The Sydney Roosters are 80 minutes away from another grand final appearance after destroying arch-rivals South Sydney on Friday night.
The reigning premiers fired a timely warning shot on the opening night of the finals series, producing arguably their most clinical performance of the season to claim a 30-6 victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
It was quite the contrary for South Sydney, who dished up one of their most underwhelming performances of the year to place their premiership credentials under the microscope.
However the victory could come at a huge price for the Roosters, with prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves facing the prospect of being rubbed out of at least the preliminary final through suspension.
Waerea-Hargreaves, who only this week was successful at the judiciary in beating a high tackle charge on Liam Knight, may be charged by the match review committee for an alleged trip on James Roberts late in the second half.
Given his poor record, he is ineligible to accept a fine and would face the prospect of missing matches if he is charged.
Match: Roosters v Rabbitohs
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
A grade one tripping charge is worth 75 points however, given his carry-over points and loading, Waerea-Hargreaves would need to fight and win at the judiciary to play if charged.
South Sydney, who coming into the game had won both of their encounters against the Tricolours in 2019, were never in the contest and now have just seven days to turn it around as they await the winner of the Manly-Cronulla game on Saturday night.
The Roosters, led by Luke Keary and James Tedesco, produced a masterclass to put the top eight on notice and book their passage into the preliminary finals.
The Roosters five-eighth tormented his former club, finishing with three try assists on a near-perfect night for the Australian No.6.
On top of a potential charge to their prop, the other sour note for the Roosters was the fact both skipper Boyd Cordner (quad) and Daniel Tupou (groin) failed to finish the match - but there didn’t appear to be major cause for concern.
While Trent Robinson’s men will enjoy the week off, Wayne Bennett’s troops have a week of soul-searching.
They will welcome back Sam Burgess from suspension, however there are far greater concerns for South Sydney after a lifeless performance in front of a crowd of 30,370.
It was a nightmare start for the Bunnies, with Alex Johnston fumbling a long-range Mitchell kick over the dead-ball line to gift Joseph Manu first points in the ensuing set.
A penalty goal soon after took the Roosters out to a six-point lead, before Cooper Cronk combined with Keary and James Tedesco on the last tackle to produce a brilliantly executed Mitchell Aubusson try.
The Roosters had raced out to a 10-0 lead in as many minutes, and there was little the Rabbitohs could do to stem the flow.
Keary, who was rested last week after the birth of his first child, split Adam Reynolds and Campbell Graham to put his skipper through a yawning gap to score untouched for a 16-0 lead after 26 minutes.
The Rabbitohs were up against it and it was compounded by a controversial decision from the bunker to ignore what seemed like downward pressure from South Sydney prop Tevita Tatola, allowing Siosiua Taukeiaho to dive on the loose ball to extend the lead to 22.
Veteran Brett Morris continued to show his worth when he managed a miracle pass in traffic on the edge of the sideline to send Tedesco over and put the Roosters out to an unassailable 26-0 half-time lead.
A Keary 40-20 then paved the way for the Roosters No.6 to put it on a plate for Mitchell, showing that life after Cronk is nothing to fear for the home side.
Adam Reynolds scored a consolation try for the Bunnies, but it did little to lift the spirits of the dejected South Sydney fans.