The Anthony Minichiello farewell tour has started on the right note with the fullback and fullback-in-waiting Roger Tuivasa-Sheck helping the Sydney Roosters back into the top four with a scrappy win over the Gold Coast Titans on Monday night.
A week after he supplied the match-winning tackle against St George Illawarra, the Kiwi international delivered the decisive try in the second half as the Roosters put an end to the Titans finals hopes. With the game in the balance, Tuivasa-Sheck picked up a loose ball, kicked and regathered in one motion to give the Roosters their fourth and ultimately final lead of the match.
Not to be outdone, Minichiello scored a try and looked dangerous with every touch of the ball as his Roosters teammates signaled their intention to have the tour reach the first week of October. Try as they might the Titans couldn’t send outgoing coach John Cartwright out a winner as they slumped to just two wins from their last 12 games.
The first half will go down as one of the most bizarre in 2014. One of Sydney’s worst winter days reduced the crowd to a paltry 6345 fans and the game did little to inspire them as the two teams traded tries and errors in a stop-start half that reached no great heights.
It started in the third minute when James Maloney swooped on former teammate Daniel Mortimer’s grubber and had visions of sending Michael Jennings on a 90-metre sprint to the tryline. The only problem was the flyer had switched to the inside and his pass fell into the waiting hands of Anthony Don who crossed for perhaps the easiest tries in the NRL this year.
The Roosters were quick to respond as Tuivasa-Sheck gifted Minichiello a try in his third last regular season game at Allianz Stadium with a deft pass to the veteran who reverted to usual wing position in the attacking zone. Maloney made up for his earlier howler by creating and scoring the Roosters' second try with a 2013-like Maloney dart close to the line.
Just as you thought the premiers were starting to find the grove the visitors responded via Dave Taylor with one of his first touches of the ball as he took advantage of a Roosters defence minus key men Jake Friend and Sonny Bill Williams to cross out wide. The Roosters must have thought they did enough to enter the sheds with the lead when a return to the good old rugby league basics of run hard and tackle hard eventually led to Nene MacDonald muscling his way in for the home side's third try.
However, the crazy half was fittingly concluded with a razzle dazzle play from the Titans which ended with Greg Bird crossing after the siren courtesy of a Mortimer cross field kick.
The heavens opened to start the second half and the wet surface made conditions difficult. The Roosters dominated the early stages of the half and were rewarded with what proved the pivotal Tuivasa-Sheck try. But as was their trademark early in the season the Titans wouldn’t go away and at one stage had 18 consecutive tackles on the Roosters line.
But in the end the Roosters ground out the two points as Jennings crossed for his third try in two weeks to secure the win. A late penalty extended the margin to eight in the closing minutes.
The Roosters will need to improve as their top four credentials will be put to the test in the next fortnight with trips to Leichhardt Oval and Mt Smart Stadium. For the Titans, incoming coach Neil Henry will be thrown straight into the deep end with the club to host league leaders Manly on Sunday.