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SYDNEY ROOSTERS became the most successful side in the World Club Challenge thanks to a hard-earned victory against St Helens on Saturday night.
It is the reigning NRL champions’ second consecutive win in the competition, and meant they joined Wigan on a total of four victories in these international club matches.
This latest triumph, against last season’s Super League Grand Final winners St Helens, also maintained the Roosters’ 100 per cent record in the tournament, with their first triumph having come against the same opposition back in 2003.
Saints had the home advantage and 16,018 packed into the stadium in the Peasley Cross area of the town.
The Super League representatives also had the edge in terms of preparation. Their league campaign has already started while the Roosters are still effectively in pre-season mode as the NRL does not kick off until mid-March.
This told early on with Saints sprinting out of the blocks and prop forward Luke Thompson opening the scoring.
Tommy Makinson added the extras and was later involved in a number of moments which felt like turning points in the game.
He had a try of his own disallowed for a forward pass, was pushed into touch during a promising attack at the beginning of the second half, and knocked-on with the try line in sight at a crucial moment shortly after.
Daniel Tupou and Joseph Manu had crossed for the visitors in the first half, but Kyle Flanagan’s two conversion attempts both hit the woodwork, meaning the Roosters went in just 8-6 ahead at half time.
Shortly after Makinson was forced into touch, with teammate Theo Fages questioning why the winger didn’t cut inside, Manu scored his second. Though Flanagan sent his conversion wide it felt like the Roosters were on top despite Saints’ bright start to the second period.
The crowd were aggrieved that a number of decisions went the way of the Australians, who brought a reasonable following of their own, but in truth the NRL side were just becoming much more dominant in the tackle and began to eat up the yards ball in hand.
Stand-off Luke Keary scored after prop Siosiua Taukeiaho broke impressively to gain what looked like an unassailable lead given the nature of the game. Taukeiaho took over kicking duties, converting that try and adding a late penalty.
Alex Walmsley made the scoreline more respectable for Saints, and deservedly so, but the Roosters win meant the NRL side has triumphed in eight of the last 10 World Club Challenges.
Despite this, Roosters coach Trent Robinson believes there is still merit in these international games of which he is an advocate.
“There is no gap at all, they were the two best teams in rugby league and it was a great game,” he said.
“It was tough and physical. There was a great contest there. They all went after each other and the backs decided to move the ball a bit and see who could get the execution right.
“The spectacle St Helens put on was amazing. It’s such a privilege to come to this ground and play the World Club Challenge here. Hats off to them.
“You walk out there, the light show is on, the fires going, the south stand is singing, it was what footy is about.
“You want to come here and cross cultures and that’s what we’ve done, what an amazing experience for everyone.”
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