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'There were many ways to lose': Inside chaos of 'gutsiest' Roosters win

Roosters rookie Siua Wong turned to coach Trent Robinson after starring out of position in Saturday night’s epic 13-12 elimination final defeat of Cronulla, and cheekily declared: “Do you want me to play fullback, as well”.

It was a joke that summed up the chaotic scenes in the Roosters camp as they overcame the loss of Joey Manu and Joey Aukuso-Suaalii, as well as the sin-binning of captain James Tedesco, to snatch one of the gutsiest wins in the club’s history.

With the star trio off the field, the messages from the coach’s box were constant, as Robinson sent on utility Sandon Smith to play fullback and reshuffled his side.

Left winger Junior Pauga swapped sides to partner Wong - a forward who had played second-row, lock and prop in recent weeks and now found himself at right centre for the entire second half.

On the left edge, centre Billy Smith shifted out to the wing spot vacated by Pauga and Kangaroos forward Angus Crichton moved to left centre.

Sam Walker overcame an ankle injury to land the winning field against the Sharks
Sam Walker overcame an ankle injury to land the winning field against the Sharks ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

“I’ve got fullbacks coming out of my ears, I have had all year, and then all of a sudden I’m without any,” Robinson said.

“If you’re a purest about how you want to play footy you can pick that apart as much as you like, but that was of the highest order for a Roosters’ spirited game.

“Gutsiest? Possibly. There were many ways to lose that game and they found a way to win.”

Keary blocks the shot

Down 6-0 at halftime, the Roosters lost Suaali’i before they returned from the break after a trainer noticed he seemed a bit dazed.

Unable to find footage to review of Suaali’i suffering a blow, the trainer asked the star winger to undergo a HIA in the dressing room and he was ruled out for the second half.

Manu lasted just 12 minutes more before aggravating the hamstring injury which sidelined him from last weekend’s triumph against South Sydney and the Sharks targeted the Roosters right edge with immediate success.

Tedesco felt like he had let his team-mates down when he was sin-binned for a professional foul after a try saving tackle on Braydon Trindall by prop Lindsay Collins, who had just come on to replace the injured Manu.

Tedesco sent to the bin

The Kangaroos captain and fullback didn’t have a television in the dressing sheds to watch the game so he was relieved to learn at the end of his 10-minute stint in the bin that the Roosters trailed just 12-6.

“I just wanted the boys to dig deep and I felt like we got stronger and stronger, and just did everything we could to stay in the game and win the game,” Tedesco said.

“It was just do whatever it takes; we had people out of position, the two Joeys were off, and we just dug deep and did whatever it took. I’m real proud of them.”

Tedesco: 'We left everything out here'

Yet the Roosters still needed a second try, after Manu had managed to cross before limping from the field, and it was Wong who delivered after a Sandon Smith kick rebounded off Jesse Colquhoun for him to swoop on the ball to score in the 68th minute.

However, halfback Sam Walker was unable to take the conversion as he had injured his left ankle and with Suaali’i off the field the goal kicking duties fell to Billy Smith.

Siua Wong Try

“Sammy’s done his ankle and, a bit like Sandon at fullback, Billy is our fifth string goalkicker, at best,” Robinson said. “Billy said 'I’ll take it' and that is a huge play from Billy Smith. He doesn’t practice.

“That was an example of a guy saying this is not traditional for me, but I’ll do a job.”

Robinson: 'We've been getting better every week'

Smith landed the conversion to level the scores at 12-12 before Walker ignored the pain in his ankle to kick a 20-metre field goal with eight minutes remaining in the game.

Desperate to continue their season, the Sharks threw everything at the Roosters but charge downs by Tedesco and five-eighth Luke Keary ended any slim chance they had of snatching a last gasp win.

End to end footy

The Roosters now travel to Melbourne to face the Storm on Friday night and will be missing Manu and possibly Suaalii.

“Of course it’s a blow to lose Joey, and so is losing the other Joey, and so is Jared [Waerea-Hargreaves], and so is Sitili [Tupouniua] and Connor Watson - they're all a blow - the amount of guys that have played this year and aren’t playing now - but we are in the finals.

“We will have 17 guys that will want to play better footy next week and we want to keep the spirit that we played with.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour 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.