The Sydney Roosters have defeated the Melbourne Storm 21-6 in a masterclass in game management to claim the 2018 NRL premiership. Easts started the game with Cooper Cronk playing through a broken shoulder, and finished with Blake Ferguson also playing on with a broken leg to display their courage and resolve.
The Storm were heavy favourites to be the first team in the NRL era to win back to back premierships, especially with Teflon Billy Slater cleared by the judiciary and Cronk already under a heavy injury cloud. As it turned out, however, the Roosters put on blitzkrieg attacking display in the first half with Cronk effectively coaching the team on the field while Luke Keary (who was the deserved Clive Churchill Medallist) brilliantly orchestrated plays on both sides of the field.
Cronk also became the first man since 1973 to win back to back premierships with different clubs after leaving the Storm for the Roosters this year. He is also the only player in the NRL era to win consecutive premierships.
The match opened with an attacking raid from Sydney that resulted in a penalty goal to Latrell Mitchell. Shortly afterwards a brilliant long pass from Keary saw Daniel Tupou score the opening try in the corner. As the Roosters continued to pile on the pressure Mitchell was able to back his speed to step his Origin rival Will Chambers and score a try of his own, which he also converted.
When Melbourne finally managed to get their hands on the ball in a decent attacking position they were already 12-0 down. Cam Munster looked likely to spark something when he combined with Chambers, but a dominant hit from Mitchell ended the Storm’s only real chance to score in the first half.
Munster was yellow carded for a cynical foul shortly afterwards, and Mitchell kicked the penalty to stretch the lead to 14. While he was off the field some quick hands and quicker thinking from James Tedesco saw Joseph Manu score the third try of the night for Easts to take an 18-0 lead into the break.
After half time the territory and possession stats evened up, but the Roosters are the best defensive team in the NRL and were never going to surrender the lead – particularly with Cronk, who did very little physical work but directed the team, knowing the Storm’s plays and tactics intimately. In the end Melbourne did score the only second half try, but it was an intercept against the run of play by Josh Addo-Carr. The conversion did allow Storm captain Cameron Smith to go over 200 points scored this season.
Keary kicked a field goal and Mitchell added another penalty for the Roosters to put the result beyond doubt before Munster, who was already the first man sent off in a grand final since 1995, became the only man ever sin binned twice in a grand final when he kicked a Rooster in the head. Boyd Cordner became the first man in the NRL era to captain the Blues to an Origin victory and his club team to a premiership in the same year, and with his recent elevation to the Kangaroos captaincy he can become the first man ever to captain and win Origin, the NRL and an international.