Pearce field goal seals thrilling Anzac win
Mitchell Pearce has silenced his critics with a field goal in golden point extra-time to hand the Roosters a thrilling 13-12 win over a brave Dragons team in front of a record Anzac Day crowd of 40,864 fans at Allianz Stadium.
It was the star halfback's first field goal for the club since Round 8, 2011, with his 30-metre strike in the first period of extra-time enough to send the Roosters level with the Dragons on 12 competition points.
The Roosters looked headed for victory when Michael Gordon nailed a penalty goal from directly in front to give his side a six-point cushion with five minutes remaining, only for the Dragons to hit back in dramatic style to send the game into golden point.
With plenty of tackles up their sleeve, Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes inexplicably kicked early in the count with the ball ricocheting off Boyd Cordner into the arms of Nene Macdonald who miraculously fought his way through a host of would-be defenders to somehow score.
Down by two – and with Gareth Widdop off the field through injury – Josh Dugan showed no ill-effects of the HIA test that had kept him off for 15 minutes to coolly slot the difficult conversion to level things up on the stoke of full-time.
The Roosters were then gifted field position when Josh McCrone sent his midfield kick dead in-goal, and his error was punished as Pearce produced one of the biggest plays of his career to seal the dramatic win.
St George Illawarra's skipper Gareth Widdop (medial) failed to finish the game after coming off just before half-time and they clearly missed his direction and control with the boot.
Earlier, Widdop had a chance to give his side the lead, but the Dragons skipper sprayed his seventh-minute penalty goal attempt from virtually directly in front.
The Roosters were lucky to survive a second time when Joel Thompson's appeal for a try were turned down by the on-field officials and the Bunker for a knock-on by Jason Nightingale in the initial contest.
The Tricolours then had a glorious opportunity to strike first but a combination of loose passes, several players slipping over and an eventual dropped ball brought their left-edge raid undone.
It would prove a costly miss as Thompson ran a simple line to steamroll past the attempted tackles of Aidan Guerra and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to open the scoring 19 minutes in.
The Dragons did very well to repel their opponents time and time again and should have extended their lead, only for Nene Macdonald to lose the ball in the process of scoring to keep the margin at six points at the break.
Blake Ferguson appeared to be in all sorts following a knee clash to start the second half but fought through the pain to score two minutes later as he raced through to ground a Jake Friend grubber.
Roosters fans thought their star winger had given them the lead in the 62nd minute when he touched down in the right corner, only for the officials to rule the final pass from Luke Keary forward.
The Bondi faithful didn't have to wait long to celebrate though as Mitchell Pearce steamed onto a short ball from Isaac Liu, and while he initially lost control, the Origin hopeful re-gripped the ball to score under the posts.
Gordon then gave the Roosters some breathing space with a penalty goal to push the lead out to six points after Dugan had sent a line dropout sailing out on the full, only for Macdonald to level things up with a piece of individual brilliance.
However, the Roosters would have the last laugh as Pearce – who was named man of the match - landed the all-important one-pointer to clinch the win.
Roosters 13 (Blake Ferguson, Mitchell Pearce tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals; Mitchell Pearce field goal) def. Dragons 12 (Joel Thompson, Nene Macdonald tries; Gareth Widdop, Josh Dugan goals) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: 0-6. Crowd: 40,864