The South Sydney Rabbitohs triumph over their foundation rivals Sydney Roosters with a 26-16 victory in slippery conditions at SCG.
A chaotic start to this classic matchup with many of the players coming to grips with the quick and intense nature of the NRL once again. Many penalties for offside play from both sides continued for most of the first half with plenty of handling errors even before conditions started to get worse. As rain began to fall Adam Reynolds kicking game became crucial to South Sydney’s cause with a grubber intended for Cameron Murray which was gathered up by him to score in the opening 10 minutes and lead 6-0. Both outfits tried to take the middle with aggressive running and ball control which in turn allowed Roosters to march down the field, with Jake Friend scooting out of marker catching defence napping close to the line and levelling the scores 6-6. Minutes later hooker Damien Cook set up a lovely weighted grubber for newly formed edge forward Sam Burgess to gather and dive over for another four-pointer. A couple of minutes before half time a strip by Latrell Mitchell allowed a shift play in possession to playmaker Cooper Cronk to set up a Mitchell Aubusson try with 12-10 becoming the first stanza score.
The wet rugby league continued into the second half with an intense battle at the SCG starting to boil. In the 48th minute, a signature Rabbitohs shift through their backline players on the left had Campbell Graham dive to the corner and Souths extend their lead 14-12. Back and forth footy saw Roosters gather momentum to have Boyd Cordner come inches of scoring but falling short with Sam Burgess stopping a certain try giving his side much-needed relief. Penalties and errors mounted for the Roosters allowing another set for Reynolds to aim for the posts and ricochet for Cody Walker to pounce on the ball sending South Sydney into a 20-12 lead with 20 minutes left. Sydney failed to stop the Rabbitohs ball control and Reynolds mastered pinpoint pass to Alex Johnston to grab another try, a consolation four-pointer to winger Daniel Tupou in the 76th closed out the scoring with the result ending in 26-16.
Bennetts Bunnies Prevail
In his first game as South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett beats their fiercest rivals in the Sydney Roosters to no doubt give supporters more trust to start the season. It was an unusual beginning from both sides but the structures of the previous season that saw Rabbitohs attack flourish was on show in the second half. Whether or not Bennetts tenure tweaks the team going forward, it was, without doubt, an impressive performance to see minimal changes to the game plan but being so dominant in other areas that failed them in 2018.
Roosters Missing Man
The Roosters looked a bit uninspired when trying to bridge the gap of the lead their rivals had created, a feature that a missing player of their premiership-winning side of last season in Blake Ferguson produced. It was the barnstorming and enthusiastic winger that has now moved to Parramatta which had Roosters craving to possess at their disposal in what is like having another forward on the field. It will be interesting to see how big an impact the loss of Ferguson will have on the premiers moving forward.
Clinical in Conditions
It was a near masterclass by halfback Adam Reynolds in tough conditions for most to control but was done with ease by the playmaker. A well-rounded performance that had Reynolds accumulate 440+ kick metres, two well weighted forced dropouts from his boot and assisting three of the five tries that the Souths side tallied. Now having the new coach we might see the next stage of Adams game flourish and have him return to commanding efforts on the regular.
Another big game to start the season’s fixtures was again highlighted by the consistency or lack of calls that Referees needed to make throughout the match. A worrying sign early on with players becoming accustomed to the game’s ebb and flow with careless penalties being conceded, however, as the match proceeded the 7 penalties called in the first half turned into only two in the second half with the footy doing all the talking.
Tries: Friend, Aubusson, Tupou
Goals: Mitchell 2/3
Tries: Murray, S.Burgess, Graham, Walker, Johnston
Roosters: 1 James Tedesco 2 Daniel Tupou 3 Latrell Mitchell 4 Joseph Manu 5 Brett Morris 6 Luke Keary 7 Cooper Cronk 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9 Jake Friend (c) 10 Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11 Boyd Cordner (c) 12 Mitchell Aubusson 13 Victor Radley.
Interchange: 14 Isaac Liu 15 Zane Tetevano 16 Lindsay Collins 17 Angus Crichton. Reserves: 19 Matthew Ikuvalu 21 Poasa Faamausili
Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston 2 Dane Gagai 3 Greg Inglis (c) 4 Braidon Burns 5 Campbell Graham 6 Cody Walker 7 Adam Reynolds 8 Tevita Tatola 9 Damien Cook 10 Tom Burgess 11 John Sutton 12 Sam Burgess 13 Cameron Murray.
Interchange: 14 Liam Knight 15 Mark Nicholls 16 Ethan Lowe 17 Corey Allan. Reserves: 18 Kyle Turner 19 Connor Tracey