Mitchell Pearce has starred in the Roosters’ 22-18 win over Souths at Allianz Stadium in the opening game of the NRL’s final round.
Star halfback Mitchell Pearce has steered the Sydney Roosters to a 22-18 win over South Sydney at Allianz Stadium on Thursday night.
In the final round showdown between the bitter arch rivals Pearce had a hand in all three of the premiers’ tries and chased down a flying Greg Inglis to save a certain first half four-pointer for the Rabbitohs.
After Kirisome Auva’a was sinbinned for a professional foul the Roosters went out to a 22-2 lead after 51 minutes.
But Souths fought back to post tries to Dylan Walker, Alex Johnston and Lote Tuqiri between the 65th and 75th minutes to set up a grandstand finish.
The Roosters defence was up to the task in the final minutes however, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves catching a John Sutton chip in the dying seconds to secure the win.
The victory pushes the Roosters to the top of the NRL ladder; they will claim the minor premiership for the second successive year if Manly lose to North Queensland on Saturday night in Townsville.
If the Sea Eagles win the Roosters and the Rabbitohs will meet again at Allianz Stadium in the first week of the finals next week.
But there is judiciary trouble looming for the Roosters with Dylan Napa put on report for a shoulder charge on John Sutton in the 15th minute, Aidan Guerra likewise for a ‘chicken wing’ tackle on Kyle Turner in the 21st minute.
In retiring skipper Anthony Minichiello’s and rugby-bound Sonny Bill Williams’s last home game, the Roosters enjoyed the early ascendancy through a brutal early forward display and opened the scoring with a James Maloney penalty goal in the eighth minute.
Souths levelled through Issac Luke before Pearce set up his side’s first try with a stepping effort near the Souths line for Daniel Tupou to score on the left wing.
In wet conditions before an enthusiastic crowd of 32,481 an arm wrestle ensued for the remainder of the first half.
James Maloney was denied a try by Inglis in the 28th minute when the Rabbitohs fullback stopped him just short of the line.
Pearce then chased down a flying Inglis a minute later when he had gathered up a Tupou batdown and raced away with an open field ahead, to save a certain try.
The Roosters led 8-2 at the break and after Auva’a was binned the points flowed.
A Maloney penalty goal, and converted tries to Minichiello and Maloney almost put the match out of Souths’ reach.
Injured Roosters hooker Jake Friend sat alongside coach Trent Robinson in the coaches’ box and the premiership winning mentor said his side had work to do before the finals.
“I think both teams can take some advantages out of that tonight,” he said.
“We probably opened them up just before the sinbinning and opened them up in the next 20 minute.
“They fought back and opened us up after we gifted them that first try.”
“Pearce wasn’t outstanding but again he guided us well.”
Souths coach Michael Maguire said the binning of Auva’a was: “crucial”.
“They scored two tries then … but the boys worked hard and showed a lot of character in the back end of the game,” he said.
“The boys stuck at it.”
Robinson said Friend (lung) was recovering well but gave no time frame for a possible return.
“He is much better, he is improving rapidly each day,” Robinson said.
“His haemoglobin, his blood levels are getting back to where they should be.
“He is good, he was here tonight, he is on his way.”
Mitch Aubusson filled in well at hooker for Friend, as did Jackson Hastings on his NRL debut.