Sydney Roosters win NRL grand final 21-6 over Melbourne

In this Sept. 22, 2018, photo, Sydney Roosters rugby league player Cooper Cronk lays on the ground after injurying himself during their National Rugby League preliminary final match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Sydney. The Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm started grand final week wondering if two of their best players would be available for Sunday's National Rugby League championship match. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image via AP)
In this Sept. 21, 2018, photo, Melbourne Storm rugby league player Billy Slater, right, is tackled by Matt Moylan of the Sharks during the National Rugby League preliminary final match in Melbourne, Australia. The Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm started grand final week wondering if two of their best players would be available for Sunday's National Rugby League championship match. (Hamish Blair/AAP Image via AP)

SYDNEY — Inspired by the injured Cooper Cronk, the Sydney Roosters led 18-0 at halftime and went on to beat the Melbourne Storm 21-6 in the National Rugby League grand final on Sunday.

Luke Keary and James Tedesco set up all three Roosters' tries. Up 18-6 with 11 minutes to go, Keary sealed the win with a 20-meter field goal, while Latrell Mitchell added a late penalty.

Keary was named man of the match.

Cronk played for the Roosters, against the odds. Cronk admitted that he was a "longshot" to play after scans confirmed the 34-year-old halfback had sustained severe damage to his left rotator cuff in an earlier match, and several players said Sunday that Cronk had a broken scapula.

Cronk was clearly in pain while on the field and mostly attempted to direct the play around him.

"It's one of the best on-field coaching performances I've ever seen," former Roosters coach and television commentator Phil Gould said.

Roosters captain Boyd Cordner said Cronk was well below par to start the match before 82,688 fans at the Olympic stadium in western Sydney.

"We knew Coops was touch-and-go there," Cordner said. "He pulled through. We had to make up a game plan where we protect him as much as possible, we executed that."

It was disappointing career end for Melbourne fullback Billy Slater, who was only cleared to play on Tuesday after being cleared on a shoulder charge in the semifinals. Slater plans to retire after having played 30 test matches for Australia.

The Roosters or Storm have featured in 15 of the last 21 NRL grand finals, and Melbourne was attempting to become the first team in 25 years to repeat as league champions. The last team to win two titles in a row was the Brisbane Broncos in 1992-93.

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