The Wyong Roos completed a stunning two-year turnaround to qualify for the 2015 VB NSW Cup Grand Final, after entering the competition in 2013 and finishing dead last.
Inspirational captain and hooker Mitch Williams put in a clinical performance for the Roos, while halfback Tyler Cornish had an instrumental influence in the 44-20 victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs were boosted by the return of Shaun Lane, but clearly missed the influence of dynamic hooker Damien Cook, who could not play due to NRL commitments earlier in the week.
Nathan Stapleton stormed onto an offload to make a 50-metre bust to get the Roos out of trouble, which put them put them instantly on the attack. Brendan Elliott scooped up a ball on the half-volley a few tackles later to stroll over and score in the left corner.
A beautiful set play increased the Roos’ lead to 12-0 just five minutes later, after Williams drifted left, threw an inside ball to Eloni Vunakece, who then put Jono Ford threw a gap to plant the ball under the posts.
A fifth-tackle penalty off the kickoff set for a late hit gifted the Roos an easy two points through Cornish, who were completely dominating the Bulldogs at this stage of the game.
Jarrod McInally finished what was an exquisite string of passes to open the Bulldogs’ account. Jaline Graham threw an outstanding cutout pass to Chase Stanley, which fractured the Roos defence, who took advantage of the two-on-one by passing the ball to the try scorer.
The Roos hit straight back with an extremely powerful try, as Williams drew the markers away by drifting left out of dummy half, before passing to Jack Siejka, who charged onto the ball at full pace and muscled his way over the line to increase their lead to 20-4.
Lloyd Perrett mirrored that powerful effort just moments later at the other end of the field, by charging through various Roos’ defenders and skillfully planting the ball down, which decreased the deficit to 20-10.
A high tackle on Williams on the stroke of half time allowed Cornish to kick another penalty goal from 35-metres out, which meant the halftime score was 22-10.
Nathan Smith opened the second half scoring with one of the team tries of the year. The ball travelled through many sets of Roos’ hands in a 40-metre raid that travelled from the left sideline to the right edge – and was then finished off by Smith to increase their lead to 28-10.
Omar Slaimankehl stamped his authority on the game after bursting through the Bulldogs defence to score a skillful try, which came off the back of an excellent Roos defensive effort to push the Bulldogs into touch off a long-range kick.
Williams capped off an outstanding performance with a try, after the Bulldogs could not handle a grubber and the skipper pounced on the loose ball to further secure the win.
Brad Clark burrowed over for the Bulldogs to score a consolation try, before Willie Manu hit straight back for the Roos to make the score 44-16.
Perrett finished off an outstanding season for the Bulldogs with his second try on the stroke of fulltime, which completed the 44-20 high scoring encounter.
The Roos now look to their maiden VB NSW Cup Grand Final appearance, which will be against the winner of the Mounties v Newcastle Knights Preliminary Final.
Wyong Roos 44 (O Slaimankhel, N Smith, B Elliot, J Ford, M Williams, W Manu, A Papalii tries; T Cornish 8 goals) bt Canterbury Bulldogs 20 (L Perrett 3, J McInally tries; L Dodd 2 goals)
The NSWRL Grand Final day, held at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday, September 27, is the biggest day on the VB NSW Cup, Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield calendars and the only live rugby league in Sydney that weekend – and adult tickets are just $10, with kids under 12 free! With face painting, live music and a carnival-like atmosphere, it’s the perfect day out for young and old. Get your tickets here.