Bunnies bound into NRL decider
A hugely physical performance from South Sydney after a nervous start has earned them a first grand final berth since 1971, while also ending the NRL career of popular Roosters skipper Anthony Minichiello after 302 games.
Hero Burgess' try save a key play
Mini backs Pearce for NRL milestone
Souths: We've achieved nothing yet
SBW leaves with head held high
Maguire unconcerned by Luke lift
Departing Roosters leave significant legacy
Robinson: We just couldn't get it right
WATCH: Full match highlights
WATCH: Inglis soars to score
WATCH: Minichiello finishes with a double
WATCH: Rabbitohs press conference
WATCH: Roosters press conference
Match stats, scores, highlights
As it happened: Relive NRL.com's live match blog
The 32-22 win was built on a dominant effort from their huge forward pack; Sam Burgess was typically outstanding; his younger twin brothers George and Tom were powerful all night; Ben Te'o showed no cobwebs in his return from a four-week suspension in one of his best games of the season; halfback Adam Reynolds continued his rich run of form and the outside backs, young and old, were again scintillating.
The Roosters simply had no answer to the firepower of the Rabbitohs pack and looked frustrated, particularly towards the end of the game. Firebrand Jared Waerea-Hargreaves gave away several penalties and was placed on report for a shoulder charge on Te'o. Fellow prop Sam Moa was also placed on report for a swinging arm on Kirisome Auva'a.
In what may have been his last ever NRL game, rugby-bound backrower Sonny Bill Williams was very good but edged out in his personal duel with fellow departing star Sam Burgess, while the retiring Minichiello showed exactly why he has enjoyed such a decorated career in being one of his side's best all night.
After racing out to a quick 12-0 lead, the Roosters then conceded 32 unanswered points to a relentless Souths side before late, soft, consolation tries in the shadows of full time to Aidan Guerra and Minichiello made it a more respectable 10-point margin that flattered the Tricolours and belied South Sydney's dominance.
That last try to Minichiello – seconds before the final siren – at least made a somewhat fitting end to his NRL career; for his final act in the sport to be a try is an apt way for such a champion to sign off.
To begin the game, after having the better of an error-free opening to the contest, the Roosters – with the better of the field position – were first to score through in-form halfback Mitch Pearce just five minutes after the kick-off.
With nothing seemingly on offer, Pearce put a big step on Kyle Turner and Dave Tyrrell in the middle of the field to scythe through the line, before another big step got him around Inglis and across the line under the posts.
The Roosters went back-to-back less than three minutes later when evergreen fullback Minichiello somehow outjumped Inglis to a Pearce bomb, came down with it and, off balance, stumbled the last few metres to the line.
Staring at a 12-point deficit early, things almost got a lot worse for the disorganised Bunnies when they fumbled another Pearce bomb to hand the Roosters a golden chance to blow the game wide open.
But, in a huge turning point, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves looked to force an unnecessary offload that Dylan Napa couldn't handle to let the Rabbitohs off the hook, before consecutive play-the-ball penalties against Pearce and Napa suddenly had the Rabbitohs with a full set at the Roosters line.
Souths couldn't get off the duck in that set but when Maloney dropped it shortly after they made the Tricolours pay.
It came off the back of a typically massive charge from George Burgess who scattered defenders at the line, before a spread to the right put 35-year-old Lote Tuqiri on the end of some good work from Dylan Walker, the experienced winger able to ground it just inside the corner post.
A great touchline conversion from Adam Reynolds got his side back within six, and from that point a hugely physical South Sydney defensive masterclass pinned the Roosters in their own end.
A mountain of dominant field position eventually told when try-scoring whiz Alex Johnston crossed for his 20th try of the season.
Good lead-up work and a series of offloads from the likes of John Sutton and Walker got Souths 15 out on the last, when Issac Luke went for a risky short side play and found Auva'a, who drew his opposite winger to put Johnston over in the corner. Reynolds produced another perfect sideline conversion to level the scores.
A little bit of ill-discipline from Souths – including a lifting tackle on Sonny Bill Williams that left Issac Luke on report – allowed the Roosters back into the contest and they looked to have jagged an unlikely halftime lead when, in the face of more aggressive South Sydney defence, Pearce picked up a loose ball and sprinted through a gap before finding Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou in support, but the video referee found a knock on from Maloney in the lead-up.
With one last chance at the Rabbitohs line the Roosters looked destined to score through a rampaging Moa but more brilliant South Sydney defence, this time from Sam Burgess, held him up millimetres short, leaving the game precariously balanced at 12-all at the break.
A pair of rugby-bound forwards got Souths off to the perfect start after the break. Following a high-tackle penalty against Isaac Liu on Luke Keary, Adam Reynolds fired a ball to the right to Sam Burgess, who showed deft skills to toss a short ball back infield to a rampaging Te'o who carried several defenders across the line.
Reynolds' conversion – his easiest of the night – brought up 200 points for the halfback for the third consecutive season.
Souths got another chance when Minichiello spilled a bomb under huge pressure from Keary, who should have been penalised for offside, and one repeat set later Inglis scored one of the easiest tries he'll ever score when a sloppy play-the-ball appeared to distract the defence, who opened up amenably for him to help stretch his side's advantage to 12.
The clincher came 15 from time, when Reynolds chipped across-field towards the posts, which got in everyone's way – except Inglis's, with the fullback producing a fantastic mark to collect the ball and ground it and make it 30-12.
An obstruction penalty against the Roosters, desperately still trying to make it a contest as they looked to work it out of their own end, allowed the flawless boot of Reynolds to stretch the lead past three converted tries.
The Roosters clawed back two late tries to Guerra, running straight through a tired Rabbitohs line, and Minichiello, off the back of a Friend line break, but it will have done little to cheer their spirits as they found out just how hard it is to win back-to-back premierships.
The one headache for Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire out of the game will be having his hooker Issac Luke placed on report for a lifting tackle on Sonny Bill Williams. Moa and Waerea-Hargreaves are each in danger of missing part of the upcoming Four Nations, if selected, for their on-report offences.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 32 (Inglis 2, Tuqiri, Johnston, Te'o tries; Reynolds 5 goals; Reynolds penalty goal) defeated Sydney Roosters 22 (Minichiello 2, Pearce, Guerra tries, Maloney 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 52,592.