NRL Match Report: Semi Final v NQL
A James Maloney field-goal with just five minutes to spare has secured the defending Premiers a place in the final four and a showdown with arch-rivals the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The first four-pointer of the match came just two minutes into the piece after a brilliant read in defence from Aidan Guerra wrapped up Johnathan Thurston on the last tackle, which forced Michael Morgan to take the lead.
The fullback looked to have put the perfectly weighted kick through, to force a repeat set, before a slips catch from Mitchell Pearce just 5m out from the Roosters line and show his speed to race near the full length of the field and score.
After back-to-back repeat sets for the visitors the Bondi Wall held strong and on the back of two penalties at either end of the field, James Maloney called the ball to the blindside before firing his own cut-out pass for a flying Daniel Tupou to latch onto and cross untouched.
It was just five minutes before the Video Ref was again required as the Roosters threatened the Cowboys line from side to side before a Maloney grubber found the uprights and a flying Michael Jennings managed to beat out the confused Cowboys chasers to slam his hand on the ball and claim the third try for the home side.
Again we waited just five minutes for another four-pointer and nobody could complain given the show we were given down the Roosters left-edge for this one.
A quick-thinking Maloney again opted to throw the cut out pass, to Jennings, before the NSW centre found his Blues team mate with a magical around the body ball for Tupou to take one-handed and dodge three Cowboys defenders before running 55m to score under the sticks.
Maloney was straight back in the action just five minutes later as he sent the ball to the skies on the last tackle for his Captain Minichiello to fly through and force an error from the Cowboys number one.
Just two tackles later and Maloney went from provider to receiver as the No.6 was gifted a beautiful ball out the back down the right-edge to then duck and weave his way under and through the Cowboys defence to score.
Despite the momentum well and truly the way of the defending Premiers, they found their way onto the scoreboard for the first time just before the half time break following a mid-air mistake from milestone-man Minichiello allowed chaser Ethan Lowe to latch onto the loose ball and run 2m to dive over untouched and score.
They were in again shortly after as Thurston and Lui combined to find a rampaging Matt Scott who threw a questionable short ball the way of Gavin Cooper, who found his way through the home side’s line and dotted it down out wide.
Half Time: Roosters 30 - Cowboys 12
It was the visitors who flew out of the blocks in the second stanza and just five minutes into the action it was their leader, Thurston, who sold the dummy beautifully down the left-edge on the back of a third straight set to go over untouched.
The halfback added the extras on his own try to close the gap to just twelve points.
It was the Footy Gods playing their part as the clock rolled in to the final thirty minutes at Allianz Stadium as a brain explosion from Minichiello at the back saw the fullback bat the ball in-field from a Thurston punt before a wayward pass found the floor and not Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in-goal.
The ball hit the turf along with Tuivasa-Sheck and bounced in-goal for a chasing Lui to dive on and score.
With momentum now well and truly the way of the visitors, it wasn't long before they were in again following a midfield break from Thurston.
A six again call against Tupou attempting to shut down the dummy-half's pass resulted in Matt Scott rampaging his way under the uprights to slam it down from the following tackle.
A Thurston conversion levelled it up at 30-all.
Just moments later and strong runs from centres Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Jennings saw the home side attacking from inside the Cowboys half for the first time in the second-half.
A last play option to bomb for Tupou's corner didn't result in a try, however a block-run from Cowboys centre Tautau Moga was ruled and a chance for Maloney to take back the lead as Minichiello opted for the two.
However the usually accurate playmaker missed and the scores remained at 30-all.
With the scores locked up and pressure from both sides beginning to grow stronger and stronger it wasn't until the 75th minute that a breakthrough came as Maloney dodged defenders from both sides to slot the field-goal from 16m out and secure the victory.
Full Time: Roosters 31 - Cowboys 30