After seven sin-bins and 114 years of rivalry… Latrell’s Rabbitohs crush Roosters in fiery final

Seven sin-bins, two costly concussions and one brutal battle marked the latest chapter in the NRL’s oldest feud between South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters.

The eight-game winning streak the Roosters brought into the elimination final was the longest unbeaten run of any side playing finals. However, they left the Sydney Football Stadium soundly beaten by their old rival, their 16-point loss their biggest defeat since round 11, when beaten 32-12 by Penrith.

Beaten by their sworn enemies last week, a resurgent Souths won an elimination final 30-14 in front of a crowd of 39,816 at Allianz Stadium on Sunday, ending the Roosters’ 2022 hopes in one of the most violent and chaotic games in recent memory.

The Roosters’ cause was not helped when they lost James Tedesco and Angus Crichton to first-half concussions and were deprived of winger Daniel Tupou for the second half. At one point they had just 13 fit bodies when Siosiua Taukeiaho went off for a second-half head injury assessment for which he was later cleared.

Roosters lock Victor Radley was sin-binned in each half – the first for punching after the intervention of the bunker and the second for running in and causing a melee. Teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves also got sent for 10 minutes on the sideline by referee Ashley Klein in the second half after he slammed Tom Burgess’s head into the ground with his forearm.

The seven sin-bins was a record for the NRL era, with Souths also losing Burgess and Tevita Tatola. Bunnies centre Taane Milne, like Radley, was sin-binned in both halves.

Roosters superstar Tedesco was sent for an assessment in the 18th minute after he got collected by a thundering high shot from Burgess. Tedesco received clearance to return by the doctor until he showed concussion symptoms and was ruled out.

Burgess doubled down 60 seconds later and got sent for ten minutes after he hit Matt Lodge in similar fashion. Teammate Milne followed him off shortly after when he contacted Tedesco’s replacement at fullback – Joseph Suaalii – flush across the jaw.

With Burgess and Milne off, Souths spent nine minutes down to 11 men in the first half but, with customary courage, managed to keep the Roosters at bay and even scored through ex-Rooster turned Rabbitioh Latrell Mitchell.

The relentless booing of Mitchell by Roosters supporters for the second week in a row was relegated to a footnote in an explosive opening 40 minutes but the ‘Taree Ferrari’ was assured and chased his try by kicking five goals from as many attempts.

He converted Alex Johnston’s opener before first-half tries to Crichton and Tupou to give Souths a 12-8 half-time lead.

A frequrnt flier at the NRL judiciary, Waerea-Hargreaves was sin-binned for his hit on Burgess with Jai Arrow extending the Rabbitohs’ advantage after diving on a Cody Walker grubberkick in the 54th minute.

Despite Nat Butcher hitting back for the Roosters, Tatola and Radley squandered the advantage as they were marched for forming a melee. Souths centre Isaiah Taas made sure of the victory when he weaved over the line to keep Souths’ finals hopes alive.

However, their intensity could cost the Rabbitohs dearly as Thomas Burgess, Junior Tatola and Taane Milne sweat on NRL match review committee findings.

While they have depth in the outside backs to cover Milne, the Rabbitohs can ill-afford to lose Burgess or Tatola for next week’s sudden-death semi-final against the Sharks, who finished the season second on the ladder.

Burgess, 30, is averaging more tackle breaks this year than ever before and is running for 140 metres per game, while Tatola was recently crowned the Rabbitohs’ player of the year for his consistency through the middle.

The crowd became heavily involved in the chaos, booing Latrell Mitchell constantly despite the Souths fullback’s request for fans to go easy on taunting in the finals, a plea backed by his former mentor, Roosters coach Trent Robinson.

But despite the negative attention, it was the red-and-green fullback and his partner in crime Cody Walker who carried the Rabbitohs through the carnage. Mitchell had a hand in the first try of the game, another four-pointer to the prolific Alex Johnston.

With his side down two points and reduced to 11 men, Mitchell then proved his genius, spotting Sam Walker out of the defensive line and sei=zed the moment to barge over for a try of his own that gave Souths the lead at the half.

Walker extended the Rabbitohs’ advantage after the restart, first finding Johnston on the wing with a cut-out pass, then providing for edge-back rower Jai Arrow, who pounced on his grubber kick.

When Tatola and Milne were sin-binned, the Rabbitohs were again reduced to 11 men but held on to emerge victorious from the physical battle.

The Rabbitohs now face Cronulla in a semi-final next Saturday, with the winner advancing to face reigning premiers Penrith the following weekend. The sides’ last meeting was decided by a Nicho Hynes field goal and was one of the Rabbitohs’ three losses in the 10 regular season games after Mitchell’s return from a hamstring injury.

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