Sydney Roosters will need to qualify for the grand final without a week off for the first time in Trent Robinson’s reign but the three-times premiership-winning coach believes they fought their way back into form in Friday night’s 29-28 loss to Penrith.
A week after their record 60-8 thrashing by South Sydney, the Roosters' hopes of becoming the first team of the NRL era to win three consecutive grand finals looked shot when they conceded 28 unanswered points but Robinson declared that only time beat them in the end.
“I could feel the energy in the group that we were coming back,” Robinson said. “I knew that we were coming, I knew we'd win the second half. We just needed to keep on it and keep on it.
"We knew how we wanted to attack the game. We knew we were coming, you could feel it.
“To go from 22-10 at half time then 28-10 then to claw it back, we just ran out of time. Our confidence grew the longer the game went.”
Match Highlights: Panthers v Roosters
The Roosters will now play either Canberra or Cronulla next weekend at the SCG for the opportunity to take on the winner of Saturday night’s Melbourne-Parramatta clash in the grand final qualifier.
Sonny Bill Williams and Jake Friend are likely to return from injury in a boost to the Roosters, but prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is on report for a high tackle on Dylan Edwards.
Despite the loss to Penrith, Robinson said the defending champs would go into their next match with their mojo back.
“Our best trainings session was this game,” he said. “You have one of those games where you try and work it out, but the problem was we were in a semi-final trying to work it out and get better.
“If you want to see character in a team, you say 'we're a bit out of sorts but we're going to keep fighting and working and keep chancing our hand and keep going. I was really proud of them tonight.
“Character gets exposed on the biggest stage and we didn't win but our character stood up, we need to get our execution and skill level to follow our character in that second half and we'll be a much better side next week."
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Williams was a late withdrawal from the match after suffering a neck injury at training on Friday but Robinson said he should be fit to play next weekend while co-captain Jake Friend is also due back.
"I spoke to Sonny last night and he felt much better with some intervention there," Robinson said.
"I'll see how he is over the weekend but it's not a long term thing."