'We've probably got our identity' - Cooper Cronk says Roosters peaking with NRL playoffs on the horizon

Cooper Cronk has declared the Sydney Roosters have discovered their "identity" as they show signs of peaking with September on the horizon.

After a lacklustre start to the year, the Sydney Roosters provisionally moved to the top of the NRL ladder with a gritty 18-14 win over fellow title contenders South Sydney on Friday.

After winning 11 of their last 13, they are arguably the form team of the competition with three games remaining.

With the arrival of Cronk and James Tedesco this year, many pundits believed that unless they win a premiership over the next two seasons, it would be considered an underachievement.

After feeling the weight of expectation early in the season, Cronk said they had discovered the brand of football they want to be playing.

"When you've got a football team that have got a very good coaching staff that work hard and try to get better every day and you've got a playing group that's willing to evolve, listen, change and train hard, you're always going to have a trajectory on the up," Cronk said.

"It's when you start throwing things out and changing things week-in-week out - and we probably were guilty of that early on - but definitely now we've probably got our identity."

Much has been made of the fact the Roosters are the best defensive team in the competition this year.

Cronk said the "identity" was about playing through the middle third and being able to attack from any point on the field.

"Whenever someone is carrying the football, it's about a lot of support, create momentum through the middle third," Cronk said.

"A lot of guys will say you need to spread the ball wide to (Blake) Ferguson or (Latrell) Mitchell or (Daniel) Tupou or whatever.

"But the essence of those guys putting the ball down in the corner means that Jake Friend is doing a role, there are ruck forwards pushing into space and the halves are in the right positions making decisions."

The Roosters have now lost just twice since being thumped 24-8 by St George Illawarra on Anzac Day back in April.

Following that game, Robinson declared that he and his coaching staff needed to reevaluate themselves and evolve.

Asked what had changed since then, Cronk said: "Put it this way now, wherever the ball is played, any position on the field, we have fluency and know what we can do from that position.

"We probably were too stagnant in terms of going in for one play and trying to set up for one shot.

"In the competition now the defences are so good you need to be able to have multiple shots at the opposition no matter the field position."

Cooper Cronk. Sydney Roosters v Vodafone Warriors, NRL Rugby League. Allianz Stadium, Sydney, Australia. 31st March 2018. Copyright Photo: David Neilson / www.photosport.nz
Cooper Cronk. Source: Photosport


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Watch: Kiwis winger finishes last-gasp try to tie game before Panthers earn golden point win over Titans

Penrith have snatched a miraculous 17-16 golden point comeback win over Gold Coast to salvage victory in a dramatic week that began with the sacking of head coach Anthony Griffin.

Trailing 16-6, Penrith scored two tries in the final five minutes before Nathan Cleary missed what would have been the winning conversion after the fulltime siren.

Cleary's first field goal attempt in golden point flew just under the crossbar but he made sure of it on his second effort to complete their third-straight comeback victory.

The Panthers, under interim coach Cameron Ciraldo, looked impatient as the hosts built a 16-6 lead.

The NSW Origin halfback had a chance to win after the fulltime siren but missesda regulation conversion after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak streaked away for a final-minute try.

Cleary's try five minutes earlier have given them hope, but the Titans' defence held firm to seemingly see off another comeback until Penrith broke through with the final play of the game.

The last-gasp win keeps them on track with the top four and saved their blushes after what was day to forget before the final five minutes of regular time.

Anthony Don's 90-metre intercept try looked to have been enough for the Titans as the Panthers completed at just 65 percent in a game that was interrupted by errors.

In a passage that summed up proceedings, Tyrone Peachey caught a pass while standing behind the deadball line, only for them to find touch from the ensuing drop out and then knock on in the first tackle after the scrum.

Both sides probed with limited success, aside from early tries to Ryan James and Waqa Blake that left them deadlocked 6-6 at halftime.
Jack Hetherington was reported and sin-binned for a swinging arm to the jaw of AJ Brimson just before halftime.

Brimson shifted to fullback after a potentially season-ending wrist injury ruled Michael Gordon out with five-eighth Kane Elgey returning to the side for the first time since the seventh round.


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RTS is a metres machine and the short goal-line drop out is a weapon: Five things to take away from Warriors v Knights

After last night's win over the Knights at home, the Warriors are poised to make their return to the NRL playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Here's what we learned from the 20-4 victory.

1. RTS is a metre-making machine

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has taken "lead by example" to a whole new level this season for the Warriors.

The captain is averaging just over 180m for the season and saw that increase plenty after last night's 338m performance. He leads the NRL in kick return metres with 1,091m for the season and is third in overall running metres with 3,490m.

His ability to produce attacking chances from nothing with his step and acceleration was in full display last night and can be a game changer going forward.

2. The second half curse is broken

Assistant coach Stacey Jones said after the halftime chat (they led 12-4 at the time) the message to the boys was to set the tempo early in the second half and not flounder like they had the last three weeks where they'd failed to score any points in the second 40 minutes.

They did just that.

The Warriors absolutely dominated territory in the second half and it wasn't just with RTS' runs. The Knights were continuously pinned down in their half with sub-40m sets and it wore them out.

At games end, the Warriors had a 700m advantage in metres gained over Newcastle. Most of that came in the second 40.

3. Blake Green is the level-head the Warriors need

Shaun Johnson's game has opened up this season but the major reason it works is because he has a composed veteran alongside him helping out.

Blake Green's ability to read the game and understand the options available late in the set was on full display last night, leading to a stellar solo try in the second half. But even before that, he used all his knowledge to put the Knights' line in disarray and free up Johnson who in turn gave it to Fusitu'a to finish in the right corner.

Add in a sound kicking game (he leads the NRL in 40/20s) and the Kiwi club has a sound veteran who will prove a big asset in playoffs footy.

4. The short goal-line dropout is a weapon - for now

The Warriors were forced into two goal-line dropouts last night by the Knights. Twice Johnson went short. Twice Fusitu'a rose up to contest it. Twice the Warriors recovered the ball.

The Warriors have been employing the short dropout frequently as of late and had a lot of success with it. That sends two messages. One. They're confident it'll work. Two. They're confident in their defence if it doesn't.

That latter point is the more interesting one and it could be a big difference in the long run. Coming into playoff season, top eight clubs are going to study that play and come up with counters to it so whether it remains as potent as it is now remains to be seen.

5. It's just a matter of faith

Sure, it's not set in stone that the Warriors are in the playoffs just yet with the Tigers still giving chase but last night's win means they will finish round 22 no lower than seventh.

The Broncos' loss to the Cowboys has dropped them to eighth and should the Sharks lose to the Storm tonight, the Warriors will sneak ahead of them to sit sixth.

There's only three rounds left after this week before finals footy with two of those matches taking place at Mt Smart - a win on either occasion against the Panthers or Raiders will seal it or they could get the job done away against the Bulldogs next week.

Either way, the seven year wait looks over. It's just a matter of faith.