South Sydney claimed early bragging rights and sent a message to the premiership rivals with an impressive 28-10 win at Allianz Stadium in the season opener.
But with both sides expecting big things in 2013, it was the Roosters who crossed first with new arrival James Maloney slicing through a yawning gap after just three minutes to make it 6-0 to the home side.
Bunnies talisman Nathan Merritt needed just 10 minutes to open his account, the South Sydney flyer latching onto a Greg Inglis cut-out ball to race down the left touchline and close the gap to two. In the 28th minute, Adam Reynolds’ pinpoint bomb was batted back by Chris McQueen and quick hands saw Merritt race over for his second.
That prompted the long-awaited return to the NRL of Sonny Bill Williams in his Roosters debut, but it was Souths crossing for their third before the break with Reynolds launching an identical bomb to his previous one and McQueen picking up the scraps to make it 16-4 at the break.
Six minutes after halftime it was the turn of big George Burgess to make his mark as he embarked on a rampaging 10-metre run to the try line that saw him drag three defenders across with him.
The one-way traffic continued midway through the half as Souths spread the ball to the left for Merritt to complete his hat-trick and make it 28-4.
To their credit through, the Roosters plugged the leaks and Williams capped his return with a late try as he charged onto a well-placed short ball to score beneath the black dot.
A dominant Souths enjoyed 56 per cent of possession, completed 32 sets to the Roosters’ 18 and made just 255 tackles to 341. The big names were at their best, too, with Greg Inglis running 163 metres, Sam Burgess 154 and George making 147 metres and six tackle-breaks.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck made 145 metres for the home side.