PREVIEW: Rabbitohs v Roosters, Rd 2, 2015
Roosters vs Rabbitohs
Sunday 15 March 2015
Kick Off, 4pm
Rugby League’s oldest and most fierce rivalry re-ignites this Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium in a clash that – despite being so early in the season – shapes as an enthralling matchup between two teams at the top of their games.
Both the red and greens and the tricolours came away with convincing – and methodical – first up wins against Queensland teams in Queensland in round one, setting up an enthralling round two blockbuster between the two traditional rivals.
It’s the battle of the 2014 Minor Premiers (Roosters) against the Premiers (the Rabbitohs, who knocked the 2013 Premiership winning Roosters out of last year’s finals).
But despite the Rabbitohs’ confident showing against Brisbane though, Head Coach Michael Maguire cited the importance of his team stepping up a gear as they prepare to take on
“We’ve got to make sure we step up,” said Maguire.
“We’re obviously playing a quality team in the Roosters. Across the park they showed an expansive sort of game – they defend strong and we’re expecting them to be at their best.”
In the Roosters camp, the memory of that Preliminary Final loss to the Rabbitohs still lingers, as international prop-forward, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, admitted to NRL.com this week.
"We came so close last year and us getting knocked out by the Bunnies... I haven't [forgotten], you'd be lying if you said you did," he said.
"It's always going to be there. As disappointing as it was to lose, a new year is a new year, we've moved on, we're looking forward to getting out there and playing our style of footy in 2015."
"You're going up against the best. They were impressive [in Round 1 against Brisbane]. They're big, powerful through the middle, and they've got some skill out wide.
"They defend well, they defend as a team and throw a lot at you. They power through you and we play a similar game and that's why I'm excited to play them because it's going to be on."
In a sign of the confidence that both Michael Maguire and Trent Robinson have in their current line-ups, both sides will take the field unchanged from their round one outings.
Last Time They Met
The Rabbitohs booked their place in the 2014 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final in last year’s Preliminary Final, defeating the Sydney Roosters by 32-22 amid emotional scenes from the mass of red and green support at ANZ Stadium.
A controlled team performance from the Rabbitohs saw Greg Inglis celebrate his 200th game in fine style with two tries to his name, while Adam Reynolds kicked six goals from six attempts.
Despite the end result and a physical start from the Rabbitohs in defence, four minutes into the match, Mitchell Pearce danced through the Rabbitohs defensive line before stepping Greg Inglis to score under the sticks. Maloney added the extras from right in front to give the Roosters an early 6-0 lead.
From the very next set, the Tricolours went through their set before Maloney hoisted a bomb that saw Inglis and Minichiello fly through to contest the ball in the air. Minichiello snatched the ball from Inglis’ grasp to run the remaining 10 metres to score. Maloney made no mistake with the conversion attempt to make it 12-0 inside the first 10 minutes of the match.
The injection of Ben Te’o after 15 minutes saw the Rabbitohs force an error from the Roosters mid-field on the back of some stinging defence. The error paid dividends when Lote Tuqiri tip-toed down the touch-line to open the scoring for his side. Adam Reynolds added the extras with a massive conversion from the sideline to make it 12-6 half-way through the opening stanza.
From the ensuing kick-off, Jared Waerea Hargreaves was placed on report for unnecessary contact on Te’o, allowing the Rabbitohs to kick their way up-field for another crack at the Roosters line.
The momentum of the match begin to shift noticeably, with the Rabbitohs now charging up the middle of the Roosters’ ruck and causing plenty of damage. After an opportunistic dummy-half run from Issac Luke. The red and green backs then took advantage when Alex Johnston crossed for the side’s second four-pointer in the far corner off a nice off-load from Luke Keary. Reynolds again added the extras from the sideline to level it up at 12 apiece.
With seven minutes remaining, the Roosters forwards were on the back-pedal inside their own half before Frank-Paul Nuuasala knocked on at the 30 metre line for the Rabbitohs to continue to apply the pressure.
As the first half wound down, Issac Luke was placed on report for a tackle on Sonny-Bill Williams, before Daniel Tupou was denied a late try that would have seen the Chooks go to the break with the lead – the half-time score ultimately reading 12-12.
On the resumption, both sides started the half poorly, but it would be Souths who would get on the board first. Ben Te’o made his presence felt when he hit a Sam Burgess short-ball at speed to power his way over 20 metres in from touch. Reynolds added the extras for the Rabbits to take the lead for the first time in the match at 18-12.
An Anthony Minichiello drop-ball from a bomb on his own line gave the Rabbitohs another opportunity. On the back of a scrum, Greg Inglis seemingly strode through a gaping hole in the Roosters goal-line defence in slow motion before doing his signature goanna celebration. Reynolds made it four conversions from four attempts to make it 24-12 in the Rabbitohs favour.
At the 15 minute mark, the Rabbitohs continued to apply pressure to the Chooks, and Greg Inglis was there to capitalise again when an Adam Reynolds cross-field kick was picked up by the Test fullback millimetres from the uprights padding. The Rabbitohs faithful erupted as Inglis crossed the stripe. Reynolds added the extras to make it 30-12 with 14 minutes remaining.
A penalty to the Rabbitohs in the ninth minute saw Adam Reynolds line up a 38 metre shot at penalty goal, with the little half making no mistake to make it 32-12.
Two late consolation tries to Aiden Guerra and Anthony Minichiello in the final two minutes saw the final score come to 32-18. But the day belonged to the Rabbitohs.
A Game of Two (Sets of) Halves
Games may be won and lost up front, but the battle of the little men wearing the numbers six and seven will be as intriguing as ever this Sunday.
Both the Rabbitohs’ halves pairing of Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary and that of the Roosters in the form of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney, are Premiership winning combinations – just one year apart. Both were in scintillating form in each of their respective season openers, but in many ways Souths’ halves are still an unknown quantity.
Pearce and Maloney have carved out a successful combination that is capable of inflicting plenty of damage on oppositions, but the Reynolds/Keary combo is still in its infancy, and for that reason alone is a potentially deadly weapon.
Reynolds was in fine form throughout the pre-season – awarded MVP of the Auckland Nines tournament, before shining again in the World Club Challenge and being the near form halfback of the opening round both with the ball in hand and off the boot. His eight goals from eight attempts from all over the pitch – including a booming 51 metre effort right on full-time – as well as his willingness to take on the line bodes well for the red and greens.
The Rabbitohs will take on the Sydney Roosters in their first home game of the season at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, 15 March at 4pm. Tickets are available now through Ticketek.