Our weekly feature - The Armchair Expert - returns just in time for the finals!
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14 hours ago
Fireworks were promised and the Sydney Roosters didn't disappoint as they capped a horror opening night for arch-rivals South Sydney with a stunning 34-20 NRL win at ANZ Stadium.
The Roosters were impressive in running in six slick tries to four, the performance tarnished a little by their poor finish as they allowed the Rabbitohs a sniff at what would have been a memorable win.
Souths were left punch drunk by the eighth minute loss of prodigal son Craig Wing, the former Rooster the victim of a shoulder charge from behind by hooker Riley Brown which appeared late.
Wing was almost in tears as he left the field with a dislocated left shoulder and it wasn't long before Rabbitohs fans joined him in cursing their luck, the Roosters producing some great ball skills to stretch out to a 24-4 halftime lead.
It didn't get much better after the break either, South Sydney's night summed up when fullback Fetuli Talanoa and winger Nathan Merritt were left staring at each other as Setaimata Sa swooped on a Mitchell Pearce bomb for a match sealing 34-4 lead on 51 minutes.
Souths threatened what would have been a monumental comeback when Yileen Gorden and Merritt crossed in the space of three minutes to cut the deficit to 18 points.
With the Roosters gasping for breath and willing the clock to tick down, Souths went over again when Eddie Paea found Germaine Paulson out wide, but Issac Luke's missed conversion left them more than two converted tries behind with just eight minutes remaining.
Fears the games could explode in the opening exchanges were subdued by Roosters coach Brad Fittler's decision to hold back star signing Willie Mason on the interchange bench, and it looked like he could be left ruing the call when Souths opened with impressive back to back sets of six.
It was almost a surprise when winger Amos Roberts leapt from nowhere and shuffled the ball out for Sa to score his first after nine minutes, but it proved only a tasty entree for what was to follow.
The Roosters looked like they were playing in round 21 rather than round one with the timing of their set plays carried out to absolute perfection, Anthony Tupou the beneficiary of two superb offloads from Lopini Paea and Braith Anasta to leave the Rabbitohs in a massive hole at the break.