Roosters into GF with comeback win over Dragons
The Roosters have progressed to the Holden Cup grand final for the first time in the club's history with a come-from-behind 26-20 win over the Dragons on Friday night.
Having lost their two regular season meetings - and down 14-0 at the break - the Tricolours piled on three late tries to stun the Dragons in what was the Red V's fifth stumble at the final hurdle at NYC level.
The Roosters will now take on the Panthers in next week's decider after Penrith edged the Cowboys 32-16 in the afternoon's first preliminary final.
The evening couldn't have started any better for the Dragons as skipper Patrick Herbert stormed onto a flat ball from Jai Field on the last tackle to open the scoring inside five minutes.
It was almost double trouble for the Red V two sets later when some fleet-footed stepping by livewire fullback Matt Dufty looked to have sent him over only for some desperate goal-line defence to somehow force the ball free.
Having been denied moments earlier, Dufty turned provider with a stunning around-the corner offload to send Luciano Leilua over to make it 8-0 after 11 minutes.
Slowly but surely the Tricolours worked their way back into the contest and should have halved the gap when Joseph Manu broke into the backfield, but with support inside and out, chose to take the tackle instead.
The Team of the Year centre had a chance to redeem himself five minutes from half-time when some brutal fending and twinkle toes got him in the clear, and while he did fling the ball back infield, the result was the same as Leilua intercepted the pass.
It would prove to be a telling miss as the Red V marched downfield and extended their lead through halfback Jack Payne who dummied and stepped off his right foot to make it 14-0 at the break.
The Roosters came out of the blocks after the break with a full head of steam and were rewarded with a try to back-rower Victor Radley barely two minutes into the second half.
Inspired by some huge runs from bench prop Sukamanu Raki, the Roosters were in again when Grant Garvey regathered his own grubber out of dummy-half to cut the gap to two points with half an hour to play.
It looked as if it was only a matter of time until the Roosters hit the front, but Dragons No.9 Reece Robson burrowed over against the run of play to give his side a crucial eight-point buffer.
A huge run from Roosters lock Nat Butcher gave his side the lift they needed, and from the very next play, winger Bernard Lewis reeled in a grubber to touch down for his 19th try of the season to make it 20-16 for the Red V.
There were raucous scenes from the very next set when behemoth prop Poasa Faamausili crashed through four would-be defenders to give his side the lead and send the hearty bay of Roosters supports into raptures.
The comeback was complete four minutes from the end when Manu scooped up a loose pass and offloaded to Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck to race away and secure his side's first ever grand final berth.
Roosters 26 (Victor Radley, Grant Garvey, Bernard Lewis, Poasa Faamausili, Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Jesse Marschke 3 goals) defeated Dragons 20 (Patrick Herbert, Luciano Leilua, Jack Payne, Reece Robson tries; Jai Field 2 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: 14-0 Dragons.