The Sydney Roosters have moved into the NRL’s top four with a heart-stopping 21-20 win over Brisbane that was decided by a late penalty.
The Broncos were leading 20-19 off a penalty goal at the other end before Tom Flegler was pinged for a clumsy high shot on Sitili Tupouniua as the Roosters charged back down field.
Adam Keighran smoothly slotted the penalty 10 metres from the right sideline in the dying seconds to snatch the win for injury-depleted Roosters and give life to their unlikely premiership hopes.
But more misery could come.
Victor Radley is facing more time on the sidelines after he was put on report for a dangerous dive at Albert Kelly’s legs while the Broncos half was attempting the match-levelling field goal with five minutes to play.
Radley rushed out of the line and threw his body at Kelly, giving away the penalty that put the Broncos in front 20-19 with Selwyn Cobbo’s kick from in front.
It was expected to be an easier win for the Roosters.
But for the second time this season the lowly Broncos had their measure.
The 15th-placed side pulled off the upset of the season with a 34-16 win over the Roosters in round 11 and showed the same physicality on Friday.
Last time the Broncos were led by Tevita Pangai Junior up front, but Payne Haas put the side on his shoulders this time with 110 metres, a try and five tackle busts.
The NSW Origin prop was first on the board eight minutes in after being held up over the line in the set before, signalling his intentions to run riot all night.
In a show of sheer athleticism, he saved an almost certain try when he dragged down a roaming James Tedesco close to the line in the first half and the desperation caught on.
The Roosters soon hit back through Isaac Liu, while tries to the Broncos’ Jordan Riki and Dale Copley of the visitors had the scores level at 12-12 at half-time.
The dogfight resumed when Flegler ran on the last and offloaded to Kelly to score under the posts before the Roosters did the same at the other end, with Tedesco’s try and Keighran’s conversion drawing the scores at 18-all with 18 minutes to play.
A field goal from Sam Walker put the Roosters in front with seven minutes to play.
By the Roosters’ high standards it was a sloppy game, but the Broncos were as gutsy as they have been all season.
They lost Tyson Gamble to a hand injury in the second half, as well as Danny Levi to a head knock.
Panthers too good for Dragons
Nathan Cleary has eased back from injury for Penrith in a 34-16 win to all but end St George Illawarra’s finals hopes.
The half-back hadn’t played since suffering a labrum tear in his right shoulder in NSW’s State of Origin series-clinching win on June 27.
He showed no signs of the complaint in a confident return though, defending without hesitation and kicking well as Penrith overcame a sloppy start to defeat the Dragons comfortably.
Penrith’s only concern will be if their star man is reported for a shoulder charge, for a hit on Jack Bird that went unpunished in the second half.
The Dragons’ fifth-straight loss will likely leave them two wins outside the top eight with three rounds to play with games against the Sydney Roosters, North Queensland and South Sydney to come.
Cleary’s return didn’t instantly transform the Panthers, who completed just one full set compared to the Dragons’ nine in the opening 20 minutes.
But Penrith still led 6-0 when Brent Naden juggled and intercepted a Corey Norman pass to race 90 metres to score.
The Penrith errors kept coming and finally the Dragons took advantage when Zac Lomax found an offload for Mikaele Ravalawa, despite seemingly being wrapped up by three Panthers.
Lomax drilled the sideline conversion ato draw the score level, but Penrith had another Norman intercept to thank when Naden crossed again.
Dylan Edwards then spun over after Liam Martin’s ferocious hit-up had cleared the path as Penrith built a 16-6 half-time lead.
They returned a more typical Panthers unit, Cleary drilling kicks into the corners before Matt Burton set up Edwards’ second and then barged over for one himself.
Paul Momirovski added another before Bird and impressive teenager Talatau Amone scored consolation tries for the Dragons.
Penrith play the Rabbitohs, Wests Tigers and Parramatta before the finals.