The Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors have shared the points in an epic encounter worthy of finals football today at the Sydney Football Stadium, in front of a crowd of 15,124 fans who no doubt were on the edge of their seats all afternoon.
It was a match that had everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. Strong defence. Enterprising attack. Periods of sheer dominance. Professional fouls. A swag-full of tries. Two, count 'em, TWO field goals within the space of two minutes. And ten minutes of Golden Point extra time that was so fast paced, it left this reporters heart racing and left arm slightly tingling.
Both teams started the match on par, completing all their sets, and staying strong in defence. The Warriors were the first to crack, through Joel Monaghan taking advantage of an overlap on the right hand side of the field.
The Roosters would go on to dominate the next twenty minutes of the match, crossing a for another two tries to Monaghan and Ashley Harrison.
The Warriors looked completely out played, but then Epalahame Lauaki came on the field, and sparked a ten minute period in which the Roosters did not see the ball at all.
Lauaki featured in all of the Warriors first half tries, first delivering the offload for Wade McKinnons fifty metre effort. Lauaki then featured again when he delivered the cut-out pass from first receiver that would lead to Jerome Ropatis try.
Two minutes later Lauaki was rewarded for his efforts with a try of his very own, completing a remarkable Warriors fightback and giving us our half time score of 18-16.
The Roosters were the first to score points in the second half via a Craig Fitzgibbon penalty goal, but the first try belonged to the Warriors when Lauaki grabbed his second try of the afternoon, albeit off a seemingly forward pass from halfback Grant Rovelli.
The Warriors were in again in the 60th minute when Manu Vatuvei chased through a Rovelli grubber into the corner and somehow slammed the ball down about five centimetres before the dead ball line. Video Referee Sean Hampstead was called upon for just the second time in the afternoon to rule whether Vatuvei had bounced the ball. Hampstead believed Vatuvei had some sort of control and awarded the try on benefit of the doubt.
At 30-18 with twenty remaining, the Warriors looked to have this one sewn up, but no-one ever told the Roosters. After Simon Mannering was sent to the sin-bin for a professional foul against Sam Perrett in the 68th minute, Craig Wing danced his way through the Warriors defence and brought the Roosters back into the game.
With four minutes remaining, Monaghan completed his hat trick and drew the game level at 30 all. Two minutes later and the Roosters edged in front care of a fourty metre drop goal from Braith Anasta. Not wanting to be out done, Michael Witt replicated Anasta's efforts down the other end of the field, and kicked the equalizing field goal with 15 seconds left in regulation time.
The next ten minutes of golden point was one of the most exciting periods of football that this reporter has seen this year, and in his opinion it is only fitting that both teams emerged from today with a point to their name.
Sydney Roosters 31 Tries: Joel Monaghan (3), Ashley Harrison, Craig Wing Field Goals: Braith Anasta (1/1) Goals: Craig Fitzgibbon (4/5), Amos Roberts (1/1) New Zealand Warriors 31 Tries: Wade McKinnon, Jerome Ropati, Epalahame Lauaki (2), Manu Vatuvei Field Goals: Michael Witt (1/1) Goals: Michael Witt (5/5)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Epalahame Lauaki (Warriors) 2 Points: Steve Price (Warriors) 1 Point: Anthony Tupou (Roosters)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome to the Sydney Football Stadium for todays much anticipated clash between the Sydney Roosters and the New Zealand Warriors. It has been some sort of comeback for the resurgent Roosters, who have won all three of their games since Brad Fittler took over as head coach, and are now just one win out of the top 8. They will have a battle on their hands today as they take on arguably the form team of the competition in the Warriors.
It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon here, with the sun beaming down and not a cloud in the sky.
Team Changes Roosters: Only some positional changes here. Setaimata Sa will start at halfback. Craig Wing moves from halfback to hooker, and Heath L'Estrange will start from the bench. Warriors: The Warriors are as per progam.
Stay tuned, as kick off is only moments away!
Both teams are out on the field, receiving quite a reception from what looks to be a healthy crowd.
0 min: And we're underway, with the Roosters getting first use of the ball.
5 min: PENALTY - Warriors: Craig Fitzgibbon gives away the first penalty of the game for having a hand on the ball in the ruck.
7 min: TRY Sydney Roosters After a perfect start from both teams, the Warriors defence is the first to crack with Joel Monaghan diving over in the corner for his fifth try in the last four games. Conversion attempt by Craig Fitzgibbon unsuccessful. Sydney Roosters 4-0
10 min: The Warriors get the chance to hit straight back after Anthony Tupou tries to force the pass on the halfway line and turns the ball over.
11 min: PENALTY - Roosters: Michael Luck is penalised and put on report for taking the tackled player past the horizontal. The Roosters with the ball in fantastic position.
13 min: TRY Sydney Roosters Joel Monaghan spins out of a weak attempt at a tackle by Manu Vatuvei and helps himself to a double. Conversion attempt by Craig Fitzgibbon successful. Sydney Roosters 10-0
14 min: After a perfect start to the game, the wheels look to have fallen off the Warriors wagon at the moment, with the Roosters dominating possession in this match.
18 min: PENALTY - Roosters: Grant Rovelli is penalised and put on report for a high tackle on Sam Perrett. Roosters with another fantastic chance to put points on the board.
19 min: PENALTY - Roosters: The Roosters will get back-to-back sets on the Warriors line after Michael Luck pushes one of the Roosters players out of the way while chasing through a grubber.
20 min: TRY Sydney Roosters The Warriors goal-line defence would be worrying to coach Ivan Cleary, with the Roosters having scored on just about all their trips down this end of the field. This time it's Ashley Harrison diving over from close range. Conversion attempt by Craig Fitzgibbon successful. Sydney Roosters 16-0
23 min: PENALTY - Roosters: Warriors penalised for offside when in possession, even though it appears a Rooster touched the ball in an offside position. A trip to OPSM after the match perhaps, Mr Hayne?
25 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors McKinnon shows just why he is one of the best fullbacks in the competition after he backs up an offload from Lauaki and races fifty metres to score under the black dot. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Sydney Roosters 16-6
28 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors The Warriors have gone back-to-back to inject themselves right back into this match. Crockett beats Aubusson on the outside and races away down the sideline and passes on the inside for Ropati to race over for the try. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Sydney Roosters 16-12
30 min: PENALTY - Warriors: L'Estrange holds Price down on the first tackle after the restart and the Warriors will once again go straight back on attack. Worrying times here for the Roosters.
32 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors It's been a stunning fightback from the Warriors, who have now scored three tries in the last eight minutes. This time Lauaki reaches out to grab one for himself after having a hand in the Warriors two previous tries. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 18-16
35 min: The Warriors had a real chance out to the right side of the field to put more points on, but Michael Witt put a poor kick in to the left hand side and has given the Roosters their first possession in about ten minutes.
36 min: Mitchell Aubusson having real troubles in defence out on the left hand side, seemingly unable to read the plays as Ropati breezes right past him.
38 min: PENALTY - Roosters: Lauaki gives away the penalty for holding down in the tackle, but the Roosters fail to find touch and give the ball straight back to the Warriors.
40 min: Amos Roberts diffuses a Michael Witt bomb, and that will do us for the first half. The teams head into the sheds for oranges, with the Warriors leading 18-16 in what has been an exciting game of football thus far.
HALF TIME Well, this match has been highly anticipated, and let me assure you, it hasn't disappointed. The first ten minutes you couldn't split the teams. They were both playing perfectly - completing their sets, kicking long downfield, staying strong in defence, and the only points came from a Joel Monaghan try in the corner. After the first 10, it was all Roosters. They had a whopping 65% possession and rightly converted that into points and what looked to be a commanding lead at 16-0. Then something happened. Someone lit a fire underneath the Warriors backsides and they clicked into gear. That someone was Epalahame Lauaki, who has been absolutely outstanding since he came onto the field. He made the offload that McKinnon backed up and raced 50 metres to score their first points under the black dot. He then found himself at first receiver and fired a long cut-out pass out to Ropati to start the movement that would lead to Crockett racing down the sideline then passing back in for Ropati to score. Lauaki then grabbed a meat pie of his own, using all his strength and determination to slam the ball down on the try line despite heavy attention from the Rooster defence. That try completed a ten minute period of complete dominance from the Warriors in which they had the ball for five sets and scored three times.
40 min: And we're underway in the second half
42 min: Possibly a huge blow to the Warriors as Wade McKinnon is limping around in backplay.
44 min: Vatuvei spills an Anasta bomb and Roosters will get first chance to score in this second half.
45 min: PENALTY - Roosters: The Warriors are all inside the ten and the Roosters will take the two points.
45 min: PENALTY GOAL Sydney Roosters Craig Fitzgibbon knocks over his 600th career goal, and we're all even here. 18 all
49 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Roosters Try...
49 min: NO TRY - 20 Metre Restart Craig Fitzgibbon loses the ball over the line, and the Warriors will take it back to the 20.
52 min: John Williams loses the ball on the first tackle 10 out from his own line and gives the Warriors a fantastic chance to re-take the lead.
53 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Lauaki proves he's a hungry boy as he grabs his second pie for the afternoon, albeit off what looks to be a forward pass from Rovelli. Shayne Hayne doesn't seem to think so, and points to the spot. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 24-18
56 min: Truly a courageous effort from Wade McKinnon, who despite obviously being hampered by an ankle injury, refuses to leave the field and continues to put himself at the mercy of the Roosters defence as he takes yet another Roosters bomb.
60 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Warriors Try...
60 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Sean Hampstead awards Vatuvei a try on benefit of the doubt after Vatuvei chased through a Rovelli grubber into the corner and slammed it down about 5cm before the dead ball line. The conversion attempt from the sideline by Michael Witt is absolutely fantastic, one of the best kicks you will ever see. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 30-18
63 min: Setaimata Sa runs the ball on the last, but hasn't got a plan in mind and gives the Warriors the ball back in great field position.
64 min: John Williams looks to have copped a dud call from referee Hayne as he is ruled to have knocked on when replays suggest that Crockett got a hand to the ball first. Hayne sees otherwise and awards the Warriors a scrum ten out from the Roosters line.
68 min: PENALTY - Roosters: Perrett makes a long break from inside his own field, and is eventually dragged down by Mannering who then steals the ball and is immediately sent to the sin bin for the professional foul.
69 min: TRY Sydney Roosters With their defencive line reduced to 12 for the next 9 minutes, the Roosters take full advantage with Craig Wing stepping his way through the line to score an important try for the Roosters. Conversion attempt by Craig Fitzgibbon successful. New Zealand Warriors 30-24
71 min: Lopini Paea has catches the ball, but then puts a foot on the dead ball line and gives the ball straight back to the Warriors.
72 min: CROWD: 15, 124
74 min: PENALTY - Roosters: Steve Price gives away the penalty for holding down Amos Roberts and almost gives away another professional foul. The Roosters are hot on attack here.
76 min: TRY Sydney Roosters Joel Monaghan completes the hat-trick, and this match looks to be headed for Golden Point. Conversion attempt by Craig Fitzgibbon successful. 30 all
78 min: FIELD GOAL Sydney Roosters Anasta nails a field goal from 40 out and the Roosters are ahead by 1. Sydney Roosters 31-30
79 min: FIELD GOAL New Zealand Warriors Michael Witt kicks the equalising field goal from about the same distance as Anasta, and we will be headed for extra time. 31 all
82 min: The Roosters will get first opportunity to win this match after being awarded a scrum 40 out from the Roosters line. Paea fired a pass into the side of Craig Wings head, and Ropati tried to pick the ball up instead of diving on it, knocking the ball on in the process.
83 min: Crockett saves a certain try by intercepting the ball 2 out from his line and races 30 metres down field.
84 min: Shayne Hayne robs the Warriors of a certain chance at victory after ruling a knock on against Steve Price after Shillington punched the ball out of Price's hands when there were two in the tackle.
87 min: After a long break by Amos Roberts, Anasta fires a long pass out to Aubusson who dropped the ball cold with the line wide open.
88 min: McKinnon pushes a field goal attempt to the left of the posts, but the Roosters should have been penalised for all being offside.
89 min: Hayne has called time off with six seconds remaining after McKinnon knocks the ball on in his in-goal. The Roosters will have one last chance.
90 min: Michael Witt kicks an almighty drop-out that goes 70 metres on the fly. Setaimata Sa heads down the sideline and kicks the ball ahead, but it goes into touch, and we will end up with only the fourth ever Golden Point draw.Like