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The Sydney Roosters have overcome a shoulder injury to captain Brad Fittler early in the game to record a hard fought 22-12 win over neighbours South Sydney in a game where the Bunnies had their chances to win, yet squandered quite a few.
The good news for Tri-colour fans is that Fittler will be alright (possibly missing one week), with a reoccurrence of the injury he suffered against Penrith at the hands (literally) of Tony Puletua. But the jury is still out on underrated forward Todd Payten whose knee injury has yet to be fully diagnosed.
Once again, the Rabbitohs started strongly by scoring first and taking advantage of the Rooster's complacence in a hard fought first half, there were several punishing hits and a bit of fire in the belly from both teams.
MacDougall opened the scoring in the 2nd minute after a great break from Justin Smith who found Lee Hookey in support, then turned it inside to MacDougall.
The Roosters responded soon after with a lucky try to Shannon Heggarty who was on the end of some great work by Todd Byrne. Craig Wing chipped down into the in-goal area and as Souths fullback Brad Watts was allowing to go dead, Byrne snuck in to hit it back in goal for Heggarty to pounce.
It was punch and counter-punch after that, with MacDougall scoring another and Minichello going over for the Roosters to see the scores at 12-10 in favour of the Bunnies at half time.
But the second half was a different story with the Rabbitohs failing to post a point and the Roosters taking control with Byrne and Flannery bagging four-pointers and running out winners 22-12.
Leagueunlimited.com Player of the Year Awards
3 - A Minichiello (Roosters) 2 - N Cayless (Roosters) 1 - J Smith (Rabbitohs)
Sunday 17 August 2003 2:30 PM Aussie Stadium Referee: Steve Lyons Video Referee: Stephen Clark Scorers: RABBITOHS Tries: MacDougall 2 Goals: Smith 2/2 ROOSTERS Tries: Heggarty, Minichiello, Byrne, Flannery Goals: Walker 3/5
By the clock: 0 min:
Souths kick off to begin the game.
2 min: TRY - Rabbitohs. Justin Smith cuts through the Roosters defence with ease on halfway, offloads to a flying Lee Hookey who travels wide before giving an inside ball to Luke MacDougall who goes over. Rabbitohs 4 Roosters 0.
3 min: Smith converts the try he helped setup and takes the score to 6-0 in favour of the Bunnies.
6 min: NEWS - Fittler off with a shoulder injury.
13 min: NEWS - Rabbitohs getting the better of the Roosters at the moment but they're on the end of a pretty inconsistent penalty count.
21 min: TRY - Roosters. Todd Byrne bats a grubber kick going dead back into the in-goal area for Shannon Hegarty to score. Bit of luck involved in that one. Rabbitohs 6 Roosters 4.
22 min: Chris Walker converts from a difficult position to lock up the scores at 6-all.
24 min: TRY - Rabbitohs. Luke MacDougall bags a double after some great lead up work by Jason Death. Rabbitohs 10 Roosters 6.
25 min: Smith converts from out wide to increase the score to 12-6 Rabbitohs leading the Roosters.
34 min: NEWS - Mark Minichiello held up over the line.
35 min: TRY - Roosters. Amazingly Anthony Minichello scores up the other end of the field after a huge bust from Ryan Cross. Souths 12 Roosters 10.
36 min: Walker misses the goal. Scores remain 12-10 in favour of Souths.
Game in the balance at the moment. Souths trying very hard but were shattered by Minichiello's try just before half time. If the Rabbitohs dig deep they'll get there but it seems the Roosters are just starting to get into the game since the loss of Fittler and they'll probably go on to win.
41 min: Fittler won't be returning, however the injury isn't that serious. Should be right for next week.
48 min: TRY - Roosters. Todd Byrne scores outwide after the ball gets put through the hands. Easy work, Roosters really starting to click and now lead the Rabbitohs 14-12.
49 min: Walker finds the upright and misses the goal. Roosters 14 Rabbitohs 12.
55 min: Tood Payten carried from the field with a knee injury. Bad news for a team who's already lost their captain through injury today.
68 min: TRY - Roosters. Flannery runs through a gaping hole after pressure being applied to Souths and once again some pretty rough referee decisions. Roosters 18 Rabbitohs 12.
69 min: Walker converts to make the scoreline read 20-12 in favour of the Chooks.
76 min: Walker boots a penalty goal from infront to stretch the lead to 22-12 in favour of the Roosters.
An understrength Roosters outfit have outlasted a determined Souths team who had their chances but failed to convert. Roosters may silence some critics as the played almost the entire game without their five-eigth and captain Brad Fittler.