Walker helps Roosters pip Sharks in elimination final


Trent Robinson has hailed the Sydney Roosters' backs-to-the-wall elimination finals win over Cronulla as the gutsiest of his 11-year tenure, after Sam Walker kicked the Tricolours to a gripping 13-12 victory.

On a brutal night for the Roosters, the club lost Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii to a concussion and Joey Manu succumbed to a hamstring injury before Walker sealed the late win.

The victory sets up a semi-final against an equally-battered Melbourne, likely to be on Friday night at AAMI Park with the Roosters flying on the back of six straight wins that have saved their season.

They will, however, battle on without two of their strike attacking weapons, with Suaalii already out of the match due to concussion and Manu sidelined by his hamstring.

At one stage on Saturday night, the Roosters had James Tedesco in the sin-bin, were left with backrowers Siua Wong and Angus Crichton defending in the centres and playmaker Sandon Smith at fullback.

But somehow they withstood several surges from the Sharks in that 10-minute period, letting in only one try and being still in the match at 12-6 down when Tedesco returned.

And after hitting back through Wong following a deflected kick to level the scores at 12-12, it was Walker who was the hero for the Roosters at PointsBet Stadium.

Dropped after a loss to Cronulla early in the season, the halfback nailed a field goal from 20 metres out to give the Roosters the lead with eight minutes to play.

The Tricolours then survived two field goal shots from Nicho Hynes that would have sent the match into extra time, with the attempts charged down by Tedesco and Luke Keary.

"Gutsiest, yeah. There were many ways to lose that game, and they found a way to win," Robinson said.

"Prettiest? I'd like to play better footy, and we will play better footy next week.

"The purist in how you want to play footy, you can pick that apart as much as you like. But the spirit a team plays with, that is of the highest order."

Making Walker's winning field goal even more significant is the fact he did it after rolling his ankle, leaving fifth-string kicker Billy Smith to at one stage take a conversion.

"He is cold-blooded in those moments, and he's shown that over time," Robinson said of Walker.

After a rollercoaster year through injury and selection, Walker had earlier got the Roosters back in the game at 6-6 when he sent Manu over for the first try of the second half. 

Cronulla will be left to rue several missed opportunities on a night prop Tom Hazleton ended up in hospital with an abdominal tear.

Coach Craig Fitzgibbon was adamant Cameron McInnes was denied a fair try early when he was ruled to be held up.

And while Tedesco was in the sin-bin, Sharks hooker Blayke Brailey dropped a ball over the line and centre Jesse Ramien dropped another while 10 metres out.

It meant the earlier work of Hynes amounted to little, after he set up the first two tries.

Battling in the middle of the season, the Sharks did well to finish sixth and earn a home final.

But they are still left with their eighth loss in nine finals matches since the 2016 premiership success, after failing to take their chances.

"Obviously I'm disappointed about tonight, but I think we're starting to grow up as a footy team," Fitzgibbon said.

"We asked a few questions (with Tedesco off the field), they scrambled pretty well."