When two Worlds collide, there can only be one winner. It was the night of Champions as Super League’s finest, St Helens, took on the cream of the ARL in the form of the Sydney Roosters.
The Roosters came to the UK as defending World Club Champions after defeating Wigan by 20-8 last year. They have also won the coveted title on four occasions, compared to Saints two. The last time the home side picked up the trophy was back in 2007 and the bookies believed that they were unlikely to taste glory tonight.
There was no place in the Saints squad for Regan Grace who is suffering concussion and Mark Percival, surgery suspended, also didn’t make the seventeen.
It was a sensational start for Saints who took the game to the Roosters from the opening whistle. Theo Fages was the provider but there was plenty of work to do for Luke Thompson as he pushed aside the defenders and stretched for the line. Tommy Makinson took the ball and slotted his conversion between the uprights for a 6-0 lead after six minutes.
Five minutes later and the Roosters were back in the game when Daniel Tupou stooped to collect a dropping ball, collecting it off his boot laces, to go over in the corner to score. Saints paid the price for two penalties that they conceeded. Kyle Flanagan hit the near upright with his conversion attempt, Saints with atwo point lead.
The Roosters hit the front on twenty after a flowing move down the middle of the field ended with Flanagan throwing a long pass to Joseph Manu wide right who went over in the corner. Flanagan this time hit the cross-bar with his conversion attempt, the Roosters lead just two points.
It was an epic, but scoreless next twenty as two heavyweight teams slogged it out, with excellent defensive efforts thwarting possible tries from both sides. It was an engrossing arm-wrestle of a game.
Saints had all the pressure at the start of the second half and on forty-eight minutes Makinson crawled over the line but he’d already grounded the ball in the tackle, short of the line.
It was all one way traffic but Saints couldn’t find that one move, pass or kick which would penetrate a sensational Roosters defence. Against the run of play Manu burrowed his way to the line and got the ball grounded on the hour mark. This time Flanagan missed the woodwork and the uprights, the Roosters with a 12-6 lead.
The game was won on sixty-seven as the Roosters broke from their own line, a break from Sio Siau Taukeiaho made the space for Luke Keary to finish from thirty metres. Taukeiaho took over the kicking duties and this time found the target for an 18-6 lead.
An illegal lift from Walmsley on his own twenty-five gifted Taukeiaho a second goal on seventy-two which left Saints with the impossible task of three scores in seven minutes.
Walmsley finally got the ball on the ground on seventy-seven as some consolation for St Helens, pushing past a tiring Roosters defence. Makinson added the goal but it was too little and too late.
There can be no denying the effort and endeavour from both sides as they battled for the win and the honour of being named World Club Champions. It was the Roosters who hit on the break and win the game a littkle against the run of play. All credit to their composure as they took the prize and are, once again, named as the top team in the World.
Saints: Welsby, Costello, Bentley, Naiqama, Makinson (G), Lomax, Fages, Walmsley (T), Roby, Thompson (T), Taia, Peyroux, Knowles. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lees, Paulo, Smith.
Roosters: Tedesco, Tupou (T), Crichton, Manu (2T), Morris, Keary (T), Flanagan, Waerea-Hargreaves, Friend, Taukeiaho (2G), Tupouniua, Aubusson, Radley. Subs: Verrills, Liu, Butcher, Collins.
Referee: Chris Kendall.