George Burgess was one of many Rabbitohs forwards who caused the Roosters headaches through the centre of the ruck. Copyright: Grant Trouville / NRL Photos. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
A dejected Roosters coach Trent Robinson has conceded a determined and physical South Sydney outfit won the battle of the ruck in their 28-8 season-opener victory over the Tricolours at ANZ Stadium.
Asked where the match was won, Robinson told the post-match press conference "definitely the ruck".
"They carried the ball well, they dropped to the ground well, they got some quick play-the-balls, and they controlled our carries really well. I thought they definitely won the ruck area," he said.
Robinson said the Rabbitohs got more dominant as the game went on.
"The finish to their sets was really good, we struggled to complete a lot of our sets there, in our end, we had some errors on receiving balls," he said.
The game was noticeably faster than the average NRL match in 2013, and while Robinson didn't think it was a major factor in the outcome he said the Rabbitohs seemed to have adapted more quickly to some of the ruck interpretations.
"They're not getting the third man in like they used to, around the ankles, they're just holding up and dragging a bit more," he observed.
"They've adapted quickly. Other than that... it was just who was going to control the tackle the best, and they did that."
He said as the game went on it appeared the opposition were bringing a greater level of intensity to the contest. His side finished on the wrong end of a 12-6 penalty count and they finished with a mediocre 68 per cent completion rate - which was going to sap the energy from any side, he added.
"Especially when they were dominating the ruck early on, it ended up probably the right scoreline."
The Roosters finished 2013 as the most penalised side in the NRL and have begun 2014 in the same vein. Roosters skipper Anthony Minichiello said it was definitely something his side needed to work on.
"It's disappointing obviously, we've got to fix up a few areas in our own backyard. Our defence and tackling wasn't good enough tonight from our standards so we learnt a few lessons. We'll have to rectify that and get better for next week," Minichiello said.