The Sydney Roosters have won the battle of Sydney, beating major rivals the South Sydney Rabbitohs 18-14 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. The win leapfrogs the Roosters above both the Rabbitohs and the Storm into outright 1st position on the ladder.
This game was always going to be a battle, and it didn’t disappoint. The Rabbitohs lost fullback Alex Johnston in the 2nd minute of the game to a hamstring injury, which had an effect Rabbitohs bench rotation. Despite this loss, they got the scoring underway with a penalty goal, after the Roosters made an error off the first hit-up of the game. The Roosters were able to answer back 15 minutes later when James Tedesco scored off a late pass from Victor Radley to put the Roosters ahead. The Rabbitohs finally made a breakthrough when Adam Reynolds scored a try off his own kick, which ricocheted off a few players before he dove on the ball in the in-goal area. The two teams traded penalty goals for the rest of the half and the Roosters went into the break clinging to a narrow 10-8 lead.
The second half started slowly, with neither team willing to give an inch in defense to one another. The Rabbitohs seemed to be swinging momentum in their favor and were able to level the game after an Adam Reynolds penalty goal, but the Roosters would not be denied. Joseph Manu took advantage of some broken play when he burst through the Rabbitohs defense and showed a good turn of speed to score in the corner and give the lead back to the Roosters. After some back and forth play between the two sides, the Rabbitohs answered back with a try of their own in the 63rd minute through Hymel Hunt, but this would not be enough. From there on out, the Roosters defense didn’t look troubled, as they went on to secure a hard-fought 18-14 win.
ROOSTERS PROVE THEY ARE THE TEAM TO BEAT
If there was any doubt over who the form team of the competition was heading into this game, the Roosters have answered that question with this win. For the majority of the game, the Rabbitohs had the good field position and had more attacking opportunities, but the Roosters looked like the better team. The intent and unity they showed when under pressure has proven to the NRL they have the best the defense in the competition. The Rabbitohs have the 2nd best attacking record and have scored more tries than any other team this year, but they looked very well contained all night and really weren’t allowed to get comfortable at all. It wasn’t just the defense either. When they did have the ball in attack, they always looked threatening, and probably would have scored more points had they not made so many errors whilst in possession of the football.
DEPLETED BACKLINE TAKES THE STING OUT OF THE RABBITOHS
The Rabbitohs were dealt some very bad luck in the opening two minutes of this game, when fullback Alex Johnston succumbed to a hamstring injury. He would not return to take any part in the game, which added yet another injury to the already crippled Rabbitohs backline. They were also forced to play Dane Gagai in the fullback role, where he has not played all season. Prior to the game, young gun winger Campbell Graham was ruled out, which moved Braidon Burns to the wing. It’s important not to take anything away from the defense the Roosters played, because that was fantastic, but the Rabbitohs were missing some serious attacking strike weapons in this game. If the likes of Greg Inglis, Robert Jennings, Alex Johnston and Campbell Graham had all played, we may have seen a very different Rabbitohs side which would have offered a few more threats in attack across the park.
ROOSTERS WIN THE RUCK TO KEEP COOK QUIET
There was no doubt the Roosters came into this game with a plan to shut down Damien Cook. After last week’s effort against the Storm where he scored one of the tries of the year, the Roosters executed their plan to keep him quite for the full 80 minutes, and didn’t let him break the line once. The main reason they were able to do this was influencing the speed of the play the ball. They were able to slow down the Rabbitohs big forwards in the ruck by getting plenty of numbers in their tackles, which as a result meant that Cook was essentially rendered ineffective. The few times Cook was able to take advantage of a quick play the ball, the markers were able to back pedal into the defensive line to close up any gaps that may have formed, and force Cook to either take the tackle or pass the ball quickly to one of his team mates.
BATTLE FOR THE MINOR PREMIERSHIP HEATS UP
With the result in this game going the way of the Roosters, they have jumped to 1st on the ladder, and equal with the Rabbitohs on 32 points. If the Melbourne Storm are able to win on Sunday afternoon, we will have a three-way tie for 1st position on the ladder with just three games remaining in the regular season. The three teams are also close on for and against, with the Roosters currently sitting on 163, the Rabbitohs on 136 and the Storm on 164. There seems to be a gap forming between these three teams and the rest of the competition as far as points and intensity goes, and it would not be surprising if one of these teams went on to be the eventual premiers. They will not play each other for at least the next three weeks, so we will have to wait until the finals to see another top four match up of this caliber again.
Tries: Tedesco, Manu
Goals: Mitchell 5/5
Drop Goals: N/A
Tries: Reynolds, Hunt
Goals: Reynolds 3/4
Drop Goals: N/A
Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 14 Braidon Burns, 3 Hymel Hunt, 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Richie Kennar, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Tom Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess (c)
Interchange: 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Tevita Tatola, 21 Tyrell Fuimaono
Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Ryan Matterson, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Isaac Liu, 13 Victor Radley
Interchange: 14 Dylan Napa, 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Mitchell Aubusson, 17 Sean O’Sullivan