Roosters storm home to seal second spot
The Roosters have produced a stunning Houdini act to steal a 20-16 victory over a heavily-depleted Titans side to secure second spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder and home ground advantage for Week One of the finals.
The injury-hit Titans were written off by all and sundry and looked at long odds to end their season on a high when they were forced to name their 17th debutant of the season but showed resilience that has come to define them in recent years to go within five minutes of securing what would have been one of the most famous wins in club history.
There will be a nervous wait for Roosters enforcer Zane Tetevano who rushed out of the line and collected Ben Nakubuwai high in the 58th minute. The young Titan was clearly in a bad way and had to be taken from the field in a medi-cab, with Tetevano placed on report as a result.
The danger signs were there from the get-go for the Roosters who limped to a 6-4 lead at the break in a match they simply had to win to secure a top-two finish.
If Roosters fans were worried about their side's lacklustre first half then they would have been truly petrified four minutes into the second stanza when Anthony Don intercepted a Michael Gordon pass and ran 95 metres to give the Titans a 10-6 lead.
The Allianz faithful were incensed after 50 minutes when some quick thinking by Connor Watson saw the utility strip Jarryd Hayne and quickly offload to Mitchell Aubusson who strolled over untouched, only for the officials to rule there had been two men in the initial tackle.
There were question marks on how the visitors would respond after the Nakubuwai injury but the travelling fans needn't have worried as Ash Taylor put in an inch-perfect grubber to set up Kevin Proctor for a crucial try with 20 minutes left to play.
An error from Agnatius Paasi error from the restart coupled with a head knock to Taylor could have spelled the end for the brave Titans but they somehow managed to repel the Tricolours with Aubusson inexplicably throwing the ball into touch with the try-line begging.
Just when it looked like all hope was lost, the recalled Joseph Manu produced a flick pass that that Benji Marshall would have been proud of to send Michael Gordon over to set up the grandstand finish.
Then, with less than five minutes remaining, halfback Mitchell Pearce played short to co-captain Boyd Cordner who fought through the would-be tackle of Anthony Don to crash over to level the scores.
That left fullback Michael Gordon with the tricky task of having to convert from 12 metres in from touch, but as he did last week, the veteran showed poise under pressure to slot the kick to seal the thrilling win before he added a gift penalty after Jarryd Hayne conceded back-to-back penalties for kick infringements.
The Titans showed their hand early with Ash Taylor finding touch from a short kick-off while they also regained a line dropout inside the opening seven minutes in an entertaining start to the game.
However, once the novelty factor wore off, the Roosters quickly took control of the contest with Latrell Mitchell grounding a Luke Keary grubber for the game's first try.
The Roosters continued to dictate terms until a failed touch-finder from a midfield penalty opened the door for the visitors who hit back through makeshift centre Leivaha Pulu in the 22nd minute.
Gold Coast's horror injury run deepened with Morgan Boyle (leg) and Joe Greenwood (HIA) forced from the field in the space of 60 seconds but they were spared some scoreboard pain when Cordner had his four-pointer called back for a forward pass.
Roosters 20 (Latrell Mitchell, Michael Gordon, Boyd Cordner tries; Michael Gordon 4 goals) def. Titans 16 (Leivaha Pulu, Anthony Don, Kevin Proctor tries; Ash Taylor 2 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: 6-4. Crowd: 11,212.
NRL.com unofficial votes – 3 votes: Ash Taylor, 2 votes: Max King, 1 vote: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves