any side to feature in a grand final.
The Roosters had adversity coming into last year’s win against Melbourne. Cronk was on one arm but they still managed a near perfect game. This year they had to combat the adversity within the game.
They faced a spirited Green Machine who had been riding the wave celebrating the team’s 1989 success all year.
Roosters veteran Mitch Aubusson lasted just 13 minutes before coming from the field, watching the rest of the game in a knee brace.
Victor Radley was taken from the field for a concussion test before returning.
Cronk’s sin-binning steeled the Roosters and they held their nerve in his absence, giving up just a penalty goal.
The sellout crowd of 82,922 was filled with green, with Raiders fans sitting in hope.
The lime contingent rose as one when Immortal Mal Meninga blew the horn to lead the Viking Clap alongside some of the Raiders’ best including Laurie Daley and Glenn Lazarus.
The early nerves weren’t limited to just on the field with Gold Coast Titans skipper Ryan James struggling with the Welcome to Country.
“I’m lost,” James said on stage as his train of thought abandoned him.
Rather than heckling, though, the crowd stood with James, cheering his slight mishap.
NRL: Ryan James forgets the wording during his Welcome to Country at the 2019 NRL Grand Final between the Roosters and Raiders.
The halftime entertainment wasn’t as smooth either when veteran rocker Daryl Braithwaite’s rendition of Horses was threatened by a focused Angus Crichton almost running over him after emerging from the dressing sheds with his teammates.
HOW THE NRL GRAND FINAL UNFOLDED:
* 3m: A Luke Keary kick is charged down by Raiders prop Sia Soliola but the rebound bizarrely hits his Sydney Roosters trainer. Roosters get scrum feed and another set.
* 7m: Roosters open scoring when hooker Sam Verrills burrows over from dummy-half next to the post. Converted by Latrell Mitchell for the Roosters to lead 6-0.
* 18m: Roosters second-rower Mitchell Aubusson leaves the field with a knee injury, replaced by Angus Crichton.
* 20m: Canberra lock Joe Tapine is penalised for a high tackle on Roosters hooker Victor Radley. Mitchell adds a further two points for Roosters to lead 8-0.
* 22m: Radley leaves the field for a HIA.
* 31m: Canberra are on the scoreboard after Nick Cotric and Josh Hodgson combine with Jack Wighton stepping through some flimsy defence. Jarrod Croker converts for an 8-6 scoreline.
* 39m: Roosters winger Brett Morris is taken out of a contest for the ball with Mitchell missing a penalty to end the half.
NRL: Did a fortunate falcon to the Roosters trainer rob Raiders forward Elliott Whitehead of a chance to run downfield to score a try?
* 50m: Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk is sensationally sin-binned for a professional foul for tackling Josh Papalii without the ball 5m from the tryline. Croker kicks the penalty to lock up the score 8-8.
* 60m: Referee rules Joseph Leilua pass went forward on the last tackle, which would have resulted in a Raiders try. Cronk returns.
* 66m: Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad spills bomb, giving Roosters another set. Raiders then penalised for a highshot on Keary by Aidan Sezer.
*68m: Mitchell misses penalty goal.
* 71m: Referee Ben Cummins waves another six off a spilt Raiders bomb but then changes the call, instead handing possession to the Roosters.
* 73m: Roosters fullback James Tedesco scores after a line-break by Daniel Tupou with Keary and Mitchell involved. Mitchell converts for a 14-8 lead.
* 80m: Roosters claim back-to-back titles.