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It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say Roosters fans will have forgotten one of the most familiar faces in the game, but Mitch Aubusson certainly proved himself a more than capable replacement with two tries and an impressive all round display in the Roosters 56-4 romp over the Eels.
Slipping into the rather large number twelve jumper for the tri-colours, Aubusson threw the last pass for captain Anthony Minichiello’s first try and then bagged two for himself as he found himself right at home running off Mitchell Pearce’s right hip.
Pearce was only too happy to sing the praises of the nuggetty second rower while the likes of skipper Anthony Minichiello, with his first hat trick in 15 seasons of first grade, and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, two tries and four tackle breaks, received most of the plaudits.
“Mitch Aubusson was outstanding, he’s such a good underrated player,” said Pearce, who had a hand in two of his side’s 10 tries.
"I’ve been playing with him for years and we’ve always had a good combination together."
"We just worked well tonight and he runs a great hole for you. He runs great lines and for a halfback a backrower who runs a great line for you just plays into your hands."
Aubusson was by no means alone in lifting in the absence of Sonny Bill Williams, as the likes of Sam Moa, Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves all turned in strong efforts up front, putting together passes before and through the line and repeatedly moving up in twos and threes with the ball in hand.
The result was offloads galore and second-phase opportunities for the likes of Minichiello and Tuivasa-Sheck in support, a feature coach Trent Robinson was all too pleased to see after their first round 28-8 loss to the Rabbitohs.
"We were flat last week. We were just trying to get through our runs, but there was no effort from the guys around us so we knew if we showed some energy and got on that support play, that the guys would carry better even without the pass," said Robinson.
"So that was a really pleasing to see, the structure with the support, it opened up a lot of broken play for us so it's close to one of our better performances on support play that I've seen."
The clear benefactor of that support play was favourite son Anthony Minichiello, who despite having played 276 first grade games, won premierships and been awarded the Golden Boot as the world’s best player, had never registered an NRL hat trick until tonight – though he did grab himself a treble for Italy in a 2011 World Cup qualifier.
"Took me a while, didn't it?" Said Minichiello, who in scoring his 125th try went past Luke Burt and Matt Cooper on the all time tryscorers list.
"15 years, but it was nice. I got a bit of support play going, and got some good balls off Skiddy (centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall) and Aubo (Aubusson) there, so it was nice."