NRL 2020: Josh Papalii inspires Canberra Raiders past Sydney Roosters in Grand Final rematch

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart knew his side were going to beat the Sydney Roosters in their Grand Final rematch after Josh Papalii was penalised for sparking a melee during a tense NRL clash on Thursday night.  

The injury-hit Raiders overcame a halftime deficit to secure a 24-20 win on the back of influential performances from Papalii and Kiwis international Joe Tapine. 

Papalii scored what turned out to be the match-winning try in the 65th minute, but he was involved in a play earlier in the second half that threatened to change the momentum of the clash. 

With the scores locked at 12-12, the Roosters were able to edge in front after a melee erupted as Papalii took exception to the whack from Angus Crichton, who went unpunished, while the Raiders prop was penalised for reacting to the painful blow.

The Roosters slotted a penalty goal, but the Raiders had the last laugh, scoring two tries in the final 23 minutes to secure victory. 

"When he [Papalii] got whacked in the nose - I don't understand why we didn't get the penalty - I was pretty confident we were going to win the match because they had poked the bear," says Stuart. 

"We had a good talk, Papa [and I], one thing about Papa is he's a very honest guy who analyses his game very honestly.

"He knew himself he had to step up to the better standard of player. We're running off the back of him and Joe Tapine at the moment. He's really lifted his standard of play and the last two weeks he's been a credit to himself as well."

Roosters coach Trent Roberston downplayed the entire incident saying "that's footy." 

The Roosters' fourth loss of the season won't to the NZ Warriors much favours with the two teams set to square off in eight days. 

However, they will likely be without Crichton for the clash who left the field early with a medial ligament strain. 

"[Crichton] is OK but he had to come off with it," says Roosters coach Trent Robertson. "You could see he was hobbling as soon as we taped it up there.

"I don't know how bad it is from Angus but to come off, if it's a week you'd sort of be able to get through the game, it would be sore and you might be ready for the following week but to come off it's not a great sign for a week's time."

Robertson said the team will need to improve defence ahead of the Warriors game. 

"You've just got to man up and make your tackles," Robinson added. "The guys were in position enough to make them right through to the end.

"It's on all of us but we just weren't strong enough to hold that. You can talk about missed opportunities, and we did have too many errors with the ball.

"In the end, if you have a scrappy game and let two tries in you're still going to have an opportunity to come away with the win. Four tries? I think we had maybe four the week before [v Storm], three last week [v Cowboys], four again – now you're tossing a coin.

"We've come down on the wrong side two out of three weeks. That's on us … It's just frustrating. I think we're all feeling that hurt, especially from those four tries."

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