Cordner's heroics inspire Roosters over Broncos
The brutality of the State of Origin series opener might have forced star playmakers Mitchell Pearce and Anthony Milford out of Saturday night's heavyweight clash between the Roosters and Broncos, but the sides produced their own interstate classic with the Sydneysiders holding on for a gutsy 18-16 win at Allianz Stadium.
Much like Wednesday's classic at Suncorp Stadium, it was a try right on the stroke of half-time that proved telling with Boyd Cordner's 38th-minute effort and Michael Gordon's subsequent conversion enough to move the Roosters ahead of Brisbane into the Telstra Premiership top four.
For 74 minutes it looked as though the Roosters would simply grind their way to victory, but two tries at the death set up a grandstand finish, only for Benji Marshall – who had a whale of a game at five-eighth – to send his 80th-minute grubber dead to put an end to the furious fightback.
Heavy rain in the hours leading up to kick-off didn't deter either side from throwing the ball around and the Roosters' penchant for flair was rewarded after 10 minutes when Joseph Manu burst into the backfield and linked up with Gordon to send the fullback over for the first try of the evening.
The home side's lead didn't last long as late-inclusion Marshall latched onto a beautiful pass from halves partner Ben Hunt to cross for his first try in Broncos colours.
A perfectly-weighted kick by Hunt early in the count looked certain to lead to more points but two outstanding defensive plays – one from Gordon on Jordan Kahu and the other by Latrell Mitchell on James Roberts – forced the Broncos into touch to keep scores level after 32 minutes.
Another display of defensive desperation forced a turnover inside the Broncos' half and the Roosters took full advantage of the field position to retake the lead through NSW Blues skipper Boyd Cordner who crashed over two minutes out from the break.
The Broncos had a golden opportunity to hit back early in the second half when Corey Oates got one-on-one with Blake Ferguson, but unlike Wednesday night when he was outleapt for Queensland's lone try, the Roosters winger got his revenge with a crunching shot to force his opposite number into touch.
Brisbane had plenty of chances to level the scores but seemed to lack the polish we've come to expect of Wayne Bennett's side in 2017 with the visitors fumbling and bumbling their way close to the line on a far too regular basis.
Their inability to capitalise would prove their undoing as Kahu fumbled a Jake Friend grubber straight into the arms of Cordner who was rewarded for his gut-busting chase to complete the most memorable week of his rugby league career.
Or that's how it seemed until Oates pegged one back in the 74th minute following a well-worked shift to the left edge before Tautau Moga crashed over moments later, only for Kahu to hook the potentially match-levelling sideline conversion to leave the 12,236 fans in raptures.
Roosters 18 (Boyd Cordner 2, Michael Gordon tries; Michael Gordon 3 goals) def. Broncos 16 (Benji Marshall, Corey Oates, Tautau Moga tries; Jordan Kahu 2 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: 12-6. Crowd: 12,236