Dragons forward Tariq Sims had to console team-mate Matt Dufty after his error led to the match-winning try by Roosters prop Siosiua Taukeiaho in the annual Anzac Day clash at the SCG.
Dufty suffered a rollercoaster of emotions after running down James Tedesco to make a try saving tackle before halftime and then bringing the 38,414 crowd to their feet with an electrifying 60-metre solo try which narrowed the Roosters lead to 14-10 midway through the second half.
However, he was close to tears in the dressing rooms after dropping the ball in the lead up to the 77th minute Taukeiaho try that secure a 20-10 victory for the Roosters.
“I let everyone down, not just everyone at the club but the fans too,” Dufty said. “We fought so hard and to lose it like that is heartbreaking. I was on the verge of tears there.
“Tariq just came over and said if it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t have been back in the game, [so] head up kid. Coming from Taz, who’s a leader at the club, it meant a lot, because obviously I was heartbroken.”
Renowned as one of the fastest players in the game, Dufty’s speed was on display as he chased down Tedesco after an 80-metre break from his own line and then had to make a one-on-one tackle on the Australian fullback.
Had Tedesco scored the Roosters would have gone to halftime leading 20-0 but the Dragons players felt they could overcome a 14-0 deficit and almost did after winger Zac Lomax scored in the 47th minute and Dufty crossed 15 minutes later.
Five-eighth Corey Norman, who put Dufty into space, said afterwards he had thought the fullback would need support but he beat six defenders in a 60-metre run to the tryline.
“I thought I was going to get the ball and have a try myself but he didn’t need me,” Norman said. “It was good to watch and it got us back in the game. The atmosphere was unbelievable when he went over.”
Dufty said he didn’t hear the roar of the crowd as he beat Roosters forwards Angus Crichton and Victor Radley and managed turn Tedesco inside-out, although the star fullback got himself in position to attempt another tackle.
“It was all instinct,” Dufty said. “I got the ball and was going to pass to Taz, but I think he was a bit tired and he just said ‘run Duft’, so I looked infield, there was a little hole there, I fell through it and the rest I don’t know what was happening. I just found my way to the line.
“In that moment,I couldn’t even tell you what was happening in the crowd or anywhere else. It was just me versus their team pretty much, I didn’t even know where any of my players were.”
Asked about his pursuit of Tedesco before halftime, Dufty admitted he didn’t know if he would be able to run him down but gave chase and combined with Lomax to round him up.
“It was a good challenge for me personally, pitting myself against probably the best fullback in the world,” he said. “When he broke that line I just thought, ‘let’s see who’s quicker’."
I got there in the end after he beat Zac and it was one-on-one. I was running backwards and it was me versus him and I got him on that one.”