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Rookies get Roosters home

Sydney Roosters
Saturday June 16, 2007

Mitchell Pearce and Setaimata Sa were the heroes at Penrith’s CUA Stadium on Saturday night as the Roosters broke Panthers hearts with a dramatic 24-20 last gasp win.

The visitors trailed 20-18 right up until the 80th minute before Sa and Pearce combined for a 90-metre try that sent the Roosters players into wild celebrations.

What a moment for the two young Roosters as the club went back to back for the first time since 2005 to keep their top eight hopes well and truly alive.

The video referee dominated the game early on when he disallowed what seemed legitimate tries to both teams in the opening exchanges.

Handling was made difficult in the slippery conditions with the Roosters having the better of both territory and possession on the back of a couple of repeat sets.

However, it was the Panthers that were on scoreboard first against the run of play when Jennings scooped up a Pearce grubber to then sprint 90 metres for a try in the corner. The conversion was missed and the Panthers led 4-0 after nine minutes.

A certain try for the Roosters went begging in the 18th minute when Roberts spilt a Pearce grubber under the posts with no Panthers player in sight.

The Panthers made the Roosters pay for that mistake moments later when lock Nathan Smith scored from an opportunist kick that opened up a 10-0 lead.

The Roosters needed to be next to score and Perrett provided when he scored with 9 minutes remaining in the half off a Pearce bomb. Fitzgibbon nailed the conversion and the Roosters trailed 12-6.

Nutley was at his brutal best in defence as he came up with yet another big hit to spill the ball loose with the Panthers in strong attacking position.

The closing stages of the half were drama packed with Nate Myles put on report for a lifting tackle on Paul Aiton. The referee had originally ruled a knock-on against Aiton only for the video referee to intervene after Aiton complained of a neck injury for what seemed like a pretty tough call.

Miraculously Aiton recovered moments later to then dive head first into the Roosters defence for what looked to be a try only for the video referee to rule he was short of the line.

This was turning into a real arm wrestle as a controversial half came to a close with the Roosters heading into the sheds trailing 10-6.

Junior Moors extended the Panthers lead straight after the break when he stormed through for a try as the home side went out to a 14-6 advantage.

It didn’t take long for the Roosters to respond as Setaimata Sa capitalized on another well weighted grubber from Pearce to score next to the posts.

Fitzgibbon converted and this was anybody’s ball game as the Roosters trailed 14-12 with plenty of time left.

The Roosters kick chase was a feature of their game as they constantly put the Panthers under pressure inside their own 20 metre zone to gain valuable field position.

The visitor’s weight of possession was beginning to tell and Roberts took full advantage when he sliced through some tired looking Panthers defence to score under the posts.

Fitzgibbon’s conversion put the Roosters in front for the first time as they took an 18-14 lead with 25 minutes remaining.

A mix up between Pearce and Soliola almost gifted Wesser a try only for it to be pulled back for an offside ruling as the Roosters held on grimly to a four-point lead.

A Clinton try in the 64th minute and the Panthers were back in front 20-18.

Both sides were beginning to tire with plenty of mistakes starting to creep into the contest that was shaping up as a real nail biter.

The Roosters were getting desperate as the Panthers began to lift the tempo with time ticking away.

Something special was needed from the Roosters. Step in rookies Sa and Pearce who combined in the dying seconds to produce a 90 metre try that will go down as one of the club’s greatest escapes.

Sa rushed off the line at Gower who lost control of the ball to gift Pearce who pounced to then race 90 metres for the game winning try. Pearce was mobbed as the Roosters celebrated a remarkable win that gave them their first back-to-back victory since 2005.

The win now sets up a blockbuster clash with the Parramatta Eels next Saturday night at the Sydney Football Stadium where the Roosters will be shooting for three straight.

NRL Premiership - Round 14:

SYDNEY ROOSTERS - 24

Tries: Sam Perrett, Setaimata Sa, Amos Roberts, Mitchell Pearce
Goals: Craig Fitzgibbon 4/4

PENRITH PANTHERS - 20

Tries: Nathan Smith, Junior Moors, Joel Clinton
Goals: Michael Gordon 3/4

@ CUA Stadium, Penrith
Referee: Ben Cummins

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