Roosters clinch minor premiership in Souths demolition
A slick 80-minute performance from title favourites the Roosters has shut out a woeful Rabbitohs side 30-0, earning their third straight minor premiership in the process.
Strangely, after an explosive 30-0 first half from the Tricolours both sides were kept to nil in a grafting second 40.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson would be most pleased with a brilliant defensive effort, repeatedly seeing his side turn away attacking sets and repel goal-line dropouts, although he would be more concerned stars James Maloney and Dylan Napa are on report.
The loss ensures Souths will finish seventh, barring a 40-point loss to Canterbury against the Warriors, but a bigger headache for coach Michael Maguire will be the dismal form of his side minus stars Greg Inglis, Issac Luke and John Sutton in the three games leading up to the finals.
Souths frequently looked rudderless, especially in the first half as the home side exploded out of the blocks.
Both sides survived an early raid each – the Roosters after Siua Taukeiaho's drop in the very first set and then Souths after George Burgess was penalised for an ugly, cheap forearm to the face of a prone Roger Tuivasa-Sheck that wasn't placed on report but may attract the attention of the match review committee.
It was barely a stay of execution for the beleaguered Rabbitohs though as another penalty – this time against Kirisome Auva'a – allowed Michael Jennings on return from a one-game suspension to spin through one tackle and accelerate past Dylan Walker to open the scoring.
In the blink of an eye it was 18-0 as two pinpoint James Maloney bombs landed on a dime for first Blake Ferguson to score then Boyd Cordner to gleefully clean up the scraps when Joel Reddy couldn't mark a skyscraper.
A Cameron McInnes drop followed by a 10-metre penalty against Tim Grant again had the home side attacking and a perfect offload from Cordner – with the arm-carrying ball just centimetres off the turf – sat up perfectly for Friend. Maloney's fourth straight conversion made it 24-0 at better than a point-per-minute.
The only thing not going the Roosters' way at that point was their brand-new jerseys, which had the numbers falling off the back at such a rate at one stage it looked they had four fullbacks on the field after several forwards lost one of the numbers off their backs, and a few players ended up with no number at all.
The only thing falling apart faster than the Tricolours' jerseys was the Rabbitohs' defence, which after a brief reprieve midway through the half was again torn apart when in-form fullback Tuivasa-Sheck's first sent Aidan Guerra over for a 30-0 lead with a short ball, then burst through a gap right on half-time which was unlucky not to lead to further points.
If the first half was an attacking exhibition, the second was a grafting war of attrition.
Two big shots from Sam Moa rattled Glenn Stewart, the second sending him for a concussion check, before Moa shook up the much bigger George Burgess with an even bigger hit. Some argy bargy between Taukeiaho and Paul Carter earned Souths a penalty with Kane Evans cautioned for hurling a ball at Carter in the aftermath.
The Roosters soaked up several sets at their line after being forced to drop out but every time were able to soak up the pressure with their line still intact.
One Rabbitohs set around 15 minutes from full-time won't make the highlight reels but will make Roosters coach Trent Robinson's personal highlight reel as the red, white and blue wall watched the Rabbitohs go right, then left, then right again and end up losing metres in the face of perfect goal-line defence before eventually producing an error.
It was shortly followed by a play that will make the highlight reels; Tuivasa-Sheck was forced to retreat to his own dead ball line to retrieve a kick. A couple of customary steps wrong footed three chasers before a pass sent winger Daniel Tupou away into space on a long gallop down the sideline. He found Jennings then Mitch Aubusson in support and though Aubusson was wrapped up by Chris McQueen the Souths back-rower was sin-binned for a professional foul for holding him down trying to allow his teammates time to get back onside.
The closest the Roosters came to extending their gap came when Mitch Aubusson was rightly penalised for a double movement after promoting the ball under the posts shortly after the resumption, and once more two minutes from fulltime when Jackson Hastings scythed through a yawning gap at the line but lost the ball in Alex Johnston's tackle as he looked to ground it.
It completed an unexpected scoreless half to seal the 30-nil result with the Roosters presented with the JJ Giltinan Shield as minor premiers for the third straight year. NRL CEO Dave Smith was on hand to deliver the prize after full-time following a rousing and complete performance by the premiership favourites.
One of the few headaches for Robinson after the game is both key playmaker James Maloney (trip) and prop Dylan Napa (crusher tackle) were placed on report. While Napa's looked accidental Maloney certainly has a case to answer after a brain explosion saw him stick his leg out in a virtual karate kick and the question will be whether the grading sees him miss game time.
Sydney Roosters 30 (Michael Jennings, Blake Ferguson, Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, Aidan Guerra tries; James Maloney 5 goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 0 at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: Roosters 30-0. Crowd: 25,019. On report: James Maloney (tripping), Dylan Napa (crusher tackle).