The Sydney Roosters Indigenous Academy (Women's U19s) side were gallant in defeat against the St George Dragons at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday in the Tarsha Gale Cup Grand Final.
Head Coach Blake Cavallaro's side became the Club's first-ever Tarsha Gale Grand Finalists, taking down a number of heavyweight competitors throughout an entertaining finals series after finishing the regular season in third place.
The Roosters began proceedings with two bone-crunching hits courtesy of front row pairing Keilee Joseph and Tymekqwa Duckett, setting up what would be a physical contest.
A break from second rower Otesa Pule put the Tricolours on the front foot, and with a penalty for a late hit putting them in prime position, Joseph scored the game's first try from a clever inside pass from her halfback Courtney Tamati.
With the conversion attempt waved away, the Roosters took a 4-nil lead after five minutes.
An error from the ensuing set handed their opponents possession in their own half, and coupled with a brace of penalties on their line, the mounting pressure saw the Dragons hit back through a right-side overlap.
After ten minutes, the Dragons took a 6-4 lead with their conversion successful.
More uncharacteristic errors hurt the Roosters' momentum, and soon after St George crossed for their second try, taking a 10-4 lead.
Needing to regroup and swing momentum their way, the Tricolours continued to rally on their try-line, enduring raid after raid from their opponents in a pivotal period in the match, but further ill-discipline saw the Dragons gain ascendency and cross once again, this time on the left side.
The Roosters continued to create try-scoring opportunities through the back end of the first half, taking momentum with them as the sides headed into the sheds, still in the match with the scores at 14-4.
With 30 minutes left in their season, the Red, White and Blue started the second half in impressive fashion, rolling downfield once again and finishing well into Dragons territory.
Second phase play saw the Roosters make inroads with a number of incisive runs giving them the upper hand, but after an arm wrestle in the first ten minutes of the second half, the Dragons took advantage of an error close to the line.
A desperate try-saving tackle from Tayla Montgomery was a highlight, stopping a runaway Dragon just centimetres from the line, with the five-eighth's effort inspiring her teammates to prevent St George from scoring with a number of courageous efforts for the remainder of the set.
Unfortunately for the Tricolours, their opponents got on the board once again after a number of errors handed over possession, with the Dragons scoring two quick-fire tries to seal the match.
Despite the defeat, Coach Cavallaro expressed pride in his side's efforts across the 2021 season, as a number of his players are set to represent the Central Coast Roosters in the Harvey Norman Women's Premiership.
It’s a privilege to coach the Roosters in a Tarsha Gale Grand Final for the first time since the competition began four years ago.Blake Cavallaro Sydney Roosters Tarsha Gale Coach
“I’m really proud of the team, they’ve been training since November and we always talked about being in a Grand Final,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we were beaten by a very big and skilful team today. We scored early and I thought we would go through with it but it wasn’t to be.
“I’m very happy with our season, especially the last six weeks where we only let in five tries before today. I’ve been very impressed with how relentless the players have been, as well as their attitude and commitment towards training.
“It’s a privilege to coach the Roosters in a Tarsha Gale Grand Final for the first time since the competition began four years ago.
“We’ve got a majority of the girls returning next year, and we’re looking forward to bigger and better things to come."
Sydney Roosters Indigenous Academy 4 (Keilee Joseph tries; goals) def by St George Dragons 30
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