Roosters roll Rabbits in season opener classic

Well is there anything better than a season opener? For Roosters fans it was an almost perfect start - the Bondi men 40-29 victors over the South Sydney Rabbitohs tonight in front of just under 29,000 fans at the SFS.

The Rabbitohs started with spirit and even pinned the Roosters in their own half for the first few minutes of the game, but it was the Roosters who made sure they were hot-to-trot, Braith Anasta posting the opening four-pointer of the season, cleaning up the scraps from a spilt cross-field kick.

Anasta, taking over kicking duties from Todd Carney this week, added two to his six with the conversion to put the Roosters in the lead early. It wasn't long before the Rabbitohs hit back though, with John Sutton sliding through the Roosters line and Sandow converting to level the scores.

At 6-all the Roosters took control of the game, Brian Smith's outfit scoring again through Anthony Mincihiello after 25 minutes, BJ Leilua following it up with another great try as a result of good hands from the entire side. Just before the break, Frank-Paul Nuuausala pushed his way over to put the Roosters past the 20-point mark. Anasta missed that conversion, but kicked a penalty goal right on the siren to give the home side a 16-point advantage at the break.

Halftime made little difference to the Roosters, just 7 minutes into the half Sam Perrett leaped high for a superb try out wide. At 28-6, many would be forgiven for thinking it was game over. South Sydney had other ideas.

An overlap resulted in a Nathan Merritt try in the corner, and while many viewed it as consolation for a long-gone Rabbitohs outfit, it was only the beginning of a stunning comeback. 62 minutes in, the moment South Sydney fans had been waiting for - a Greg Inglis try - came, and what a try it was. A big cross-field punt from Sutton saw Inglis leap high and come down with a simple yet powerful four-pointer. Converted, it bought the Rabbitohs within ten points and suddenly they had all the momentum.

Eddy Pettybourne had a bit of a wrestle to force his way over the tryline, but having got there he helped the Rabbitohs to within four points. From there the Roosters forced a Rabbitohs error from the kickoff and were within sniffing distance of the tryline... until Chris Sandow picked up a loose ball and ran 95 metres to score a stunning try in the corner. Issac Luke took over goalkicking duties but failed.

The Roosters' number almost looked up two minutes later when Chris Sandow potted a field goal to put the Rabbitohs up by a point - but a short kickoff and subsequent try to Tom Symonds put the Roosters back in front and the momentum swung again.

From there, Mitchell Pearce took control of the final five minutes, with calm play and a pin-point kicking game finding touch when necessary. The Rabbitohs' final foray into attacking football finished disastrously, with Symonds intercepting a poor pass and running away to cap a stunning, match-winning double.

The casualty ward will be a big concern out Redfern way, Scott Geddes (ankle), Sam Burgess (shoulder) and Ben Lowe (calf) all limping off during the game, not to be seen again. Next week South Sydney face Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon, while the Roosters (who escaped relatively injury-free) will host the Sea Eagles back at the SFS.

Match Details
Sydney Roosters 40 defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 29
National Rugby League - Round 1 - Friday March 11, 2011 7:45pm
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium
Referee: Tony Archer and Alan Shortall
Video Referee: Paul Simpkins
Touch Judges: Paul Holland and Russell Turner
Crowd: 28,703
Halftime: Sydney Roosters 22 South Sydney Rabbitohs 6

Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Mitchell Pearce
2 Points - Tom Symonds (2 Tries)
1 Point - Chris Sandow (1 Try, 4 Conversions, 1 Field Goal)

Sydney Roosters (40)
Tries: Anthony Minichiello, Sam Perrett, Braith Anasta, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Tom Symonds (2), Joseph Leilua
Conversions: Braith Anasta (5/7)
Penalty Goals: Braith Anasta (1/1)

South Sydney Rabbitohs (29)
Tries: John Sutton, Greg Inglis, Nathan Merritt, Eddy Pettybourne, Chris Sandow
Field Goals: Chris Sandow (1/1)
Conversions: Issac Luke (0/1), Chris Sandow (4/4)

LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome to the 2011 NRL Season! We're live with the Roosters and Rabbitohs at the SFS and we can't wait! Big game coming up, with the Rabbitohs' debut of big G.I. and the Roosters fighting to keep their lofty position from last season despite missing Todd Carney through injury. Should be an absolute cracker!
Team Changes: Just the one - for the Roosters - Mark Riddell and Jake Friend swap - Riddell in jersey 16 will start, with Friend to return to the bench in his number 9 jersey. South Sydney are as per program.
The Rabbitohs stroll down the tunnel and onto the park to a chorus of boos. The Burrow celebrates the arrival of Greg Inglis in the red and green. Here now Anasta leads out the tricolours and the stadium is PACKED! We're just about ready for NRL SEASON 2011!
1 min: And so it begins! The Sydney Roosters receive the kickoff and will have first possession.
2 min: South Sydney earn the first drop out after a good deep kick. SOU attacking inside the SYD 20m zone.
3 min: Chris Sandow (SOU) comes up with a drop ball on tackle two, handing possession back to SYD.
5 min: John Sutton (SOU) puts up a big mid-field bomb and BJ Leilua (SYD) has it safely. Next play is a Roosters penalty and now they move into attacking territory.
7 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Decision pending for a possible SYD try (Braith Anasta). Verdict....... TRY! Anasta has the first of the season! 8 min: TRY Dewsbury Rams (NL1)
TRY Sydney Roosters
Scored by Braith Anasta. Conversion attempt by Braith Anasta successful.
Braith Anasta (SYD) cleans up the scraps after South Sydney spill a fifth tackle cross-field kick by Mitchell Pearce (SYD). Anasta converts his own try and has the first six points of the NRL season.
Sydney Roosters 6-0
10 min: Already a bit of tension between the two clubs. The Roosters pressured the Rabbitohs line in the set following the try but came up with nothing.
12 min: Rabbitohs find their way into an attacking position, a big kick from Sandow and Stuart collects it in front of the posts... but he's offside. Penalty Roosters to again help them out of their own danger zone.
13 min: Terrible shanked 4th-tackle kick from SYD hooker Mark Riddell. Scrum Rabbitohs on halfway.
15 min: Shaun Kenny-Dowall (SYD) fumbles a Chris Sandow grubber. Looked backward to these eyes, but nonetheless it gives South Sydney another chance on the Roosters line. From the scrum, a short side play to Inglis is well defended by the Roosters.
16 min: TRY
TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
Scored by John Sutton. Conversion attempt by Chris Sandow successful.
John Sutton (SOU) slides across and finds a hole in the Roosters defence, they finally crack! Sandow's conversion levels the scores.
6 all
20 min: Roosters concede a penalty to push them into attacking territory yet again. A promising run after some scrappy play by Rhys Wesser eventually leads to a Dave Taylor (SOU) fumble.
22 min: The first of the fabled "play the ball" penalties, blown against SOU captain Roy Asotasi. Roosters attack but spill it after some promising runs.
24 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Decision pending for a possible SYD try (Anthony Minichiello). Debate over Mitchell Pearce's handling at dummy-half.
25 min: TRY
TRY Sydney Roosters
Scored by Anthony Minichiello. Conversion attempt by Braith Anasta successful.
Minichiello (SYD) has the try! He fights his way over as Sam Burgess (SOU) looks like he may have hurt himself trying to stop the try.
Sydney Roosters 12-6
26 min: Sam Burgess now off the field injured... and straight up the tunnel. In better news Ben Ross (SOU) makes his long-awaited return to NRL!
27 min: Penalty to the Roosters puts them in a solid attacking position again. Jake Friend is on the field, Riddell off.
30 min: TRY
TRY Sydney Roosters
Scored by Joseph Leilua. Conversion attempt by Braith Anasta unsuccessful.
Some great hands from the Roosters shifting the ball right to left, eventually Mitchell Pearce finds BJ Leilua out wide and he beats multiple defenders to score in the corner. Anasta fades it across the face, no conversion.
Sydney Roosters 16-6
32 min: South Sydney reported to have had 14 men on the field for about 20 seconds earlier in the match. Could come back to bite them should they come back to bite the Roosters.
34 min: This night's already turning disastrous for the Rabbitohs - Scott Geddes is now off, he was carried off. Not good.
37 min: TRY
TRY Sydney Roosters
Scored by Frank-Paul Nuuausala. Conversion attempt by Braith Anasta unsuccessful.
This game turning diabolical for the Rabbitohs. Frank-Paul Nuuausala (SYD) bucks and pushes and forces his way over the line. Anasta has swung the kick wide again.
Sydney Roosters 20-6
40 min: PENALTY GOAL Dewsbury Rams (NL1)
PENALTY GOAL Sydney Roosters
Penalty goal attempt by Braith Anasta successful.
A bit too much in the tackle from the Rabbitohs, about 35m right on halftime. Braith Anasta, hard of sight from what looks like a deep cut near the eye, opts for a penalty goal attempt. He's started it wide and put it straight between the sticks!
Sydney Roosters 22-6
HALFTIME at the SFS and apart from some early interest from the Bunnies, it's been all the Roosters! Braith Anasta has led them around superbly and the hooker interchange between Riddell and Friend has kept their attack fresh, and a good forward rotation has also helped. The Bunnies are already down to 15 men with Sam Burgess and Scott Geddes seemingly gone for the match with shoulder (Burgess) and ankle (Geddes) injuries respectively. Anything can happen in Rugby League, but it's hard to see the Roosters being beaten from here.
44 min: Rabbitohs looking no better early in the second half. The Roosters are deep on the attack again. They've already forced a line drop-out since halftime.
46 min: TRY
TRY Sydney Roosters
Scored by Sam Perrett. Conversion attempt by Braith Anasta successful.
Pearce's kicking game is masterful again and it's Sam Perrett (SYD) on the wing who flies high to pluck it from the air. Result probably beyond doubt now, Anasta's conversion from touch is perfect.
Sydney Roosters 28-6
51 min: TRY
TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
Scored by Nathan Merritt. Conversion attempt by Chris Sandow successful.
Nathan Merritt (SOU) finds himself the beneficiary of a huge overlap. He dives over untouched in the corner and Sandow's conversion is utter perfection. Deficit back to 16.
Sydney Roosters 28-12
55 min: The Roosters are carving South Sydney up right through the middle, plenty of metres and they find themselves on the Rabbitohs line on tackle five... Pearce chips wide for Perrett but it's gone too far this time and he can't reach it to pull it in. Rabbitohs 20m restart.
57 min: Rabbitohs penalty, Issac Luke (SOU) then moves to pick on Kiwi teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (SYD). Either way it puts South Sydney in the Roosters 20m attacking zone. Another penalty now for hanging on too long. Now Anasta is questioning referee Tony Archer as to why his team is being penalised.
59 min: Nathan Merritt is over, Souths comeback is on.... wait wait, it's a forward pass. Sorry Nathan! Replays show it was an unlucky call for Souths...
60 min: Ben Lowe (SOU) has been added to the Rabbitohs' casualty ward, with a strained calf muscle. They're down to 14 players - 13 on the park, 1 on the bench.
62 min: TRY
TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
Scored by Greg Inglis. Conversion attempt by Chris Sandow successful.
He's done it! Greg Inglis leaps above to take the kick and put it down over the line, scoring his first try for the Cardinal & Myrtle! Sandow has the conversion in the bag and suddenly it's just ten points the difference!
Sydney Roosters 28-18
65 min: South Sydney with a spirited kick-chase force a Roosters line dropout!
68 min: TRY
TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
Scored by Eddy Pettybourne. Conversion attempt by Chris Sandow successful.
Stunning. Eddy Pettybourne wrestles his way across the line, Sandow converts. Edge-of-the-seat stuff here at the SFS! Just four points in it!
Sydney Roosters 28-24
69 min: South Sydney's momented stops in it's tracks - the kickoff is mixed up between Eddy Pettybourne and Nathan Merritt and goes out! Roosters scrum on the Rabbitohs' 10m line! Can the Roosters put this to bed?
71 min: TRY
TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
Scored by Chris Sandow. Conversion attempt by Issac Luke unsuccessful.
What's happened? Sandow's nicked it on his own 10 metre line. He's running, running, running! Run, rabbit, run! He goes 90 metres, he scores! GAME ON AT THE SFS! Luke steps in for this conversion... he fades it across the face. We're tied up at 28-all!
28 all
73 min: Kickof... out on the full. Roosters have imploded! Merritt and Pettybourne atone for the last kickoff with a well left ball. Rabbitohs penalty on halfway, they now will attack well inside the Roosters half. They could wrap it up here!
74 min: FIELD GOAL
FIELD GOAL South Sydney Rabbitohs
Field goal attempt by Chris Sandow successful.
SANDOW! FIELD GOAL! This is electric! Sandow pots the field goal and puts the red and green in front! What a brilliant match of rugby league this has been!
South Sydney Rabbitohs 29-28
76 min: TRY
TRY Sydney Roosters
Scored by Tom Symonds. Conversion attempt by Braith Anasta successful.
What's doing here? A short kickoff, the Roosters reclaim the ball, work it up the park, and Symonds, TOM SYMONDS! TRY! Now it's the Sydney Roosters back in front. Inside the final five minutes now - how many more twists and turns?
Sydney Roosters 34-29
77 min: Pinpoint kick from Mitchell Pearce, finds touch inside the final 10m of the park. CROWD: 28,703
78 min: Last tackle for South Sydney and Sutton puts up a big mid-field bomb... Anasta pounces on the ball left to bounce. The Roosters have the game in the bag if they keep cool heads here.
80 min: Pearce with a touchfinder with 60 seconds on the clock. Rabbitohs with one minute to win the game.
80 min: TRY
TRY Sydney Roosters
Scored by Tom Symonds. Conversion attempt by Braith Anasta successful.
INTERCEPT on fulltime! Tom Symonds gets a double to wrap up this one and the Roosters push to 40. The Tricolours with Anasta's conversion win 40-29. What a game.
Sydney Roosters 40-29
FULLTIME and welcome back RUGBY LEAGUE! What a fantastic 80 minutes to start the 2011 season! Exciting second half of action saw a huge Rabbitohs comeback but the Roosters managed to change the momentum inside the final five minutes, turning a 1-point deficit after 75 minutes into an 11-point victory. Concerns for both teams defensively out of the match, no doubt, but moreso for South Sydney's injury watch - no fewer than three forwards in trouble to add to their already congested casualty ward. The Roosters shoot to the top of the NRL ladder at least for a few hours.

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