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Sydney Roosters won a stunning NRL qualifying final 19-15 in golden point in a match that lasted 100 minutes at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s 60-metre run after intercepting a Liam Fulton pass sealed the win in front a crowd of 33,315.
However, the Tigers will wonder how they lost a game they dominated for the opening 55 minutes before letting the Todd Carney-inspired Roosters back into the contest.
Braith Anasta’s monster 35-metre field goal from just inside the left touchline took the game into golden point – for the first time in finals history – and after both sides missed two field goal attempts, Kenny-Dowall pounced to seal a magnificent fightback from Brian Smith’s men.
The Roosters spent almost all of the first half camped in their own half as the Tigers dominated but only had a 10-2 lead to show for their efforts after four tries were rubbed out by the video referee.
Gareth Ellis was at the thick of things in the opening quarter, having three four-pointers ruled out and placed on report for a high shot on Carney.
The resulting penalty was converted by former Canberra man but the Tigers continued to dominate with Blake Ayshford held up by Anthony Minichiello when he looked certain to score.
Tempers flared in the 13th minute when Benji Marshall threw a punch at Mitchell Pearce in the build up to a try that looked to have been scored by Ellis and was subsequently ruled out.
Lote Tuqiri finally got the Tigers off the mark in the 27th minute with a try in the left corner after good work from the impressive Robert Lui and Blake Ayshford before Beau Ryan added a second just prior to halftime.
The second half started in a similar fashion with Ayshford intercepting a Mitch Aubusson pass eight minutes after the restart to race 70 metres to the line.
Robbie Farah then kicked a field goal after to open up a 15-2 lead after Benji Marshall missed his second conversion of the game.
However, the Tigers dominance started to wane, and with Carney becoming more involved in attack, the Roosters started to come back into the game.
Carney regathered his own grubber kick and then switched the ball to Anasta who charged over for his sixth try of the season.
Mitchell Pearce then brought the Roosters fans to life with a 40-metre run to the line with Carney adding the extras to make it a one-point game.
With Marshall forced to limp off with a worrying-looking knee injury, the Tigers headed towards the end of normal time with 12 men having used all of their interchanges and hanging on for dear life.
A controversial decision by referee Shayne Hayne to not penalise Simon Dwyer for a bell ringer of a hit on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves appeared to have secured the Tigers victory.
But from the resulting scrum Tigers’ backrower Chris Heighington failed to pick the ball up, the Roosters pounced and the ball went wide to Anasta who bisected the posts as the clock struck zero.
Smith hailed the courage of his players after the win and said the Tigers, who played the last 25 minutes without Benji Marshall and backrower Gareth Ellis, who went off with injuries, would be devastated by the loss.
“That was unbelievable,” Smith said.
“The Tigers owned us in the first half and my guys just hung in there and I reminded them that they came back from the same deficit against Manly a couple of weeks ago.
“It will be a fair job for them to get up for next week the Tigers, and it will be a fair job to get us up next week too.
“The devastation of losing that game will be hard for them. I heard of the radio that (Tigers coach Tim Sheens) had said my boys would find it hard to get up for tonight. Well I think he got an answer.
“We had a bit of luck in the game, but we had a lot of guys who competed really hard we were not at our best, but were in terms of courage and effort.”
Anasta’s said he knew his field goal was good the moment it left his boot.
“I have been practising field goals all week, and I have felt good, as soon as I hit it I knew it was over, and I got a bit excited … I was stoked,” he said.
The skipper also said he thought the Tigers were caught napping after Chris Heighington failed to dive on the loose ball from a scrum in the final seconds, before the ball found its way into his hands.
“We were pretty down and out and the Tigers boys were a bit confident at the scrum and we caught them out,” he said.
“I was telling the boys the whole season rests on this last five minutes, there are no second chances and I knew at the end of the day we would want it more than them as they had a second chance if they lost.”
Sheens said Marshall would be a doubt for next week after he limped off with a serious-looking injury to his right knee.
“We have come out of it a bit worse for wear some of the guys who played the full game are out on their feet,” Sheens said.
“Benji has a knee issue and I will leave it to the docs to decide, but I don’t know, but I would say no he probably won’t be available at the moment.”
“We had the game won with the last scrum there, but I was as proud of the effort playing with 12 men at the end it is the best I have seen from any team since I have been here.”