Roosters hold off Tigers, Panthers lose to Titans
Round-up: The Sydney Roosters scored seven tries and held on for dear life to record a thrilling 42-28 win over an emotional Wests Tigers, who had their seven-match NRL winning streak ended.
It was confirmed just over an hour before kick-off that Sonia Farah, the mother of Tigers captain and NSW State of Origin star Robbie Farah, had died, losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.
The players stood on the field for a minute's silence and Tigers stand-in skipper in Farah's absence, Benji Marshall, appeared to be in tears as a heavy mood set over a packed-out Leichhardt Oval.
However after the opening whistle blew, it only took Marshall four minutes to break the match open, with a threaded grubber forcing an error in judgement from Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello for winger Matt Utai to score.
But from there the Roosters dominated, scoring four first-half tries to put them ahead 36-10 with just under 20 minutes remaining before they were forced to hold on in the face of an exciting last-ditch flurry from the Tigers.
The home side posted four tries of their own in the final quarter of the game.
Frank-Paul Nuuausala was central in the Roosters' rampaging first half, coming up with six offloads and two try assists to help the visitors to a 24-4 lead at the break.
The New Zealand international threw a crisp pass to Aidan Guerra to give the Roosters a 6-4 lead, and after another Kiwi, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, bagged a try of his own, Nuuausala popped an offload in the 37th minute for Jake Friend to set up a gilt-edged try.
Much like Jarryd Hayne in Wednesday's State of Origin, Friend dropped the ball but managed to get a boot to it, allowing Boyd Cordner to dive over.
Future Tiger Braith Anasta then streaked 30 metres in the shadows of halftime and Lama Tasi barged over for the first try of the second half in what looked like the sealer.
However, Tigers prop Keith Galloway scored in the 56th minute, before Beau Ryan, Tim Moltzen and Chris Lawrence all crossed in a frantic six minutes in which the Tigers exhibited all their attacking might.
The Tigers trailed by eight with six minutes left and should have got a penalty in front for a high tackle on Marshall - but instead the Roosters survived and prop Martin Kennedy ended any hope of a miracle comeback.
The win meant the young Roosters kept within two wins of the top eight, and their finals hopes remain alive.
Elsewhere, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary called his team's 36-18 NRL capitulation to revitalised Gold Coast on Sunday an exercise in self-mutilation.
It's hard to disagree after the Panthers butchered several gilt-edged opportunities against an injury-hit Titans at Skilled Park.
Both teams were down on key players going into the match but the Titans' defence was superb and the Panthers never got a sniff of victory.
Gold Coast lost centre Beau Champion (ankle) after five minutes and NSW State of Origin star Greg Bird (strained pectoral muscle) early in the second half.
Both will undergo scans on Monday and are in doubt for the Titans' clash with St George Illawarra at WIN Stadium on Friday night.
Bird told reporters that he had "aggravated an old injury" but didn't elaborate.
However in a positive sign for NSW fans ahead of the Origin series decider, Titans coach John Cartwright said: "I think it's precautionary. They're worried about his pec. I'm pretty sure it's not major."
Cartwright also lost Matt Srama (shoulder) for most of the first half but the hooker returned for the final 30 minutes, while centre Jamal Idris (ankle) was ruled out on Thursday.
"The pleasing thing was the defence," Cartwright said. "We forced errors into them, that was the key."
Cleary was forced to make a swag of changes with fullback Josh Mansour, five-eighth Travis Burns, NSW Origin back-rower Luke Lewis and prop Sam McKendry all out injured.
"Wow, I didn't expect a performance like that," Cleary said. "We could probably reach out for some excuses and we did have some disruptions but it was a bit of an exercise in self-mutilation for us.
"There was lots of effort but if you're providing a blueprint to win a football game, we didn't get anywhere near it."
Panthers fullback Lachlan Coote, who'd been named to play for Windsor Wolves in the NSW Cup this week, had a day he would rather forget.
Coote threw an intercept pass that led to a David Mead try and fumbled a pass that resulted in the four-pointer to centre Steve Michaels that gave the hosts an 18-0 halftime lead.
He was also brushed aside attempting to tackle try-bound forward Brenton Lawrence in the 49th minute as the depleted Titans raced to a 30-0 lead.
Five-eighth Aidan Sezer continued his rapid rise, scoring a brace of tries, while utility Luke O'Dwyer was named man-of-the-match playing off the bench as the Titans recorded their fourth win from their past five matches.
"The confidence is quite high at the moment and the self-belief is certainly there," Titans skipper Scott Prince said.
"It just looks like everyone's really enjoying themselves and it makes life easy for the halves."
It wasn't until the 59th minute that the Panthers finally got points on the board with a try to Arana Taumata, who played off the bench a year after being stood down for stealing a prescription pad from the club's doctor.
Late tries to Cameron Ciraldo and Ryan Simpkins restored some pride for the Panthers.