Roosters rain on Cartwright's parade
The Roosters, Titans and fickle Sydney weather have conspired to rain all over John Cartwright's parade, handing the departing Gold Coast coach a 26-18 defeat in his final game in charge at Allianz Stadium.
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As both sides slipped into the Monday night malaise that has been customary throughout 2014, the Titans’ slim finals hopes were also buried in the five-tries-to-three loss in front of 6,345 hardy spectators.
The Titans fumbled, bumbled and kicked the ball into their opposition slightly more than the Roosters in a contest that contained 26 errors, though remained in the contest as late as the 78th minute, when a James Maloney penalty goal finally sealed the result.
The win pushes the Roosters back into the top four, while visiting skipper Greg Bird could also have a case to answer at the match review committee, after being accused of a bizarre head butt from the second row of a scrum late in the match.
A dropped ball from Boyd Cordner inside the first 40 seconds set the tone for a sloppy showing from both sides and gifted prime field position to the Titans early, and Gold Coast winger Anthony Don obliged within minutes, pouncing on an errant ball from Maloney to go in for one of the easier tries the 26-year-old will ever score. Five-eighth Aidan Sezer, returning from a torn pectoral for his first game since mid-May, converted for a 6-0 lead after just three minutes.
As the contest swung from end to end like a Wimbledon five-setter, the Roosters struck back immediately through Anthony Minichiello – the recipient of a cut-out ball from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to touch down in the right corner – then hit the front when Maloney scythed past three defenders from 15 metres out at the 20 minute mark.
Just as the Chooks went tit, the visitors went tat. Dave Taylor playing the part of super sub in the 28th minute, dummying past the defence with his first touch of the ball for his seventh try of the year after former Rooster Daniel Mortimer broke through into the backfield on the previous play, pushing the Titans back out in front 12-10.
Maloney ensured the scorers were kept busy, bulleting a superb cut out ball to 20-year-old winger Nene MacDonald, who hit and spun through opposite number Don from close range to again wrestle the lead back for the premiers. With half time looming and the home side pressing, only desperate defence from Mortimer could deny Cordner from stretching their advantage as the back-rower bustled his way over.
Mortimer was again in the thick of it on the final play of the half, bombing for a flying Kevin Gordon, who offloaded a miracle ball for skipper Greg Bird to dive over and pinch an 18-16 lead at the break.
The Titans failed to set foot in Roosters territory for 14 minutes upon the resumption, during which Tuivasa-Sheck bagged a try by grubbering through from a Cordner bat-down, though were able to force three repeat sets in a row through Sezer's short kicking game once they finally did.
The Bondi wall held strong throughout the assault, and it was again Maloney pulling the strings with a sharp pass to send Jennings across after they weathered the storm, extending the lead to a converted try with 10 minutes remaining.
The visitors finished the contest with all the momentum, spending the final minutes camped in Roosters territory, only for centre James Roberts to inexcusably grubber on the first tackle of a set and cough up possession. The home side then marched downfield and a penalty in the ruck directly in front saw Maloney slot the matchwinner.
Sydney Roosters 26 (A Minichiello, J Maloney, N MacDonald, R Tuivasa-Sheck, M Jennings tries; J Maloney 3 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 18 (A Don, D Taylor, G Bird tries; A Sezer 3 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 6,345