The Finals Series kicks off with a clash between the oldest rivals in our game at a venue steeped in history.
The Roosters started their final match with the ascendency – much in the same way as the previous weeks encounter – and were able to capitalise early with two tries on either side of a penalty goal. Their first try came in the second minute and was on the back of a quick play-the-ball from Isaac Liu. The Roosters’ halves moved the ball between each other and while the Souths defenders attempted to drag Joseph Manu over the sideline, they only succeeded in pushing him closer to the try line. The centre reached out and planted the ball down for the first points of the night. Their second try came from a last tackle play when Cronk feigned moving the ball to the long side and shifted it down the short with Keary and Tedesco chiming in to send Mitchell Aubusson over for the second. Souths attempted to wrestle momentum back through the middle of the field but when a penalty found the Roosters deep in attack they were soon over for their third. This time through their skipper Boyd Cordner, who strolled to the line after two lovely passes. The first from Sam Verrills, who cut across players to find Keary, who in turn skipped outside his players and gaining the attention of Reynolds, who left Cordner unmarked outside. Their fourth try was rather opportunistic, when Siosiua Taukeiaho grounded a loose ball in the in goal after Souths failed to clean up the kick. Their fifth try for the half was anything but lucky, when Manu stepped around his centre and flicked for Morris down the wing, the veteran popped a pass on the inside for Tedesco to score. The Roosters blowing South Sydney out of the contest with a 26-0 halftime lead.
The Roosters began the first half without Cordner and Hargreaves and the energy that allowed them to dominate the first half appeared to be lost. They still gained much of the possession but struggled to find the last pass on a few occasions. It kept the door slightly ajar for a comeback but Souths were unable to capitalise with mistakes of their own. The mistakes were compounded when Luke Keary first kicked a 40/20 and then created a try for Latrell Mitchell. The five-eighth’s ability to skip on the outside of his defenders without the ball was once again on show and with a clear passage to the try line, Mitchell was impossible to stop. Adam Reynolds attempted to spark the Rabbitohs attack with a skilful break up the middle but his attacking raid was quickly thwarted. In a matter of minutes, the Rabbitohs half found himself in open space again off a John Sutton offload. This time, Reynolds was able to step past Tedesco and shrug off the chasing defenders to score Souths first – and only – try for the night. Cronk controlled the last few minutes of the match with his expert kicking game while South Sydney tried to throw the ball around in desperation. Nothing they were doing appeared likely to work as the Roosters finished the match with a comprehensive 30-6 victory over their bitter rivals.
Luke Keary was immense in his return from his one week lay off. He was instrumental in each of the Roosters tries and his ability to skip on the outside of defenders without the ball led to a try for Boyd Cordner in the first half and one to Mitchell in the second half to end any hope of a comeback. The try to Latrell came off the back of a 40/20 kick from Keary just as the Roosters appeared to be going through the motions.
SECOND HALF FALL
The Roosters once again struggled to continue to push the ascendancy. While some will criticise them for their game play in the second half – appearing to be playing for the full time siren – there will be little worry for those inside the Roosters camp. Their loss of energy came off the back of Cordner leaving the field due to injury. By fulltime winger Daniel Tupou joined the skipper on the side line with an injury. The week off will give them a much needed chance to bet to full fitness for their preliminary final.
SOUTHS MISSING THE PUNCH
Sam Burgess was missed but wasn’t the sole purpose for the display. The Roosters were far too good in the first half and South Sydney struggled to fire – especially in the middle third – with Damien Cook finding it hard to impose himself on the match. The loss of Dane Gagai meant a reshuffle in the backs with Roberts playing on his less preferred side and Alex Johnston swapping from the wing to fullback with Adam Doueihi switching the wing. Doueihi was caught out of place a few times in defence and the attack wasn’t as succinct as it had been with him at fullback.
Neither side will be afforded the opportunity of a second chance now and South Sydney will look to take theirs and improve significantly. Next week will see a few players return but the side will be low on confidence after that loss and ripe for the picking for their week two opponents (Sharks or Manly). The Rabbitohs played in the corresponding fixture last year and just made it through. Not only will they look to increase their gameplay but will hope to get through in much easier fashion.
Sydney Roosters 30
Tries: Joseph Manu, Mitchell Aubusson, Boyd Cordner, Siosiua Taukeiaho, James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell
Goals: Latrell Mitchell 3/7
South Sydney Rabbitohs 6
Tries: Adam Reynolds
Goals: Adam Reynolds 1/1
Sydney 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. Sam Verrills 10. Isaac Liu 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Victor Radley 14. Angus Crichton 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Nat Butcher 17. Siosiua Taukeiaho
South Sydney Rabbitohs squad: 2. Alex Johnston 1. Adam Doueihi 3. James Roberts 4. Campbell Graham 5. Corey Allan 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 18. George Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Liam Knight 11. John Sutton 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Cameron Murray 8. Junior Tatola 14. Ethan Lowe 16. Thomas Burgess 17. Mark Nicholls