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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
The defending premiers have thrashed the Rabbitohs 30-6 and sent a clear message out to the NRL - the Roosters are bigger, better and faster than in 2018, and will take some stopping if they aren't to become the first side since the Broncos sides of the 1990's to go back to back.
In a six tries to one demolition, it was the Rabbitohs former premiership five-eighth Luke Keary who terrorised his former side, having a hand in three tries, with four line break assists for the Tricolours. Last year's Clive Churchill medallist was ably assisted by NSW's current Brad Fittler medallist in James Tedesco who was again superb for the superstar side.
In a similar start to the 2018 Grand Final, the Roosters were utterly dominant in the first half, with prop Jared Warea-Hargraves running for over 100m in the first half alone. In a damning statistic for the Bunnies, not one South Sydney forward managed to run for over 100m in the match. With Wayne Bennett's men now facing sudden death football from next week, after defeating the Roosters 16-10 only a week ago.
It was a match that promised to add to South Sydney owner Russell Crowe's famous ‘Book of Feuds' but it was obvious to all that it was the Roosters who decided to write a chapter on how to win back to back premierships from the outset.
The nerves of finals football clearly got to South Sydney early, when Bunnies fullback Alex Johnson dropped the first kick of the game from Latrell Mitchell, which immediately put his side on the back foot. The Roosters made them pay, when the halves in Cooper Cronk and Keary combined with Tedesco for strike centre Joey Manu to crash over for the first try after just 3 minutes.
Mitchell missed the conversion from the sideline, however he was given the chance to redeem himself almost immediately when Souths half Cody Walker was penalised for trying to slow down Tedesco in the ruck and Mitchell obliged with the Roosters lead extended to 6-0.
Cronk and Keary then combined again from a sublime set play, which set Tedesco free down the blindside, the Australian fullback then put it through the hands to his hooker Sam Verrills in support who found Mitchell Aubusson to score a sensational try and make it 10-0 after just 12 minutes.
The Roosters were running red hot in the first half, when Keary put the skipper Boyd Cordner over untouched through a yawning gap close to the line, which was then followed up with a try to Sio Taukeiaho who cleaned up a loose kick in goal to extend the Roosters lead to 22-0 and the Bunnies were officially shell shocked.
They left their best for last however, when before the halftime siren Tedesco found Manu out wide, who then flicked the ball out the back to his winger Brett Morris. Morris then showed superb composure to then throw the ball over the top to find Tedesco backing up for the fullback to score. Following another missed conversion from Mitchell, the Tricolours led 26-0 in a cakewalk at the break.
The Bunnies tried desperately to stem the bleeding in the second half, however their hearts were broken again when former Rabbitoh Luke Keary continued to dominate his former club when he produced a superb 40/20 play. Then off the back of the kick, Keary then put Mitchell over for his 19th try of the season. Mitchell again couldn't find the radar from the sideline to convert his own try and the Roosters lead extended to 30-0.
With 15 minutes remaining, the Rabbitohs finally had some joy, when John Sutton managed to get an arm free to offload to his halfback Adam Reynolds. The Bunnies number 7 then managed to escape the clutches of Tedesco at the death to get the Rabbitohs on the board. Reynolds converted his own try and the Roosters led 30-6.
With the opposition completely demoralised, the Chooks took the foot off the pedal late in the match with winger Daniel Tupou and skipper Boyd Cordner leaving the field early with injury concerns. With a week off, they should be fit and firing for the Preliminary Final and a chance for another Grand Final.
Souths now face the winner of the Manly vs Cronulla match and will be hopeful of their forward leader in Sam Burgess returning to his best, after he was controversially suspended earlier this week.
Sydney Roosters 30 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 6
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
Halftime Score: Sydney Roosters 26 South Sydney Rabbitohs 0
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Luke Keary
2 points - James Tedesco
1 points - Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
SYDNEY ROOSTERS (30)
Tries: Joseph Manu, Latrell Mitchell, Mitchell Aubusson, Boyd Cordner, Siosiua Taukeiaho, James Tedesco
Conversions: Latrell Mitchell (2/6)
Penalty Goals: Latrell Mitchell (1/1)
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS (6)
Tries: Adam Reynolds
Conversions: Adam Reynolds (1/1)