Top five Roosters v Rabbitohs clashes of the Russell Crowe era
In the countdown to Friday night's tantalising top-of-the-table clash between old rivals South Sydney and the Roosters, NRL.com takes a look back at the top five clashes between the two since Russell Crowe made it his personal mission to not just revitalise the Bunnies, but also their hatred for the boys from Bondi.
From Crowe's legendary 'Book of Feuds' and its infamous jab at the Roosters' alleged lack of soul and tradition, to his game-day texts to fire up players, you certainly can't question The Gladiator's commitment to stoking the rivalry.
His move to take co-ownership of the battling club in 2006 was a landmark moment in the bitter 110-year rivalry and as such, here are the top five meetings of the Crowe era.
2014, Preliminary Final – Rabbitohs 32 defeated Roosters 22
Incredibly, this match was the first finals meeting between the two clubs in 78 years. The previous one, in 1938, was also a grand final qualifier, though the Roosters were victorious on that occasion.
This Rabbitohs win booked their first grand final appearance in 43 years and had no shortage of drama. The minor premiership-winning Roosters shot out to an early 12-0 lead via tries to Mitchell Pearce and Anthony Minichiello before the cardinal and myrtle procession started. A monumental stint from Sam Burgess and second-half rampage from Ben Te'o, plus arguably the best career game to that point from Tom Burgess and a two-try spell from fullback Greg Inglis propelled the Bunnies to five unanswered tries, before two late consolation four-pointers to the Roosters in the final appearances of Minichiello and Sonny Bill Williams. The latter was the recipient of a dangerous tackle from Issac Luke that rubbed the hooker out of the grand final.
2015, Round 2 – Rabbitohs 34 defeated Roosters 26
In the next meeting between the two teams, the premiers racked up a 12-0 lead in as many minutes before a head knock to halfback Adam Reynolds caused them to drop their bundle. The Roosters raced in three tries in eight minutes while Reynolds was being assessed and stretched their lead to 22-12 early in the second half. A George Burgess bargeover try started the comeback before Shaun Kenny-Dowall swung the match the Roosters' way again in a see-sawing affair. Tries to Alex Johnston and Joel Reddy put Souths up 28-26 and they clung desperately to that two-point advantage through a pulsating 10 minutes of football before Issac Luke darted over one minute from time to seal a thrilling win. The Roosters got their revenge later in the year with a 30-0 whitewash to seal their third straight JJ Giltinan Shield.
2011, Round 19 – Rabbitohs 21 defeated Roosters 20
Before Michael Maguire and before Adam Reynolds, before Greg Inglis was a fullback, this enthralling round-19 clash was sealed by a booming 50-metre Chris Sandow field goal.
After 87 minutes of a contest in which the Roosters outscored their opponents four tries to three, with the aid of a Mitchell Pearce passing and kicking masterclass and a second-half Sam Perrett double, an Eels-bound Sandow stepped up to deliver one of the longest match-winning one-pointers in recent memory.
Nathan Merritt, Braith Anasta and even Jason Ryles had already failed with field goal attempts. Bunnies skipper Mick Crocker was cheering from the sidelines after being concussed going low on Maroons teammate Nate Myles. It was left centre Greg Inglis's powerful 75th-minute try that levelled up the scores in a cliffhanger in which no team led by more than six points at any stage before Sandow's match-winning heroics.
2012, Round 1 – Roosters 24 defeated Rabbitohs 20
In one of the most flat-out unbelievable finishes to any game of the NRL era and certainly for Rabbitohs-Roosters games, two tries to the Tricolours in the final two minutes stole a remarkable win.
In Adam Reynolds's NRL debut and the first game of Michael Maguire's coaching tenure, Souths overcame an early Lama Tasi try to level up through Mick Crocker before a high-flying Chris McQueen earned them the lead. Aidan Guerra matched McQueen's aerial skills for a 12-10 lead before a powerful John Sutton try and two Reynolds penalties handed Souths a seemingly insurmountable eight-point buffer with the clock winding down.
But Jared Waerea-Hargreaves carried four defenders over the line with barely two minutes remaining to set up a grandstand finish. In the final set of the match, Mitchell Pearce jinked across field, linked with Mitch Aubusson who found a supporting Boyd Cordner. The then-teenaged future club captain put a clever grubber ahead for retiring skipper Anthony Minichiello to race onto the match-winner to send the Roosters into raptures.
It was a tough break for the debutant Reynolds, who got outpaced for the final try, but he would claim his revenge later that same year…
2012, Round 19 – Rabbitohs 24 defeated Roosters 22
"You can take me now, I have seen it all".
This was one for the ages. It coined the above now-famous phrase from veteran caller Warren Smith who, like everyone else, could see it but still could not believe it.
In a perfect piece of rugby league symmetry, this time it was the Roosters leading comfortably before two Rabbitohs tries in the dying moments stole a miraculous win.
Some magic from fullback Greg Inglis helped Nathan Merritt open the scoring before Boyd Cordner cleaned up the scraps from a Braith Anasta bomb. The Bunnies' right edge of Dave Taylor and Andrew Everingham put Souths up 12-4 at half-time.
Tautau Moga finished off a long-range Roosters try and Joey Leilua – having already dropped one over the line – put the Bondi boys up 16-12. When Mitchell Pearce finished off a scarcely believable team try to make it 22-12 with around four minutes left the contest looked over.
Some lovely ball movement helped Merritt to his double but with 50 seconds remaining at the next kick off, a miracle was needed.
What happened next has been replayed thousands of times since.
Taylor carted it up from the restart then threw a lovely late ball to a wide-running Chris McQueen, who exploded into space. When he eventually ran out of room he found the even faster Merritt in support. A desperation tackle forced him to offload to Issac Luke but the defence had recovered. Swarmed by four tacklers, Luke lobbed a Hail Mary out the back where rookie halfback Reynolds was on hand to skip over the line and complete one of the most amazing match-winning tries of the NRL era.
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