A good night for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys in Townsville, outlasting the Vodafone Warriors...
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The early running was all with the Roosters - a fourth tackle kick from Adam Reynolds in South Sydney's first set of the match went out on the full and from the ensuing set new signing James Maloney crossed to give the hosts a 4-0 lead. Minutes later, finally with some possession in the Roosters half, Nathan Merritt got outside defenders and added the Rabbitohs first points of the match. Reynolds converted the first of several fantastic sideline kicks to put the Rabbitohs up 6-4 after just ten minutes.
Following a 20 minute stretch of error-prone footy from both sides and some poor discipline from the Roosters, Merritt was in the thick of the action again in the 30th minute. Quick hands saw Merritt cross in the corner for his second to put South Sydney up 12-4.
The remaining minutes of the opening half saw all the focus on the Roosters' number 16 Sonny Bill Williams, who was interchanged on as Reynolds converted the second Merritt try. His impact was negated on halftime as Chris McQueen scored out wide off a Greg Inglis bat-back. Adam Reynolds executed a perfect cross-field kick for Inglis to rise above and the result was a third try for the Bunnies just as the siren sounded in the background.
Up 16-4 at the break and renowned in 2012 for fading early in the second half, South Sydney came out with a point to prove - and George Burgess delivered for the visitors with a 46th minute try to edge the Rabbitohs further in front. The result was confirmed for the red-and-green in the 61st minute when Nathan Merritt planted it down for an opening-game hat-trick.
The moment many Roosters fans had been waiting for arrived with five minutes on the clock - a consolation try scored by none other than Sonny Bill in his return match.
The final 28-10 scoreline probably didn't show the dominance the Rabbitohs had over the course of the game, but for a first hit-out, the scoreline will please Michael Maguire. The Bunnies now have an eleven-day layoff before they host Cronulla-Sutherland at ANZ Stadium on Monday-week, while the Roosters are bound for Auckland's Eden Park for a showdown with the Warriors next Saturday night.
Date: Thursday, March 7 2013, at 8:05pm
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium.
Halftime: Rabbitohs 16 Roosters 4. Crowd: 35,952.
Referees: Ben Cummins, Chris James
Touch Judges: Nick Beashel, Paul Holland
Video Referee: Steve Clark, Luke Phillips