The Roosters have emerged victorious in rugby league’s ultimate grudge match, defeating the Rabbitohs 18-14. It was a courageous performance by the Chooks, as they toppled their bitter rivals, despite seeing less of the ball and completing at just 70% of their sets, as well as finishing the match with fewer players. They were ultimately rewarded with top spot, where they will remain pending the outcome of Sunday’s other grudge match between the Storm and Sharks.
You can bet that both sides will be barracking for the Sharks in that match, as the Storm are a direct threat to them in more ways than the minor premiership. For the Bunnies, they had a chance to sound another warning to their rivals, however they fell just short. Here are five things we learned from the match:
1 Roosters square the ledger for 2018
The Rabbitohs had won the earlier match between the two adversaries back in round 6, when both teams hadn’t had the ideal start to 2018. Although the scoreline finished 26-14 in favour of the Bunnies, they were rather unfortunate to only win by 2 converted tries, as they constantly found holes in the Roosters’ defence in that match. As such, with the two old enemies to resume hostilities in this match, there was an abundance at stake, with a chance for the Bunnies to do the double on their fierce rivals, while the Chooks had the chance to square the ledger for this season.
And square the ledger for 2018 is exactly what the Roosters did. The match itself may not have featured an abundance of tries, in contrast to Thursday evening’s Queensland Derby, however it was still high quality nonetheless. The tricolours’ defence was the foundation of their victory, as they repelled their bitter rivals’ attacking forays en route to an 18-14 win. This match truly highlighted the reason why the Chooks’ defence is the best in the NRL, as they restricted the dangerous Rabbitohs to just 14 points. Moreover, this result for the Chooks takes them to their 100th win in this fixture between their old rivals.
2 Courageous Chooks
As well as squaring the ledger with the Rabbitohs, the Roosters had gleefully accepted top spot at the expense of their old enemies. Moreover, as alluded to earlier, this victory by the tricolours came on the back of their staunch defence, and that came on the back of their courageous performance.
Not only did the Chooks see less of the ball, due to an inferior completion rate, but they were also forced to make substantially more tackles than the Bunnies. Moreover, they had to endure a nerve-wracking final 12 minutes, as superstar fullback James Tedesco was forced from the field due to a busted nose from a collision, and needed to undergo a concussion test. Nevertheless, the tricolours ensured they let their defence do the talking, as they repelled the attacking raids by the Rabbitohs, to snare a vital win, as it solidifies their top 4 placing, while sending a strong message to their rivals.
This defensive effort was a massive improvement on last week, where the Cowboys almost forced the match into golden point, after trailing 26-8.
3 Tricolours win crucial spine matchups
Not only was the Roosters’ victory built on the back of incredibly solid defence, but they had players from key positions win the crucial battles. Those key positions are the ones which comprise of a team’s spine, i.e. fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker.
The fullbacks for each squad would fail to see out the contest, as Alex Johnston left the field in the 2nd minute due to a hamstring strain, and would take no further part in the match. James Tedesco would last until the 68th minute, due to a broken nose, however he scored a crucial try and broke 7 tackles. In the battle of the five-eighths, both Cody Walker and Ryan Matterson had solid games, particularly in defence.
Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook was well contained by the Roosters, although he made 40 tackles and missed none of them. His opposite number and Roosters’ co-captain Jake Friend was both sensational and tireless in defence, as he made a game-high 58 tackles. However, the undisputed standout performer in this match was superstar halfback Cooper Cronk. The former Storm playmaker was simply sensational, as he took on both the five-eighth and halfback with aplomb. It was his astute kicking game that helped see his side to victory. Conversely, whilst Adam Reynolds scored a try for the Rabbitohs, his close range kicking game was rather substandard, as one of his kicks directly led to a Roosters try.
4 Rabbitohs fail to sound another warning
Last week, the Bunnies had sounded a rather ominous warning to their rivals, as they toppled the Storm in a match that had an intensity about it, resembling a finals match. They had a golden opportunity to sound yet another warning to their rivals win a win here. Moreover, they had even more motivation to win, given they were up against their hated rivals in the Roosters. A win would have secured bragging rights for the Bunnies, given they won their first meeting in round 6.
Despite opening the scoring through a penalty goal, as well as drawing level at 8-all in the first half, the Rabbitohs would find themselves trailing 10-8 at halftime. After drawing level at the 48th minute mark, the Rabbitohs would again find themselves trailing 16-10 after 53 minutes, and 18-10 a few minutes later. They would make things interesting with a try to Hymel Hunt in the 63rd minute. Despite dominating possession, as well as seeing the Roosters lose Tedesco to injury, the Rabbitohs simply couldn’t force their way through the Roosters’ brick wall type of defence.
As such, they failed to capitalise on the opportunity to really make a statement.
5 Bunnies leapfrogged by bitter rivals at the summit
As well as squandering an opportunity to sound another warning, the Rabbitohs had squandered top spot with this loss. This match was a golden opportunity for the Bunnies to consolidate on their position atop the NRL ladder with a win here. A loss meant that they would relinquish their position at the summit to their bitter rivals, as the winner of this match would finish the match in the lead. And that’s precisely what transpired here, as the Rabbitohs handed the Roosters top spot with this loss.
Should the Sharks cause an upset over the Storm, then the Roosters will remain atop the ladder after this round. However, if the Storm defeat the Sharks as expected, then they will leapfrog both the Roosters and Rabbitohs into the summit of the ladder. Regardless of the result in that match, there is minimal doubt that the Rabbitohs will be feeling the pain of seeing their bitter rivals leapfrog them on the ladder.
What were your highlights from a great game between two bitter rivals? Let us know in the comments below.
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