James Tedesco put on a masterclass to lead the Sydney Roosters to a 18-6 victory over the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.
The grand final rematch had some extra spice to it with the winner to be entrenched in the top four while the loser would find themselves on the outer.
The Roosters got off to a fast start after a couple of errors from the Raiders. Jack Wighton failed to kick a penalty into touch before Semi Valemei spilled the ball near his own line and the Roosters pounced.
With a retreating defence, the Roosters shifted the ball left to Tedesco who had too much strength and barged his way over to give them a 6-0 lead after just five minutes.
The Raiders didn’t take long to hit back when John Bateman put through a grubber to himself to set up a brilliant try and level the scores nine minutes in.
Both sides traded blows through the middle of the park, but it was the Roosters who scored next.
Semi Valemei made a try-saving tackle on Brett Morris on one wing but on the next tackle, the Roosters put up a cross-field kick to Daniel Tupou who soared above Nick Cotric to gather the ball and score to regain the lead at 10-6 after 22 minutes.
The Raiders enjoyed plenty of possession in the closing stages of the first half and looked to be getting on top in the forward battle, but the Roosters’ defence held strong and they took a 4-point lead into the break.
The big concern for the Raiders in the first half was a shoulder injury to Josh Papalii. Papalii was treated by trainer after a solid hit but managed to play on until half time where he was ruled out for the rest of the match.
The second half was one to forget for the Raiders with poor discipline and some uncharacteristic errors giving them no chance against quality opposition.
Kyle Flanagan kicked a penalty goal to extend the Roosters’ lead to 6 points 53 minutes in.
The momentum stayed with the Roosters for much of the second half as every time the Raiders looked like having an opportunity, they gifted possession back to the Roosters.
The Roosters continued to press for the match-sealing try and it was Tedesco who delivered once again.
He put through a grubber that took a fortunate deflection, going straight back to him, and he scored under the posts for his second try to extend the Roosters’ lead to 12 points and seal the victory.
While the first half felt like a proper grand final rematch with two heavyweights of the competition going blow for blow, the second half was the complete opposite as the Raiders couldn’t put any pressure on the Roosters.
Coach Ricky Stuart said he was disappointed in the second half performance and they would have to bounce back quickly with finals fast approaching.
“I was really disappointed with our second half, we were two different teams,” said Stuart.
“And it disappoints me because it was a really good, high-quality game of football in the first half and then we just lost our way.
“… The way we started the second half we were really loose and it just wasn’t us.
“But we’ll move on quickly from it and get back to what we were because we’re a good football team and they’re a lot better than what they showed in the second half; we were two different teams.”
The Raiders are in fifth spot on the ladder and will be relying on teams above them losing to make it to the top four. The Green Machine’s next match is against the St George Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on Saturday 12 September.