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Roosters celebrate their dramatic Holden Cup comeback win.

It's become the hallmark of nine years of the Holden Cup but it's not supposed to stand up under the pressure of grand final day.

The belief that completion rates only count if you don't score more points than the opposition seemed to be the motto of the Roosters as they made error after error pushing the envelope against the heavily-favoured Panthers in the opening 40 minutes.


The consequence was a 28-6 deficit at half-time that seemed to put paid to their hopes of stopping Penrith's under-20s dominance and with influential No.9 Grant Garvey sidelined by a shoulder injury it looked like being a long haul back to be a Roosters victory.

But as is the way of the young and the brave the Roosters carried their game-plan into the second half, only this time it worked.

Interchange forward Brendan Frei skittled Panthers defenders left and right, Jack Gibson Medal winner Nat Butcher refused to die with the football and Joseph Manu and Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck threatened to make line breaks with every touch of the footy.

Butcher, Sitili Tupouniua and Manu got the Roosters back within four points with 15 minutes left to play and when Victor Radley pounced on a Panthers error on his own 20-metre line and sent Tuivasa-Sheck on a 60-metre unimpeded run to the try-line, the conversion from in front of the posts represented 24 unanswered points and a two-point advantage six minutes from full-time.

Grand finalists in three of the past four years, the expectation was that the more disciplined play of Penrith under coach Cameron Ciraldo would outlast any pieces of brilliance the Roosters could throw at them but as the clock wound down so too did Penrith's discipline.


With a premiership threatening to be cast adrift Penrith threw caution to the wind but lacked the execution required to come up with points.

Fullback Dylan Edwards pushed a penalty goal attempt from 10 metres in from touch wide of the posts and when the Panthers received another penalty 40 metres out two minutes from the end centre Braidon Burns took a quick tap and they lost possession from the very next play.

For all the grey hairs that may emerge in 80 minutes of coaching an under-20s side, the unpredictability and momentum swings that come with this level is also what makes it so enthralling.

The Roosters had no right to come back from a 22-point deficit but also the Panthers should have been good enough to wrest the tide away and secure their place as the most dominant team in the history of the Holden Cup.

The defending premiers and minor premiers have proved to be a potent production line of NRL talent in the past four seasons and with the likes of Tyrone May, Oliver Clark and Soni Luke cutting their teeth in the NYC, that will continue into the near future.

But for 2016 the Roosters – who finished the regular season with just one win from their last five games – momentum was everything and they generated enough in the second half to walk away with the biggest prize of all. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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