Roosters through to grand final

The Sydney Roosters tonight booked a chance to defend last year's Premier League trophy with a crushing 60-10 win over the Canberra Raiders at Aussie Stadium.

Heavy favourites heading into the match, the Roosters simply blew the hapless Raiders of the park with a stunning display of exhilarating attacking football.

The home side led 28-6 at the break and were never headed in the second stanza, closing out an emphatic win to book a showdown with the winner of tomorrow's second clash between Parramatta and Newtown.

"We played some exciting football tonight," coach Shane Flanagan said.

"We'll have a tough match next week whoever we play.

"But the boys are confident and we've got good momentum with us.

"It will be an exciting week for us."

The Roosters got off to a blinding start courtesy of a Raiders knock-on from the kick-off. From the ensuing set, a pinpoint Grant Rovelli grubber was snapped up by five-eighth Jamie Soward, who converted his own try to spear the Roosters out to a 6-0 lead.

Rovelli was in the thick of it just minutes later, although speedster Michael Lett couldn't grasp a deft grubber to extend the Roosters' lead in the corner.

In an incredible twist of bad luck, a precise cross-field kick from Soward to classy winger Troy Malcolm again took a cruel bounce over the touchline with a second try beckoning.

But it was third time lucky for the defending premiers in the 15th minute when Soward returned the favour to New Zealand-bound halves partner Rovelli with a deft grubber under the sticks to give the home side a 12-0 lead.

The irrepressible Roosters continued firming as premiership favourites midway through the opening stanza when a sweeping backline movement saw classy winger Michael Lett crash over out wide. The try came as a direct result of a bustling 40m break from hulking prop George Rose. Soward converted from out wide to surge the Roosters to a commanding 18-0 lead.

However, a shockwave was sent through the Roosters' camp after a breakaway run from Soward was thwarted by a nasty high tackle. Soward took several minutes to regain his feet and struggled in the backplay for some time before returning to the fray.

Soward's loss didn't worry the Roosters, who threatened to embarrass the Raiders with a fourth try to Malcolm in the 26th minute following a brilliant flick-pass from Lelea Paea. Showing toughness beyond his lightweight frame, Soward spiralled a wobbly conversion from the sideline to give the Roosters a commanding 24-point buffer.

Canberra gave their few fans at Aussie Stadium something to cheer about when Michael Howell crashed over in the 31st minute. Todd Carney's conversion reduced the score to 24-6.

A Canberra knock-on gifted the Roosters another try shortly before the break, with a miraculous Soward flick-pass sending Lett over for his second out wide. Soward missed the conversion to leave the score at 28-6 at half time.

Things did get embarrassing for the Raiders shortly after the break when Soward split the Canberra defence with arguably the softest try in rugby league history. After collecting a scrappy ball with seemingly nothing on, Soward stepped to his left to run 15 metres untouched and convert his own try from under the sticks to send the Roosters out to a 34-6 lead.

The backline blitz continued in the 52nd minute when Lelea Paea crashed over to surge the Roosters out to a 38-6 lead.

Things threatened to become overly embarrassing when Carney gifted Soward his third four-pointer with an 80 metre intercept just three minutes later, as the Raiders pressed for their second try. Soward converted to send the score to 44-6.

The Raiders scored a consolation try through Beau Mundine in the 62nd minute after Aidan Kirk spilled a grubber in-goal. Carney missed the conversion to leave the score at 44-10.

However, Kirk made amends moments later, saving a certain try after thwarting a daring kick-chase from lightning-fast Raiders winger David Milne.

Rovelli made it a night to remember in his final home game, surging through some flimsy Raiders defence to race 30 metres and send the score out to 50-10 with 14 minutes to go.

Despite racking up 50 points, Flanagan was most pleased with the Roosters' defence, which saved three tries as a desperate Raiders tried to salvage some pride in the dying stages.

"That was pleasing - when you go out to those big leads often your defence becomes disinterested," he said.

"But they showed heart and pride in their line, which is what the club prides itself on."

When Kirk crashed over in the 68th minute after racing 40 metres, Sam Perrett was the only backline member to get himself on the scoreboard. Soward converted and the Roosters were whooping it up at 56-10.

Even the large crowd, who were predominantly cheering for the Raiders, were brought to their feet as Lelea Paea scooped up an errant Raiders pass to sprint 90 metres and thrillingly spear the Roosters' score past 60. Soward's conversion attempt hit the uprights to leave the score at an embarrassing 60-10.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS 60 (Jamie Soward 3, Grant Rovelli 2, Michael Lett 2, Lelea Paea 2, Troy Malcolm, Aidan Kirk tries; Jamie Soward 8/11 goals) defeated CANBERRA RAIDERS 10 (Michael Howell, Beau Mundine tries; Todd Carney 1/2 goals) at Aussie Stadium; Saturday, 24th September, 2005; Referee: Jason Robinson.

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