This is the eighth and final article in a series naming each club’s best team of loyal stalwarts. Not necessarily just one-club players, but those who turned out for the club over a long period and helped build its success and culture.
The undermanned Sydney Roosters live to fight another day in 2021 with a heartstopping 25-24 win over Gold Coast booking them an unlikely spot in the NRL semi-finals.
For the second time this season Sam Walker nailed the field goal that sank the Titans in a bizarre repeat of their 35-34 win in round 14.
Except this time it ended the Titans’ finals campaign in front of 15,237 fans in Townsville.
The gutsy Titans levelled the scores at 24-all when Jarrod Wallace pounced on a Matt Ikuvalu knock-on, igniting a frenzy with 10 minutes to go.
It raged until the dying seconds when Beau Fermor busted through the line to race 40 metres downfield, ending in Patrick Herbert flicking the ball into touch in a desperate bid to offload on the third tackle.
The wild finish showed how far the Titans have come, but booked the Roosters a date with Manly on Friday night to continue their horribly disrupted season.
Not once have Trent Robinson’s men used a remarkable injury toll as an excuse, Saturday’s win continuing an incredible show of perseverance in the face of adversity in 2021.
Despite losing co-captains Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend and Brett Morris to retirement this year the Roosters simply turned to another leader in James Tedesco, who was the difference on Saturday.
The third-choice skipper now a gold-standard NRL captain, Tedesco set up three tries and scored one of his own to carry the Roosters to victory.
The Roosters shot out to a 12-2 lead midway through the first half in a 12-point turnaround for the Titans after David Fifita was denied his 18th try of the season for an obstruction.
At the other end, Victor Radley busted through poor defence to offload to a probing Tedesco who scored under the posts.
But in their first finals game in six seasons the Titans would not go away.
A grubber from Tyrone Peachey put Fermor over on halftime to keep them close but when the Roosters extended again the Titans followed.
Fighting for their first finals win since 2010, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Brian Kelly got through scrappy defence to level the scores 18-all with 24 minutes to play.
Tedesco then again stepped up to put Josh Morris over for the 158th try of his career, which will now extend into at least another week.
The big concern will now turn to hooker Sam Verrills who was put on report in the first half for a high shot on Kelly that forced the Titans centre from the field with a bloody nose.
Verrills wasn’t sin-binned and has no priors with the NRL judiciary, but the hit could cost him a semi-final game.