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The List: Five of the best NRL finals games of the modern era

The NRL, donning the self-proclaimed slogan “the greatest game of all” does live up to such a title from time to time. Many games, often coming in the finals series leaves an imprint on your brain with the quote ‘Wow’ or ‘unreal’.

Here are five games since the turn of the century that have done just that, and worthy of a rewatch.


2004 Grand Final – Bulldogs defeat Roosters 16-13

Talk about an anticipated heavyweight battle.

A tussle of cross-town rivals who were the pace-setters all season. The Sydney Roosters in their third consecutive Grand Final and looking for their second title in that period, the Canterbury Bulldogs looking for something to show for all their bite, having not won a premiership since 1995 despite an abundance of class on their roster.

Heading into the 2004 decider there was little to split the two teams, and the game itself proved that.

Following a tight opening half hour, the Chooks ran in a try and field goal in the space of two minutes for a 13-6 advantage, which they took into the halftime sheds. But the tables turned in the second, as the Dogs crossed twice while holding the opposition scoreless to jump ahead 16-13 with 27 minutes to play. In the final period Canterbury would come under waves of constant attack, but they managed to withstand it and hold on for their eighth premiership.

Andrew Ryan’s sublime tackle on Michael Crocker with 15 seconds to play sealed the win, and remains the highlight.

2008 Qualifying Final – Warriors defeat Storm 18-15

A finals upset to remember, and one of the greatest wins in the Warriors’ history.

The Mount Smart club entered the finals series as the eighth seed, set up to face minor premiers the Melbourne Storm on the road in the first week. While the Warriors entered the finals in good form, winning eight of their final 10 regular season games, a Storm victory was assumed.

On top of that no eighth placed team had ever beaten the table toppers since the introduction of the previously used McIntyre finals system.

The game was tight, thanks to the kiwis rising to the challenge. After trading blows throughout the game, Greg Inglis nailed a field goal with 12 minutes to play, putting the hosts up 15-14, which held firm… for 10 minutes.

In what seemed the Warriors’ final opportunity, Jerome Ropati burst out of the line in his own half and setup Manu Vatuvei on the left flank, who fed Michael Witt for the match winning try.

Funnily enough the Storm still went on to make the Grand Final, while the Warriors were eliminated in the preliminaries.

2010 Qualifying Final – Roosters defeat Wests Tigers 19-15 in golden point

A modern day classic – this game had nearly everything, with two genuine contenders jostling in the finals, near misses mixed in with exciting attack, a comeback, a long range field goal, and golden point.

The Tigers were the third seed and emerged as one of the competition’s best teams alongside the Dragons and Titans, led by Coach Tim Sheens who had tasted his fair share of success. The Roosters were a much improved outfit, making it back to the finals after copping the wooden spoon a year prior.

On field, the Tigers built up a 15-2 advantage not long into the second half, which seemed healthy given the low-scoring nature of the match.

The Chooks finally sparked, mounting a comeback to get within one point with six minutes to play. Then with just seconds on the clock, skipper Braith Anasta stepped forward in a bizarre broken play and nailed the game-tying field goal.

Golden Point went right to the end, until Shaun Kenny-Dowall intercepted a pass and scored in the corner, sealing victory for the Roosters.

2015 Grand Final – Cowboys defeat Broncos 17-16 in golden point

It genuinely hurts to type this out. I was at the game cheering on my Broncos, and while I witnessed one of the game’s greatest ever matches, it was painful go endure.

It was the first all Queensland decider, the big brother Brisbane Broncos against little brother North Queensland Cowboys, and the pinnacle of Johnathan Thurston’s career.

After an absolute slugfest that saw the Broncos narrowly lead 16-12, the true brilliance of the contest started with one minute to play. Brisbane’s Ben Hunt was stripped of the ball by Kyle Feldt, who himself scored right on full time to tie the game up. A missed conversion off the post from Thurston sent the decider to golden point.

The drama escalated, Hunt knocked on the kick off to begin sudden death, gifting the Cowboys field position for a game winning score of any kind. A few tackles later, the Cowboys looked to their talisman Thurston, who slotted the winning field goal to win his first premiership with his beloved North Queenslanders – you cannot write a better script.

2018 Qualifying Final – Storm def. Rabbitohs 29-28

Entertaining is the best way to describe this matchup. It is not up there with emotions compared to its predecessors on this list, but it will surely satisfy any casual fan.

2018 was one of the closest top eight’s in competition history. Only two points separated first from eight, with the top four all tied on 16 wins – the second seeded Melbourne Storm and third seeded South Sydney Rabbitohs being two of them. The Bunnies were a particular surprise, making the finals for the first time in three years under then rookie head coach Anthony Seibold.

South Sydney started the better of the two, but gave up three of four tries to finish the first half down 16-12.

Both sides went back and forth in the second, with the Storm answering every opportunity the Bunnies converted up until the 75th minute, with the game tied at 28-28. One minute later, five-eight Cameron Munster stepped up for the go-ahead field goal, snatching victory in one of the most eventful finals matches of the last few years.

Lachlan Waugh View All

Sports writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. I have a strong passion for a range of codes, including the NBA, NFL, Soccer, Rugby and more.

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