Freddie proud despite loss - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Freddie proud despite loss

By Liam Fitzgibbon 25/08/2007 10:48:16 PM Comments (0)

Roosters coach Brad Fittler praised the courage of his players after bowing out of finals contention at the hands of wooden spoon contenders Penrith 28-22 at the Sydney Football Stadium.

The Panthers climbed off the bottom of the competition ladder with the win and ended Fittler's fairytale march to an unlikely finals berth that started six weeks ago after he took over from Chris Anderson.

Penrith, looking anything but wooden spoon contenders, coasted to a 20-6 halftime lead and appeared headed for a huge win before the Roosters put some respect in the scoreline with three late tries.

Fittler proudly commended his troops on failing to give in although it seemed clear early on their season was coming to a close.

"I thought our boys were pretty courageous actually," Fittler said.

"They showed character, they held on, Penrith are a good enough side to put 40 or 50 (points) on teams but (we) came back and made the score respectable.

"There were some good signs there."

Impressive centre Maurice Blair, 22, bagged a double for Penrith, while rookie fullback Jarrod Sammut and winger Michael Gordon also scored tries for the victors, with Gordon booting six from seven.

Amos Roberts, John Williams, Anthony Tupou and Braith Anasta crossed for the Roosters who, for the most part, looked a shadow of the side that began Fittler's coaching tenure with four wins and a draw.

Rugby-bound halfback Craig Gower, playing in his penultimate NRL match, was instrumental for the visitors while the performance of youngsters Sammut and Blair gave Panthers fans encouragement for next season.

Those performances on Saturday night and over the past month left coach Matthew Elliott still scratching his head as to why his side are locked in a battle for the wooden spoon.

"I haven't really come to terms with the fact we're not playing in a few weeks time to be honest with you," Elliott said.

"Over the last five weeks you take the last six minutes of the Cowboys (loss) away and we've won four in a row.

"There's going to be an element of disappointment (about this season), because certainly talent isn't an issue for us but there's also a massive element of excitement."

The win allowed Penrith to leapfrog Newcastle and St George Illawarra on the ladder, giving them every chance of avoiding the wooden spoon and putting the troubled Knights firmly in the frame for the dreaded title.

Blair crossed for his second three minutes after the break and Penrith controlled most of the second half before Williams ran 80m to score what seemed a consolation try for the Roosters with 11 minutes on the clock.

Tupou and Anasta then crossed for soft late tries, but the clock ended any hopes of a miraculous Tricolours' comeback.

The Roosters, who needed to win both this game and next week against Souths to have any chance of a finals berth, joined the Gold Coast in bowing out of finals contention.

Skipper Craig Fitzgibbon was left to lament the timing of the Roosters' late run.

"It's a little frustrating cause we left it to the point where we had to win every game, it would have been nice to make a charge a little earlier and have that buffer," Fitzgibbon said.

"But now we know we're capable (of winning) ... I think we were starting to doubt ourselves at the start of the season."

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