The Sydney Roosters have produced a clinical and decisive performance on the sacred turf of the Sydney Cricket Ground to utterly humiliate the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the opening week of the NRL finals.
The final 30-6 score line was an accurate reflection of the general flow of the match, with the Roosters shutting down Damien Cook around the ruck, scaring the heck out of Alex Johnston from go to whoa and allowing Luke Keary to run rampant in his return to the NRL.
When Johnston spilled the first long clearing kick from the Roosters after just a minute of play, there was something ominous in the air. After a quick shift to the right, Joseph Manu did what he will be doing for the next decade and used his power and strength to cross for the opening try of the evening.
Cameron Murray dropped the easiest of passes in the Rabbitohs’ first attacking tirade just moments later and the Roosters returned serve with a professional set that led to dangerous attacking field position. Latrell Mitchell subsequently slotted a penalty goal to confirm a quick start for the tricolours.
James Tedesco and Keary combined down the right edge to send Mitchell Aubusson over the line in the 11th minute and the Chooks were looking well and truly the better team after the dust had settled in the most anticipated of NRL finals.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves took on the Bunnies’ forwards. Without cheap shot merchant Sam Burgess, thanks to his rather pathetic hair pulling incident, and with an underdone brother George returning after an extended period on the pine following a cowardly eye gouge on Tigers hooker Robbie Farah back in June, South Sydney were somewhat impotent through the middle.
Eastern Suburbs took full control when Keary hit Boyd Cordner on the left edge for their third try to extend the lead to 16. Soon after, Sio Siua Taukeiaho pounced on a loose ball in Souths’ in-goal to score their fourth. Mitchell’s conversion extended the lead to 22-0.
The Roosters slapped the Rabbitohs in the face one last time before the break with a brilliant move down the right as Tedesco, Manu and Brett Morris combined to score what was a stunning try.
Alarmingly, Roosters captain Cordner left the field late in the first half with what appeared to be a lower leg injury. However, the 26-0 margin may have played a part in the decision to remove him from the game and not risk further injury.
What words, inspiration or potential changes Wayne Bennett could muster in the sheds during the intermission was anyone’s guess and if there was ever a coach capable of rehabilitating the Rabbitohs after the most underwhelming of starts, it was he.
Perhaps the wily old fox is getting a little long in the tooth.
The Rabbitohs huffed and puffed early in the second half, yet failed to find even a point after a couple of early chances. It didn’t take long for the Roosters to click back into gear and, when Keary sent Mitchell over in the 59th minute after another slick and precise back line play, the Chooks 30-0 lead had the Rabbitohs’ fans heading for the exits and fearing an elimination match in the second week of the finals.
Reynolds scored and converted a try in the 65th minute for the cardinal and myrtle, yet the Roosters remained well and truly in control and proceeded to march through a rather pathetic South Sydney defence for the umpteenth time soon after.
Bizarrely, Tedesco put the ball down for the third time with the try line begging and just ten minutes remaining on the clock. One can only imagine what the final score could have been had the Roosters been perfect in their execution on a night where the Rabbitohs were M.I.A.
The match wound down to something of a disappointing finish with little quality attack playing out over the final 15 minutes, yet it was the Roosters who took the short bus trip home cock-a-hoop.
South Sydney were out-muscled, out-classed and out-enthused, something Bennett will be particularly concerned about as his team enters a knockout final next weekend.
Melbourne will no doubt have been watching closely as their major threat to premiership glory made an emphatic statement against the Rabbitohs.
As for the so called ‘pride of the league’, I cannot see them seriously contending after the trouncing dished out by the Roosters last night.