Papua New Guinea
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Roosters big guns fire to keep finals hopes alive

The Sydney Roosters kept their 2023 finals hopes alive in Round 21 with much-needed win over the Gold Coast Titans coming as a result of the work done by some big-name forwards.

Led by Kiwi international Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (90 points), who ran for eight-plus metres on 16 of his 20 carries throughout the match, the Tricolours had four players earn selection in the VB Hard Earned Index Team of the Week.

Waerea-Hargreaves was joined by his New Zealand counterpart Brandon Smith, who topped the numbers from all hookers in the round with 41 tackles and two tackle busts helping him to a 55-point score, while Nat Butcher (75 points) and Joseph Suaali’i (65 points) also performed strongly in their respective positions.

It would have been five Roosters in the Team of the Week were it not for Eels fullback Clint Gutherson, who narrowly edged out James Tedesco to take the number one jersey courtesy of his tireless performance against the Cowboys which included eight offloads and 12 runs of eight-plus metres.

Canberra’s late comeback against the Warriors came up short in Golden Point but it wasn’t for a lack of trying, with Corey Horsburgh (87 points) and Josh Papali’i (99 points) comfortably topping their respective lock and prop positions.

Horsburgh made a remarkable 57 tackles against the Warriors, missing just two, while Papali’i chalked up five tackle busts and 19 carries to go with 23 tackles.

Elsewhere, Zac Lomax helped the Dragons secure a much-needed two points over Wests Tigers with his 29 runs (including 13 of eight-plus metres) seeing him register the second-highest score of the round with 92, joining teammate Talatau Amone (55 points) after he finished with the highest score of all five-eighths.

Wests Tigers duo Stefano Utoikamanu (87 points) and Alex Twal (79 points) were admirable contributors in a losing side, as was Sharks utility forward Cameron McInnes who scored 86 points off the bench as Cronulla went down to Manly.

Hard Earned Team of the Week: Round 21
– Clint Gutherson (Eels) – 72 points
– Joseph Suaali’i (Roosters) – 65 points
– Zac Lomax (Dragons) – 92 points
– Will Penisini (Eels) – 70 points
– Brian To’o (Panthers) – 64 points
– Talatau Amone (Dragons) – 55 points
– Jackson Hastings (Knights) – 62 points
– Josh Papali’i (Raiders) – 99 points
– Brandon Smith (Roosters) – 55 points
– Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters) – 90 points
– Tyson Frizell (Knights) – 78 points
– Nat Butcher (Roosters) – 75 points
– Corey Horsburgh (Raiders) – 87 points
– Stefano Utoikamanu (Wests Tigers) – 87 points
– Cameron McInnes (Sharks) – 86 points
– Addin Fonua-Blake (Warriors) – 84 points
– Alex Twal (Wests Tigers) – 79 points

Stats for the VB Hard Earned Index and Team of the Week are provided via Fox Sports.