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Roosters blow as Verrills cops two-match ban

The Roosters must reach the grand final for Sam Verrills to play again this season after the hooker was handed a two-match ban at the NRL judiciary.

In a bid to face the Sea Eagles in Friday night's semi-final, the 22-year-old sought to have a grade-two careless high tackle on Titans centre Brian Kelly downgraded.

But the decision to opt against accepting a one-game ban by taking the early guilty plea backfired with the panel of Ben Creagh, Bob Lindner and Dallas Johnson upholding the original charge on Tuesday night.

Verrills was penalised in the first half of the Roosters' 25-24 victory over Gold Coast last Saturday after his shoulder struck Kelly's head.

Representing Verrills, lawyer James McLeod argued the dummy-half "did very little wrong".

He outlined what he described as mitigating factors including the involvement of Roosters second-rower Sitili Tupouniua, who made the first contact on Kelly.

"There was never any launch of the right shoulder of player Verrills," McLeod said.

"All he does is hold his position and stand upright and execute a catching and wrapping motion.

"That's part of the reason that his culpability is right at the low end of the spectrum."

Verrills charged for high tackle on Kelly

McLeod claimed Tupouniua's initial hit shifted Kelly "probably about 20 or 30 centimetres" and into the path of Verrills's shoulder.

"[Verrills] is entitled to set himself before the contact with Tupouniua and Kelly a split-second before," he said.

"He doesn't have time to adjust after the contact between Tupouniua and Kelly."

He asked the panel to "tap into your experience with defence and making tackles" when reviewing the incident.

However, NRL prosecutor Peter McGrath submitted that Tupouniua did not cause a drop in Kelly's head height or alter his running line.

"There is very little in the way of mitigating features that would reduce the seriousness of the tackle," McGrath said.

"It's above the grade-one level, it sits comfortably in the grade-two."

While McGrath conceded the "moderate force" was chiefly caused by Kelly's running speed, he suggested that Verrills needed to take that into account when going into contact as per his duty of care.

Losing the clever dummy-half is an undoubted setback, but the Roosters have experience playing without Verrills, who has been restricted to 14 games in 2021 due to knee and eye injuries.

Ben Marschke looms as a replacement rake having been included in Tuesday's team list as a reserve.

The 24-year-old, who has filled in throughout the season, has some match fitness under his belt after coming off the bench in round 24 and 25.

Coach Trent Robinson could instead opt to move Lachlan Lam from halfback to hooker and reinstate playmaker Sam Walker to the run-on team.

Adam Keighran has also spent time at dummy-half but the goal-kicker has seemingly found a home in the centres.

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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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