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By Danielle Smith
Three-time champions, the Brisbane Broncos, will miss their first ever NRLW grand final after going down to the Sydney Roosters in their semi-final match on Sunday.
The Roosters booked their spot in next weekend’s premiership match against the St George Illawarra Dragons, who won their game against the Gold Coast Titans.
The Roosters stunned everyone with an impressive 22-16 win over the reigning premiers, while the Dragons beat the Titans 24-18 in the first-ever semi-final round in NRLW history, held at Leichardt Oval.
In the first match of the day, it was the Titans who opened the scoring through crowd favourite Steph Hancock, beating two Dragons defenders to cross for a four-pointer.
The Red V hit back with the next two tries through Madison Bartlett and Emma Tonegato and took a 10-6 lead to the break.
The Dragons were too strong in the second half and capitalised on the Titan's poor discipline and completion rate.
Jamie Chapman scored in the 45th minute, and a penalised high shot on Tonegato from the Titan’s Brianna enabled goal kicker Rachel Pearson to put her team further in front.
Not long after, Keely Davis crossed making the score 24-6 with 11 minutes to go and looked to have put the match out of the Titan’s reach.
Two quick tries to Jasmine Peters and Hancock gave the Titans hope at 24-18, but in the end, the lead was too big to chase, and the score remained.
Dragons coach Jamie Soward was very pleased but not surprised with his team’s performance.
He said: “I’m extremely proud. They are a special bunch of girls that I have been given the pleasure of coaching.
“I expected to come in and make the finals as a minimum, and to win this game this week was certainly a super proud moment for the club.”
In the second match, many expected the Broncos to dominate the Roosters, and cruise to victory with ease.
The Roosters were lucky to scrape into finals contention because of their for and against after the Parramatta Eels lost in the last round of the regular season.
Streaking out to a 16-0 lead in only the 14th minute, the assumptions seemed to be coming to fruition, with many asking just how much the Broncos would win by.
Isabelle Kelly was the first to cross for the Roosters, and not long before half time teammate Leianne Tufuga joined the scorecard, and the Tri Colours found themselves back in the match trailing 16-10 at the break.
The second half saw the Roosters dig in deep, and when Keilee Joseph scored and Zahara Temara added the extras, the Broncos were stunned to find themselves at 16-all.
Both teams kept making errors, allowing their opponent to remain in the match, but it wasn’t until Jocelyn Kelleher scored with 10 minutes remaining that the Roosters held the lead for the first time and never let go.
The last few minutes saw Brisbane throw everything they could at the Roosters, who desperately hung on and secured the win.
Jess Sergis and Isabelle Kelly each put in huge performances for the victors, both heavily involved and coming up with big plays.
Millie Boyle was solid as always for the Broncos, making the most tackles in the match with 35 and running for the most metres with 177.
With many writing them off before the game, Rooster’s coach John Strange admitted that the team used that as motivation.
He said: “We really fed off that. We spoke about that at training…that no one gave us a chance. It was about us in those four walls of the shed that really believed, and that was all that mattered.”
Next Sunday the Dragons and the Roosters will face off in the NRLW grand final at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe.
Both teams have come runners up to the Broncos in their past grand final appearances and will be wanting to finally go one better this time around.
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