Roosters v Rabbitohs: Five key points
Despite a scoreless second half the damage was done in the first as the Roosters trampled home 30-0 over a listless Souths side that at least found their mettle in defence in the second 40. Here are five talking points from the match that delivered a third straight minor premiership to Bondi.
Third straight minor premiership a huge achievement
NRL CEO Dave Smith handed the Roosters the JJ Giltinan Shield after full time after their amazing third straight minor premiership.
The feat was theoretically achieved but later scrubbed from the record books by a Melbourne side found to be rorting the salary cap in their 2006-2008 seasons. The last legitimate treble was Manly, who did it in 1995-97. That has the tiniest of asterisks next to it as 1997 was a reduced competition, with the breakaway Super League claiming half the clubs.
While that record is still perfectly legitimate, even if you discount it Manly were still the last side to do it, albeit back in 1971-73. It highlights what a massive feat it is in the modern game.
"It's a really big rap for the club and staff and players about consistency. We know we've got a good squad and performed to that level well over three years," Roosters coach Trent Robinson said, although he added it doesn't carry as much reward as it does in other sports.
"It's undervalued in our competition. It's valued in almost every league around the world but it's undervalued in ours and we'll be proud of it in hopefully five or six weeks' time."
Inglis to return for finals
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire praised the efforts of young winger Alex Johnston filling in for Greg Inglis at fullback but added he was looking forward to welcoming back the club captain from a knee injury for next week's knockout elimination final against either Canterbury or Cronulla.
Johnston's efforts were a marked step up from the disorganised display last week when Johnston was at times called upon, along with Bryson Goodwin, to swap around with named fullback Dylan Walker when he started to run out of energy.
"He was close [to playing against the Roosters] but he'll be back next week," Maguire said after the game.
"He's really looking forward to coming back. He really wanted to get out there [on Friday night] and I called it earlier in the week actually where I said 'look mate I want you to look after that leg and get it right for this week'.
"He's right on track and I'm sure the boys will enjoy him coming back into the team. We know what he's capable of doing and what he brings to the team. The boys, the way they defended in that second half and adding GI in there, he's saved a fair few tries in his time.
"He'll probably train early in the week and build through the week. He's been running at the moment. The boys are doing a good job with him there."
Roosters not worried by two on report
It was the only real downside for Trent Robinson in a fine team effort – James Maloney (tripping) and Dylan Napa (crusher tackle) were each placed on report.
Napa's effort appeared both accidental and innocuous. In the event of a Grade 1 charge he would escape a ban with an early plea.
Maloney's was a mini brain explosion and looked ordinary but still did not look malicious – it was a reaction after dropping the ball that went wrong.
It would be surprising to see him escape with no charge at all but Maloney is a clean skin with no priors and a Grade 1 charge would see him escape a ban also given he has no loading and no carry over points.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson seemed completely unconcerned after the game.
"No not really, no," was all he offered in response to if he had any concerns.
Bunnies inspired by second half effort
Far from being dejected, Rabbitohs stand-in captain Adam Reynolds said his side will draw confidence from a second half defensive rally that saw them stop the Roosters' charge – despite being down to 12 men for 10 minutes after Chris McQueen was penalised for a professional foul.
The sin-bin was the right call from the officials after McQueen chased down what looked a runaway try but then laid all over Mitch Aubusson after tackling him just short of the line.
Despite that the Bunnies defended the next set after the penalty then clung on to take their half time deficit to the full time siren. Stand-in fullback Alex Johnston produced a try saving tackle on Jackson Hastings, knocking the ball loose as he looked to have scored shortly before full time and earning his side possession back.
"We touched on it at half time, the second half was much better," Reynolds said.
"We'll get a lot out of that second half, there were a lot of inspirational acts. 'AJ' [Johnston], I thought he was outstanding in that second half with a few try savers there.
"The scramble, we worked for each other and that's something we'll take out of that game. We'll take a lot out of the second half, we worked for each other and scrambled, that's what we built this club on and I thought we found that in the second half."
Pearce unlikely but Roosters refuse to worry about injuries
Robinson said halfback Mitchell Pearce is "long odds" to return from a hamstring strain for week one of the finals, but added the reason his side is in the position it's in, despite key injuries, is because of the faith they have in the wider squad and the foundation laid at training.
Not many sides could lose the form prop of the competition and a premiership-winning, State of Origin halfback and shrug those off and keep winning games on a surge to the minor premiership like the Roosters have done.
"That's why we finished first, because it doesn't matter who plays, people will go out for Origin or injuries and they've just got to know that we trust them and they've got a role to do and that's how players rotate throughout a squad," Robinson said.
"We've used statistically pretty low numbers each year, around 25, 26 each year [over the past three years] but our squad's bigger than that and there's a lot of faith in those guys [that come in].
"There were a lot of questions about how would we go without Jared and without Mitch but I brushed them off, not because I was trying to do the coach speak but that's how we believed in the players that would come in. That's what we do. That's what training does."
He said he hoped to have Pearce back soon but added he is only "a really small chance" to the opening finals clash against either the Storm or Sharks next week.
"He may, if he progresses really well he'll be a chance but it's a small chance at the moment for next week. You can't [put a time frame on it], we've got to see the strength in the hammy so we'll be testing the strength over the next few days to find out how strong has that healed and that will tell us how quick we can progress it."