South Sydney have flexed their premiership muscle, thrashing their bitter rivals the Roosters by 54-12 in a fiery encounter at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
The game hit a flashpoint in the 56th minute, when Souths fullback and former Rooster Latrell Mitchell came across in cover to tackle Roosters centre Joey Manu, when the tackle from Mitchell went horribly wrong with Mitchell's shoulder collecting Manu high. The tackle left his former teammate with a potential broken cheekbone and incensed with Mitchell's effort.
The Roosters camp became even more incensed when Mitchell was not Sent Off for the tackle and was sent to the Sin Bin. Given Mitchell has a prior charge from earlier in the season, there is the real possibility that Mitchell could be suspended for the rest of the season for the ugly tackle.
The incident marred a magnificent performance from South Sydney who ran in 9 tries to 2 in a dominant performance which saw Alex Johnson crossing for a hat-trick, while Latrell Mitchell, Jaxson Paulo and prop Mark Nicholls all crossing the line for doubles.
Despite the incident, Latrell Mitchell was superb for the Rabbitohs and given he is more than likely facing a lengthy stint on the sideline, it has turned into a bitter sweet performance for Rabbitohs supporters. Questions will now be raised as to whether South's dream of a fairytale premiership for Wayne Bennett and departing skipper Adam Reynolds is now just a fantasy.
The decimated Roosters put in a brave performance but just could not handle the red hot Rabbitohs and following the Manu injury the flood gates opened. The Tricolours will also be sweating on the fitness of goalkicking prop Siosuia Taukeiaho who was injured from a potential hip drop tackle from Bunnies prop Liam Knight, which is sure to come under scrutiny from the Match Review Committee,
South Sydney came into the game as red-hot favourites against their arch rivals and it took all but seven minutes for winger Alex Johnston to continue on his run as the NRL's leading tryscorer, as he got on the outside of Roosters winger Brad Abbey to score the first try of the night.
The Rabbitohs looked to extend their early lead, when prop Tevita Tatola dropped a golden chance following a terrific Cameron Murray offload close to the line. Fortunately for the Bunnies, the Roosters were penalised for a high shot from Sam Verrills as Murray went to pass. Reynolds took the two points on offer and it was 8-0.
The Tricolours then got on the scoreboard when five-eighth Drew Hutchison delivered a pinpoint kick across field on the last, which saw Joey Manu collect the ball with one hand to score a clever try for the Roosters.
Souths bookend, Mark Nicholls then crashed over following a neat ball at the line by Cameron Murray and this was followed by a stunning double for the journeyman front rower, when Damien Cook threw a terrific pass across the defensive line from dummy half to extend the lead to 18-6.
Just before the break, Latrell Mitchell and Jaxson Paulo combined down the right edge and Paulo delivered the ball back to Mitchell to score and extend the lead to 24-6 at halftime.
The Roosters have had a huge injury list in 2021, and things got worse when prop Siosuia Taukeiaho was caught in an awkward tackle and left the field with a knee injury. In the following set, the Roosters caught the Bunnies marker defence asleep on the job, when hooker Sam Verrills ducked out of dummy half and showed great persistence to plant the ball down on the line to narrow the lead to 24-12.
Souths fullback Latrell Mitchell was then sent to the Sin Bin for a high shot on Joey Manu which ultimately left the Roosters vulnerable and despite the Sin Bin to Mitchell, Jaydn Su'a delivered a deft offload at the line to Campbell Graham who put Jaxson Paulo over in the corner.
Johnston then touched down for his second try following a familiar cut out ball close to the line by Cody Walker and when he returned to the field, Latrell Mitchell crashed over for an easy try which sparked another melee.
Souths finished with a flurry with both wingers in Johnson and Paulo scoring before fulltime to give the Bunnies a huge win against their bitter rivals.
In the final round of the regular season, South Sydney now face the Dragons next Sunday, while the Roosters will look to end the Raiders season next Thursday night.