Week 3, Preliminary Final
Rabbitohs v Roosters
Friday 26 September 2014, ANZ Stadium
7.55pm – NRL Kick Off
And so it comes to this – the oldest and most fierce rivals in the history of Australian rugby league, set to clash in a Preliminary Final blockbuster, with the victor earning the right to play one final game before the year is out.
Mere weeks after meeting in the final round of the Telstra Premiership, the likes of Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess and Adam Reynolds will face off against Anthony Minichiello, Jared Wearea-Hargreaves and James Maloney will come together for the third and final time this season in front of what is expected to be one of the biggest attendances of the year. Throw in the fact that Greg Inglis will notch up his 200th NRL match and the clash gets even bigger.
The minor premiership winning Roosters will be keen to defend what is currently theirs – the Provan Summons Trophy - a loss to the Rabbitohs would see the Tricolours’ hopes of claiming back to back Premierships dashed. The Rabbitohs will be keen to spoil the party.
South Sydney will take the field at full-strength thanks to the return of Ben Te’o – who will start off the bench, while the Roosters will be bolstered by the return of Dylan Napa after the backrower was suspended in the two sides’ last encounter in round 26.
Rabbitohs Head Coach, Michael Maguire is under no illusion as to the size of the test that confronts his side.
“We’re well aware of the challenge ahead and we’re playing against a very, very good team, so looking forward to the game on Friday,” said the Rabbitohs mentor.
“For us, it’s very much about focussing on the things that we’ve been doing.
“Nothing’s changed really from week to week, so this week gives us the opportunity to propel forward.
“We understand that we’re playing against a team that won the Grand Final last year and two minor premierships – they’ve got quality across the park.
“For us, our expectation is just to go in and work really hard for each other and play to the potential that we can.”
This week’s upcoming match will be the eleventh time that the Rabbitohs will face the Roosters in a finals match since 1908. Incredibly, the two sides last met in the post-season way back in 1938 at the SCG, when the then-Eastern Suburbs club scored a 19-10 victory over Souths in a minor semi.
Souths last defeated Easts in a finals match on the 3rd of September 1932, when they took a 26-8 victory at the Sydney Sports Ground on their way to that year’s Premiership. The finals ledger is currently locked at five wins apiece.
Overall, both sides have met on 209 occasions, with the Roosters victorious 95 times, while the Rabbitohs continue to hold the balance of power with 109 wins.
Last Time They Met
The Rabbitohs went down to the Sydney Roosters by 22-18 in round 26 at Allianz Stadium to finish off the regular season in third position – also taking the Ron Coote Cup in the process.
With the side down 22-2 late in the match, a spirited fight-back in the latter stages saw the men in red and green come within four points of victory to take the Cup named in Coote’s honour on points aggregate.
A penalty to the Roosters right in front of the sticks allowed James Maloney to kick his team two points ahead with a penalty goal.
But Souths wouldn’t be outdone, with the side opting to take a penalty-goal of their own at the other end of the field not long afterwards when Sonny Bill Williams held onto Issac Luke too long in a tackle. Luke calmly slotted the goal to even it all up at two apiece.
Another penalty to the Roosters was enough incentive for the home-side to run almost the length of the field, before Daniel Tupou scored in the corner despite a desperate defensive effort from Luke Keary and Lote Tuqiri. The video referee’s searched for a number of knock-ons in the movement before the try was eventually awarded. Maloney added the extras from the touch-line to make it 8-2.
With the game growing in intensity, the Rabbitohs’ defence muscled up, forcing a goal-line drop-out to allow for an attacking opportunity. Alex Johnston almost capitalised when John Sutton chipped into the corner, but the side came up empty-handed.
Despite a number of opportunities for Souths late in the half, the sides would go to the sheds with the Roosters leading 8-2 as the rain began to fall again.
The second half started poorly for the red and greens, with Kirisome Auva’a sin-binned for a professional foul – laying on Mitchell Pearce in a tackle. James Maloney took the opportunity to boot his side two points further ahead to make it 10-2.
With the Rabbitohs reduced to 12 men, the Roosters immediately took advantage by making a break on the fringes before passing back on the inside to a flying Anthony Minichiello to score. Maloney added the extras, but it didn’t end there – the Tricolours’ five-eighth grabbing a four-pointer of his own before again converting to make it 22-2.
With 16 minutes on the clock remaining, a wayward pass from Daniel Tupou was picked up by Dylan Walker, who danced through the Roosters defence to touch down for the Rabbitohs first try of the night. Luke converted to make the score 22-8.
The Roosters’ Aidan Guerra came within a whisker of extending the home-side’s lead, but some brilliant Greg Inglis defence saw the back-rower held up over the line.
Souths then proceeded to bag another four-pointer, when a well-orchestrated set-play saw Alex Johnston burst through a mid-field gap to dance through and score under the posts. Luke quickly converted to make it 22-14 with nine minutes remaining.
A fight-back was on the cards when a Roosters fifth tackle kick dribbled over the dead-ball line, with the the Rabbitohs using the opportunity to march straight back up-field. A back-line movement would see Lote Tuqiri slide in for a four-pointer to make it 22-18 to finish off the match.