The Sydney Roosters have exorcised the demons of NRLW grand final losses in 2018 and 2020 with a courageous 16-4 win over the Dragons in Sunday's decider in Redcliffe.
After producing a miracle comeback over the Broncos to seal their grand final berth the Roosters again had to come from behind to secure the club's first ever premiership.
In front of 7855 fans on a warm afternoon at Moreton Daily Stadium it was the Dragons charging out of the blocks with a try in the second minute, launching a raid down the left side which featured Dally M Medal winner Emma Tonegato and was finished off by Madison Bartlett.
Roosters winger Brydie Parker looked set to level the scores in the sixth minute but superb cover defence by Rachael Pearson and Teagan Berry forced her into touch.
The Dragons' scramble defence came to the fore again six minutes later when Page McGregor denied Leianne Tufuga in the right hand corner.
Tonegato the creator for Bartlett
The Roosters lost Parker in the 20th minute when she appeared to suffer a serious knee injury and left the field in tears. Dragons five-eighth Taliah Fuimaono was placed on report and sin binned after replays showed she had caught Parker high as the Roosters winger was falling.
With six minutes remaining in the half it was Jess Sergis getting over the line for the Tricolours but again the Dragons defended desperately to hold up the star centre.
Hooker Keeley Davis looked to have extended the Red V's lead on the stroke of half-time when she kicked ahead and regathered before crashing over under the posts but the bunker spotted a knock-on in the lead-up and the try was denied.
Meakes levels the scores
A late challenge by Yasmin Meakes on Dragons kicker Rachael Pearson gave St George Illawarra the chance to set up camp in the opposition 20-metre zone but it was the Roosters' turn to stand tall in defence as Talei Holmes was held up over the tryline.
Meakes redeemed herself in the 45th minute when she powered onto a pass from Jocelyn Kelleher and crashed over to level the scores.
The Dragons lost McGregor to an arm injury with 16 minutes remaining forcing a reshuffle on the left edge and shortly after it was the Roosters hitting the front when Zahara Temara delivered the final pass for Isabelle Kelly to score.
A rampaging run by Sarah Togatuki then gave the Roosters the field position for hard-working hooker Olivia Higgins to ice the victory with a try from close range.
Match: Dragons v Roosters
Grand Final -
Venue: Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe
- Dragons winger Madison Bartlett became the most prolific tryscorer in the history of the NRLW. Bartlett has eight tries, one more than Bronco Tamika Upton.
- Dragons halfback Rachael Pearson produced a rare 40-30 kick to get her team out of strife in the 26th minute.
- Roosters second-rower Olivia Kernick got through 21 tackles to take her season tally to a competition high 241 tackles.
- Dally M winner Emma Tonegato capped a remarkable week with a devastating display at the back for the Dragons, running for 206 metres from 24 runs.
- Isabelle Kelly was a powerhouse for the Roosters on the left edge, finishing the day with 15 runs for 170 metres with seven tackle breaks.
- Joeli Morris arrived at the ground as 18th player for the Roosters and was called on when Brydie Parker was forced out of the game with a knee injury. The 20-year-old went on to play a key role in the Roosters' win in her first ever NRLW game.
Higgins seals the grand final for the Roosters
Play of the game
With the grand final in the balance it was the Roosters' big guns conjuring a magical try in the 55th minute. Halfback Raecene McGregor found Corban Baxter who delivered the ball to Zahara Temara and she found a rampant Isabelle Kelly for a try that would prove to be the match-winner in an epic decider.
Kelly puts the Roosters in front
What they said
"It hurts. I feel sorry for the girls, they busted their arse for for me for six weeks in the pre-season and I'm really hurt for them. They're such a great group and they've given me their attention and brought into everything I've tried to set with the culture. It'll burn for a little while but someone had to lose, someone had to win, but I'm proud of the girls that have brought in and set the standard and the culture of what it takes to be a Dragon now." - Dragons coach Jamie Soward
"I was a little bit overwhelmed with how the girls played out there. Just the effort, once again, similar to last week. Down 4-0 at half-time, obviously there was total belief, we just needed to change a couple of things up in the second half and I believed we would get over the top of them but we had to defend so many sets on our line... just so proud of them." - Roosters coach John Strange
NRLW Press Conference: Dragons v Roosters - Grand Final, 2021
Players from both sides will return to their respective state competitions from next week with the BMD Premiership already underway in Queensland while the Harvey Norman NSW Premiership will start on April 23.
The Roosters will have 10 of their players return to the Central Coast side while the likes of Jess Sergis (Wests Tigers), Raecene McGregor (North Sydney) and Sarah Togatuki (St Marys) will turn out for rival clubs.
The Dragons will have their talent spread across both competitions with the likes of Kezie Apps (Wests Tigers), Elsie Albert (St Marys) and Taliah Fuimaono (Mounties) to play in the NSW Premiership. Shaylee Bent (Tweed Seagulls) and Jaime Chapman (Tweed Seagulls) are among those who'll head back to Queensland's tournament.
From there, the State of Origin sides will be selected before we gear up for season two of the NRLW this season.