The Sydney Roosters have advanced to the second week of the NRL finals in emphatic fashion, with a 25-24 victory over the Gold Coast Titans at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville.
Sam Walker replicated his heroics from their last encounter to calmly slot a game-winning field goal, as well as a try-saving tackle in the dying minutes as the Tricolours celebrated two milestones as Premiership-winning pair Daniel Tupou and Siosiua Taukeiaho both played their 200th and 150th games in the Red, White and Blue respectively.
Returning forward duo Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Victor Radley added plenty of punch through the middle of the field in a match dominated by the forward packs, with both providing plenty of impact, while captain James Tedesco's influence spurred the side to victory with a try and try assist.
Match: Roosters v Titans
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Waerea-Hargreaves was welcomed by a wall of defence as the Roosters made inroads through the middle of the field and finished on halfway in their first set of the match - only for a wicked bounce of the ball to hand over a seven-tackle set in what would be a sign of things to come.
Both sides looked intent on dominating field position as they traded blows through the middle of the field and tested one another with the boot, with errors becoming a common theme as the humidity in Townsville led to plenty of dropped ball.
Following a scrappy opening ten minutes, a controversial finish to a James Tedesco grubber saw a charging Victor Radley denied an opportunity to dive on the ball - and Titans five-eighth Tyrone Peachey was duly sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
Ikuvalu Resumes Tryscoring Streak in Townsville
Despite an advantage in numbers, the Roosters opted to open their account with a penalty goal through Adam Keighran, giving his side a 2-nil lead, but a dubious call for an escort went against the Roosters, and the Titans replied in kind to level the scores.
Both defences were tested through the middle of the park, as the Bondi Wall held firm, while a long stride from 200-gamer Daniel Tupou put the Red, White and Blue back on the attack, only for their momentum to halt as a forward pass near the line was identified.
Radley injected himself further into the match, stopping Gold Coast hooker Mitch Rein with a trademark tackle as he looked to break away, and soon the Roosters were on the board as hulking winger Matt Ikuvalu flew over to score the opening try of the match on the back of some ill-discipline from the Titans.
Despite the sideline conversion being unsuccessful, the Roosters now held a 6-2 lead with fifteen minutes left in the first half.
Just as the Tricolours looked to hold their momentum, a set play from the Tricolours turned into an intercept for the Titans, but again it was Radley who epitomised his side's defensive commitment as he dragged down a runaway Jarrod Wallace to the ground.
A forced line dropout then saw the Titans on the board as David Fifita barged over, but the flames were soon extinguished as the bunker had found an illegal obstruction in the process - with the Roosters immediately bouncing back.
Radley Bursts Through for Tedesco to Score
The local junior then shrugging off a brutal hit on Sam Lisone to then extend his side's lead - with his footwork propelling him through the Titans' defence to put Tedesco through to score the second try of the match.
However, with the Gold Coast given a number of opportunities to hit back through errors and penalties as the clock wound down, the Red, White and Blue were unable to survive a late scare as an attacking grubber kick was collected by Beau Fermor to score.
Following the missed conversion, the sides headed into the sheds with the Roosters with a 12-6 lead but with plenty still to be done.
The opening set of the second half saw the Titans unsuccessfully challenge after losing possession, and the perfect start for the Roosters continued as milestone man Tupou touched down in the corner to score his 117th career try thanks to some quick hands on the inside.
Teddy Taps it to Tupou
A bending sideline conversion saw the Roosters extend their lead to 18-6 after 42 minutes.
With their opponents making inroads and heading downfield, the Roosters captain showed his finals experience by calmly collecting a dangerous grubber, but it was a towering kick in the air that allowed the Titans to strike back, as a lack of communication and an unfortunate bounce saw the lead reduced to six points.
Not to be deterred, the Roosters continued to poke their noses through the tiring defence with clever ball-playing, with an attacking kick from Keighran forcing an error from their opponents just metres from the line.
Ikuvalu looked to have collected his double from a well-executed scrum play, however, a bunker intervention saw an obstruction against the men from Bondi, and the ill-discipline continued for Trent Robinson's men as a near-identical penalty led to the Titans levelling the scores as Brian Kelly scored under the posts.
With 24 minutes remaining, the scores were level at 18-all as the Roosters continued to search for momentum.
Looking to assert their dominance, the Roosters forwards laid on a number of big hits, and Tupou exhibited his calm demeanour as he took a spiralling bomb in goal to give his side a seven-tackle set, before a frantic set saw an Isaac Liu chip kick force a line drop out.
The newfound composure was rewarded as the Roosters cleverly took advantage of numbers as Tedesco and Ikuvalu swung inside out to put veteran Josh Morris over to score, with Keighran's conversion providing a 24-18 lead in the final quarter.
Vision From Tedesco Leads to a Try for Morris
Tirelessly working through the tropical humidity, both sides exhibited desperation to fight for every metre, and while the expansive play of Easts continued to trouble the defence, poor handling prevented any momentum from being built - and their opponents swooped on a lost ball on the line to score the easiest of tries.
In a near-identical situation as the last contest, the Roosters now found themselves with the scoreline level with ten minutes remaining.
With a raucous crowd cheering both sides home, Robinson elected to inject Sam Walker into the contest as a forced pass from the Titans welcomed the Roosters to take back the lead.
Sam Walker Steps Up
The 19-year-old looked to replicate his heroics from the last contest between the two sides with a field goal attempt, only for the ball to be charged down, before the Titans' own chance to take the lead went awry.
In the shadows of full-time and with a seven tackle set up their sleeves, the Tricolours duly made their way downfield to set up another opportunity, and Walker was able to pot a well-weighted goal to take the lead.
A flying Ikuvalu shut down a short kick-off, and with a minute left on the clock, the Titans were forced to go the length of the field to level the scores. A break down the left side break saw Walker make a game-saving tackle on Beau Fermor, and Tupou and Keighran combined to stop Patrick Herbert in the final seconds, putting an end to a frantic 25-24 victory.
The Sydney Roosters will now play the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in next week's elimination final at BB Print Stadium in Mackay for a place in the preliminary final.
Sydney Roosters 25 (Matt Ikuvalu, James Tedesco, Daniel Tupou, Josh Morris tries; Adam Keighran 3 goals; Adam Keighran penalty goal; Sam Walker field goal) def Gold Coast Titans 24 (Beau Fermor, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Brian Kelly, Jarrod Wallace tries; Jamal Fogarty 3 goals; Jamal Fogarty penalty goal)
Stay tuned for more from Roosters.com.au including Match Highlights, Roosters TV Post-Match Interviews and Head Coach Trent Robinson's Press Conference!