Roosters fullback Michael Gordon scored the match-winning try before stopping Panther Tyrone Peachey with a last-ditch tackle to keep his side atop the NRL table with a hard-fought 14-12 away win over Penrith.
Peachey was jinking back inside looking for the tryline after regathering a crossfield kick from Matt Moylan before he was pulled down by Gordon in a tackle most of the 11,044 parochial fans thought was high.
Different perspective: Another angle of Gordon’s tackle. Photo: Fox Sports
But there was no whistle and the Roosters survived, earning a third successive win to start the season in a stop-start game punctuated with errors and penalties from both teams.
“I didn’t think the tackle was high, I know the crowd was complaining,” ex-Panther Gordon said.
“Either I tackle him there or they score and win the game. [It was] straight across the shoulder, just because he stepped so hard it probably looked dramatic. It was definitely not high.”
Panthers coach Anthony Griffin refused to offer an opinion when asked about the tackle, or the flat pass from Latrell Mitchell which helped set up Gordon’s match-winning four-pointer in the 72nd minute.
Mitchell passed the ball to his winger Daniel Tupou who managed to get a kick away downfield before being bundled into touch. Gordon managed to get to the ball first, and toed it ahead before taking possession and running in to score his second try of the game.
Just moments earlier Gordon was involved in a mix-up with his other winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall that lead to what looked like a Waqa Blake try, before the boys in the Bunker decided Peachey had strayed offside in the build up.
Panthers half Nathan Cleary sent up a towering bomb that led to a miscommunication between Gordon and Kenny-Dowall, allowing a flying Blake to pick up the scraps and score in the corner.
But Peachey was adjudged to have been in front of Cleary when he kicked the ball, before straying into the 10m protected zone around the ball catchers.
“That was a pretty big effort from the guys,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.
“We can analyse it all we want but you’ve got to win those games if you want to be a good team.
“We were really good the first couple of weeks but we didn’t get what we wanted out of our defence. We were defending well but not quite saving the tries, and not quite doing enough.
“That was our focus this week and it proved vital in the end because our attack, we came up with too many errors and allowed field position and possession to the Panthers.
“It wasn’t our best footy. To have them score one try like they did, that’s a real Penrith try. The Moylan freak show there with the way that he plays.”
Penrith’s only try, to go with Cleary’s three penalty goals, was a superb Peachey four-pointer in the left corner after Moylan came up with a no-look, cut-out flick pass – an early contender for try assist of the season.
Otherwise the Roosters’ defence held tight, and it had to after the Tricolours came up with 17 errors in a game where both sides were penalised nine times.
While Cleary’s menacing bombs were causing Gordon plenty of headaches at one end, the Roosters lethal left-hand side attack kept the Panthers on their toes throughout.
All three of their tries came on that side, an area weakened early on when James Fisher-Harris left the game with a fractured eye socket.
“He had a head clash there earlier in the game, as soon as he’s tried to blow his nose it’s just popped out,” Griffin said of the man who replaced the injured Bryce Cartwright.
“It’s not ideal but they’re the cards you’re dealt, I thought we’d done enough all night even though we had to deal with that.
“We made some technical errors there defensively. I just thought we were very unlucky but that’s what happens at this level. We did a really good job to just about hold that game together.
“On the night we got beaten with points on the scoreboard but I thought it was a really good effort, something we’ll be able to build on.”