World Club Challenge: St Helens 12-20 Sydney Roosters - NRL side win record fifth title
|Betfred World Club Challenge|
|St Helens (6) 12|
|Tries: Thompson, Walmsley Goals: Makinson 2|
|Sydney Roosters (8) 20|
|Tries: Tupou, Manu 2, Keary Goals: Taukeiaho 2|
Joseph Manu scored twice as National Rugby League side Sydney Roosters claimed a record fifth World Club Challenge title by beating St Helens.
Luke Thompson powered over from close range to give the Super League champions the perfect start.
But the Roosters hit back to lead 8-6 at half-time as Daniel Tupou and Manu went over in either corner.
Manu's second and a Luke Keary try sealed victory for the Australian side before Alex Walmsley's consolation.
As well as setting a new record for number of wins in the World Club Challenge, Roosters also become the first side to retain the title having beaten Wigan last year.
Saints, who were chasing a third World Club Challenge win themselves, dominated the early stages and then kept pace with the Roosters for much of the game as the southern hemisphere side staged their fightback.
And the outcome might have been different had Kristian Woolf's side taken their chances as they piled on the pressure at the start of the second half.
After Thompson's opener, Tupou stormed through to silence the rapturous home crowd before Manu dived over in the opposite corner to edge the NRL Premiers ahead midway through an entertaining first half.
Their advantage could have been greater had Kyle Flanagan not hit the top of the left-hand post with his first conversion attempt and then the crossbar with his second.
There were boos from the home crowd on the verge of half-time after Tommy Makinson crossed in the corner only for referee Chris Kendall to rule it out because of a forward pass from Kevin Naiqama in the build-up.
Just after the restart they were denied again when Makinson dived for the the line only for video referee Robert Hicks to rule that he was short.
Flanagan failed to convert for the third time in a row after Manu's second try to keep Saints within six point of their opponents, but Keary's long-distance effort ensured Easts added another title to their collection.
Formidable Easts battle to fifth title
Despite the absence of captain Boyd Cordner, who was rested, the Roosters turned up with a formidable side.
Fourteen of their 21-man squad named ahead of the game had featured in the Roosters' NRL Grand Final win against Canberra Raiders in October.
Jake Friend stepped in to skipper the side in place of Cordner and, despite initially looking rattled thanks to Saints' promising start, they went on to establish themselves in the game through Manu's pair of tries.
Victory for the Roosters continues the recent dominance that NRL sides have had in the fixture, with southern hemisphere sides winning all but two matches since Leeds' win against Melbourne Storm in 2008.
Saints' encouraging display despite injuries
St Helens had hoped to be buoyed by the availability of Mark Percival after he was named in their squad despite sustaining a shoulder injury which will require surgery in the defeat by Warrington.
However, the England international did not make the matchday 17 and James Bentley deputised at centre.
Saints were also missing talismanic winger Regan Grace after he sustained a concussion against Hull FC last week but that did prevent them from producing a valiant display against the NRL champions.
Had Saints taken their chances, this could have been a famous victory so early in Woolf's tenure after dominating Super League and winning the Grand Final last season under Justin Holbrook.
However, it was not to be for Saints and a vociferous crowd of over 16,000, but there was much to be proud of in their display for much of the 80 minutes.
'Saints really gave it to us' - post-match reaction
St Helens prop Luke Thompson told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra:
"It was a good start to the game, I felt we started pretty well but it got away from us. We gave it a really good go and I'm proud of the boys.
"I knew it would be tough, there wasn't much in it. I expected it to be close tonight.
"It's going to be a challenge in the NRL [in 2021 with the Bulldogs] which I'm looking forward to, but I've got a big job ahead at Saints, and hopefully we can finish the season well and pick up more silverware."
St Helens back-rower Morgan Knowles told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra:
"It's obviously good to get some accolades. They were outstanding, we competed really well and another day being a bit more clinical it's a different story.
"They taught us a lesson on taking your chances.
"In the second half we had them on the edge of the cliff and if we take a couple of chances it's a different game. But credit to the Roosters.
"It was similar to play-off or Grand Final football, a quick start, I've not played many games as quick as it was."
Sydney Roosters head coach Trent Robinson told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra:
"I'm really proud, it's been an amazing year in 2019 after we came and started down here in Wigan. We finished it off tonight.
"They're a top quality team and they've earned the right to call themselves that and they delivered.
"They play with skill and physicality and it was a really tough game and we had to work hard for it."
Sydney Roosters centre Joseph Manu told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra:
"We came over here with a gameplan to win and the boys really went well.
"Credit to Saints, they really gave it to us, it is an awesome atmosphere over here and the fans are great.
"It was a great game. They bring it to us, I knew they'd come with all they had and it was brutal.
"It was exciting and a great game to be a part of. It's been an awesome couple of years."
St Helens: Welsby, Makinson, Naiqama, Bentley, Costello, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles.
Interchanges: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lees, Paulo, Smith.
Sydney: Tedesco, Morris, Manu, Crichton, Tupou, Keary, Flanagan, Waerea-Hargreaves, Friend, Taukeiaho, Tupouniua, Aubusson, Radley.
Replacements: Verrills, Liu, N. Butcher, Collins.
Referee: Chris Kendall (RFL)