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Our House: Roosters send Bunnies back to Homebush with Thrilling Win

The Sydney Roosters have sent the South Sydney Rabbitohs back to Homebush with an enthralling 20-18 win in front of 36,669 fans at Allianz Stadium on Friday evening.

In a see-sawing battle full of emotion, the Tricolours prevailed, coming back from a half-time deficit to claim the first leg of the 17th annual Ron Coote Cup in the NRL’s Multicultural Round.

Jaxson Paulo scored back-to-back tries for the second consecutive week, running 192 metres and making four tackle breaks, the winger shined in the Red, White and Blue against his former club.

Losing Hame Sele in the opening minute to a head-knock, a fiery Damien Cook put a heavy hit on Sam Walker on the fifth tackle of the resuming set, bringing the crowd into the match.

The Roosters traded blows with their inner-city rivals in the minutes that followed, with the Rabbitohs getting the first piece of pie in the seventh minute through Keaon Koloamatangi, who crept through the grasp of Luke Keary to crash over the stripe. South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell kicked the conversion to give the red and green a six-point lead.

Mitchell created an opportunity for Alex Johnston just four minutes later, witnessing an overlap open up on the left-edge, the former Rooster provided his winger with a cut-out ball that sent him over in the corner. The conversion from touched waved to the right for Mitchell, leaving the visitors with a 10-point advantage.

Newly re-signed skipper James Tedesco came up with a try-saving tackle on Cameron Murray in the 19th minute, causing a scramble for possession in the following tackle, that saw Lachlan Ilias cough up the ball.  

Coach Trent Robinson gave the call to inject enforcers Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Brandon Smith into the game in the 25th-minute, with the Prop and Hooker making an almost immediate impact.

Confusion riddled both teams seconds after the forwards entered, as South Sydney challenged a knock-on call against Ilias. The Rabbitohs were able to keep their challenge, however, with the on-field ruling unable to be overturned due to insufficient evidence.

Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii made a 20-metre line break with 10 minutes left of the half, with referee Gerard Sutton awarding the Roosters with a set restart during the play, the Red, White and Blue used the opportunity to get on the scoreboard.

Brandon Smith bamboozled the Rabbitohs defence with fancy footwork off dummy-half, faking passes to both sides before crashing over for his first try of the season. Sam Walker’s kick struck the upright before bouncing away, leaving the difference as six.

Smith Scores His First Try As A Rooster

South Sydney bumped the ball over the sideline in the 36th minute, handing the Roosters back possession within 10 metres of their try-line. In a right-edge play, Jaxson Paulo denied a try by Johnston, who held him up as he reached for the line.

Playing across the field, Luke Keary got creative and put one on the boot after noticing an overlap on the left-egde. The Irish International’s kick paid dividends, sitting perfectly into the hands of Daniel Tupou who made no error with the put-down. Walker nailed the conversion from the sideline, locking the scores at 10-apiece.

Keary Nails It

But a 40th minute penalty gave the visitors the chance to head to the sheds with a two-point lead, as Mitchell kicked the goal from close range.

The Rabbitohs entered the second-half firing, with Koloamatangi making a break for the line before offloading to Campbell Graham who was brought down by Tedesco and Keary.

The Tricolours absorbed the pressure from defending their line, turning their stress into an opportunity at the other end of the field. Diving on a loose ball, Radley claimed the attacking space, opening the door for Paulo to score against his former club in the same set, curtesy of a quick pass from Nat Butcher. Walker’s conversion was as good as gold, providing the Roosters with a handy lead.

Paulo Works His Way Through

Paulo found his second try of the match 20 minutes later, after infringements riddled both teams of possession. Noticing the winger in his peripheral vision, quick hands from Tedesco delivered a pin-point pass. Despite uproar from Cody Walker, who believed Manu to have infringed on his defending ability, the Bunker confirmed the try.

Joseph Manu and Michael Chee Kam were sent to the sin-bin as fireworks erupted in the 76th minute, but Mitchell’s decision to kick the penalty goal didn’t pay off, with the ball waving away from the posts.

The Bunnies scraped through a final try through Izaac Tu’itupou Thompson in the 78th minute and Mitchell added the extras to make it a two-point ball game, but the victory couldn’t be stolen from the home side.

Sydney Roosters 20 (Brandon Smith, Daniel Tupou, Jaxson Paulo 2 tries; Sam Walker 2 goals) def South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 (Keaon Koloamatangi, Alex Johnston, Izaac Tu’itupou Thompson tries;  Latrell Mitchell 3 goals)

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.