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The Sydney Roosters have defeated a gallant North Queensland Cowboys 19-16 at Telstra Stadium, booking themselves a spot in next weekend?s grand final against the Bulldogs.
The Cowboys can hold their heads high. Scoring three tries to two, the visitors ultimately falling victim to the boots of Roosters? goal kicker Craig Fitzgibbon and half back Brett Finch, who slotted a decisive field goal just five minutes from full time.
Following repeat sets of six, the Roosters opened the scoring with centre Ryan Cross storming through in the 12th minute.
The Cowboys replied eight minutes later when half back Nathan Fien put in a cross-field kick for centre Paul Bowman. Fien was later reported to be playing with a broken cheek bone.
The Roosters were then awarded two penalties goals and at half time, held a tenuous 10-6 lead.
The Cowboys struck back soon after half time with a try to Ty Williams in the corner; a decision to tap and run rather than take a shot at goal surprising the Roosters? line.
With the scores locked up at 10-all, the momentum started going the way of the Cowboys. But in the 55th minute, the Roosters struck when Finch combined with Brad Fittler, the veteran five eighth scoring next to the uprights.
Not to be outdone, the Cowboys launched their own attacking raid. Following some smart play from centre Josh Hannay, who miraculously scooped the ball back infield, winger Ty Williams was on hand to score a double in the same corner as before, locking up the scores at 16-all.
With 15 minutes to go, the Cowboys were applying all the pressure. Then, with only eight minutes to go, Fien came within a whisker of putting the Cowboys in front after field goal attempt went wide.
The Roosters however composed themselves enough to gain vital field position with Finch breaking the deadlock in the 75th minute, giving the Sydney side the slimmest of leads.
Minutes later, the Roosters went further ahead thanks to another penalty goal.
With time running out, the Cowboys re-started with a short kick off, forcing a knock-on from Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello.
With everything on the line, Minichiello took out Nathan Fien who was chasing through. A penalty should have been issued in favour of the Cowboys. Instead, the North Queenslanders received the scrum feed, launching one final raid from 40 metres out.
The Cowboys? then cleared the ruck before kicking on the last tackle. A knock-on from the Roosters, saw a scrum ordered 10 metres out but with only seconds remaining, there was barely enough time. The fulltime siren sounded amidst fiery and passionate scenes as Cowboys forwards demanded the scrum to be packed down. But referee Paul Simpkins waved the protests away, the Roosters getting home by the skin of their teeth and earning a shot at the premiership.
Telstra Stadium, Crowd: 43,048 Referee: Paul Simpkins
ROOSTERS 19 Tries: Cross, Fittler Goals: Fitzgibbon 5/5 Drop Goals: Finch defeated COWBOYS 16 Tries: Williams 2, Bowman Goals: Hannay 2/3
By the clock: The winner of this match goes onto to face the Bulldogs for Rugby Leagues ultimate prize in seven days and the loser will bundle out with no consolation prize. The Cowboys are going into this match as heavy under dogs but after two upsets in a row defeating The Bulldogs and Broncos in consecutive weeks their momentum and confidence will be at an all time high. Ned Catic comes into the Roosters starting line up with Michael Crocker going onto the bench, The Cowboys remain as previously programmed.
0 min: Roosters kick-off.
2 min: NEWS - Both sides are involved in an all in brawl in the early stages; Roosters are warned and penalised for starting the fight.
7 min: NEWS ? The Cowboys hold Brad Fittler up over the line.
10 min: NEWS ? The Cowboys defensive line is getting a real working over so far in the early stages of the match.
12 min: Try ? Cross (Roosters). Ryan Cross receives a pass 18 metres out, he straightens up and uses his speed to his advantage as he storms his way past the Cowboys defenders. Fitzgibbon converts 6-0 Roosters
15 min: NEWS ? The Roosters defence so far has stopped anything the Cowboys have done on attack close to the line. Their pressure in the early stages has put some of the puff out of the Cowboys pack.
20 min: Try ? Bowman (Cowboys). Good pressure applied by the Cowboys leading up to the try with consecutive sets. Nathan Fien put up a cross field kick and Paul Bowman beat several Roosters jumpers to grab the ball and get the goods. Hannay converts. 6-6
30 min: NEWS ? The Cowboys are getting into a good rhythm which will suit their game more so than the Roosters. They?ve put plenty of dents into the Roosters defence with plenty of inside passes posing a big threat. Both sides have been saved by last grasp tackles close to the line numerous times.
31 min: NEWS - Luke Ricketson is off with a diagnosed broken finger.
32 min: Penalty Goal ? Fitzgibbon (Roosters). 15 metres out in front after Matt Bowen was penalised for taking out a Roosters player. 8-6 Roosters
37 min: Penalty Goal ? Fitzgibbon (Roosters). 25 metres out 5 metres across after Luke O?Donnell was penalised for taking out Michael Crocker without the ball. 10-6 Roosters
Half Time: The Cowboys have matched the Roosters in everything so far with some excellent defensive efforts by both sides involved. The Roosters lead at the break by 10-6.
Second half underway...
42 min: NEWS ? Nathan Fien is playing on with a suspected broken check bone.
47 min: Try - Williams (Cowboys). Consecutive sets of six for the Cowboys, they opt to tap instead of taking a shot at goal. They spread it wide to winger Ty Williams who steps inside of his opposite wing Chris Walker to score. Hannay can?t convert 10-10
50 min: NEWS ? The Cowboys have stepped it up a notch especially in defence.
55 min: Try ? Fittler (Roosters). A short pass by Brett Finch puts Brad Fittler into a gap to score between the posts. Fitzgibbon converts. 16-10 Roosters
61 min: Try ? Williams (Cowboys). Josh Hannay about to be tackled over the sideline throws a miracle offload which finds the hands of Ty Williams to score in the corner. Hannay?s conversion is straight through the middle It?s locked up at 16 all
65 min: NEWS ? The Roosters aren?t answering to the Cowboys very well, silly mistakes are starting to creep into their game with only 15 minutes to play.
71 min: NEWS ? 15 metres out right in front an attempted field goal attempt by Nathan Fien misses. The Cowboys have got a strong hold of this match.
72 min: NEWS ? Anthony Minichiello comes inches from scoring but is pulled up by this excellent Cowboys defence. North Queensland Captain Travis Norton is hobbling off the field with a knee injury.
75 min: Drop Goal - Finch (Roosters). 15 metres in front he nails it. 17-16 Roosters
78 min: Penalty Goal - Fitzgibbon (Roosters). 22 metres out 5 metres across after Rauhihi was penalised for a two on one strip. 19-16 Roosters
Full Time Controversy ruins what was a superb game of football. The Cowboys players blow up after Paul Simpkins denies them the right to take a scrum. The Cowboys put an excellent display but the Roosters more experienced players kept cool in the last ten minutes to win the match by 19 to 16. The Roosters will now go on to play their fourth grand final in five years against the Bulldogs.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - N Fien (Cowboys) 2 - A Morley (Roosters) 1 - L O'Donnell (Cowboys) -----------------------------------------