SOUTH Sydney braved a crippling injury toll to come back from 22 down and snatch the lead against Sydney Roosters in a pulsating season opener – but may have lost their premiership points anyway had they hung on to win after an apparent interchange bungle.
The luckless career of Rabbitohs prop Scott Geddes reached a new low when he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the 30-29 defeat to the tricolours, likely ending his season. England prop Sam Burgess re-injured the shoulder which required surgery after a mishap against Papua New Guinea in last year’s Four Nations and lock Ben Lowe broke a foot.
But after trailing 28-6 with 29 minutes to go with only one reserve to call on, the bunnies roared back with halfback Chris Sandow punching the air 15 metres out on the way to his 95-metre, 70th minute try which levelled the scores 28-28. Sandow then slotted a field goal which edged the rabbits ahead with seven to go.
But Sydney Roosters got the ball back from the kick-off and replacement Tom Symonds poached two late tries for an epic win.
With no competition points to lose, South Sydney must now wait to discover the NRL’s penalty for having 14 players on the field for 20 seconds in the first half, around the time Burgess – who underwent an MRI scan at the SFS late Friday – was injured.
“I’m not exactly sure what happened but I know we did have an extra guy on the field,” said Souths coach John Lang.“We sent the two front rowers on after they scored the try and then we got the message that Sam was injured. Then I sent another one on and apparently we had 14 on. Obviously someone didn’t get the message to come off.
“It’s something I’d imagine the NRL will look at and we’ll certainly be looking at it as a club. If we’ve made a mistake in that area, it’s a mistake we can’t afford to make again.”
Geddes – who has hardly played in the last two years due to injury – politely declined to speak as he left the stadium. Rabbitohs high performance manager Errol Alcott said of Burgess: “There was soreness at the back of the shoulder. It was precautionary. I said ‘you’d better stay off, check it tomorrow’. He wanted to go back on.” Lowe is to have scans over the weekend.
Lang lamented: “It’s the first game of the season but we’re doing the same things we did last year.”
Roosters coach Brian Smith was elated with the Mitchell Pearce-and-Braith Anasta–inspired victory, which he called “a fantastic spectacle”, but concerned with a run of six penalties against his men during the second half, when their lead was eaten away and then devoured.
“There’s a couple of blokes in our team who really need to buck up,” he said. “There was too much last year and some of that was written off by their genteel, aging coach, who was very soft with them last year
“There’s a couple of them that are sailing very close to the wind about staying in our team. Penalties in our game just kill you.
“Concede penalties – and perish.”
Captain Anasta said the performance “shows where we are as a team, we’ve come a long way and it’s a good start to the year for us”. Smith said Dally M medallist Todd Carney had aggravated his groin injury.
Of Greg Inglis’ debut, Lang said: “Greg, like everybody else, could have shown more urgency but I thought it was a good solid performance. He’s going to be a tremendous player for us.”
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 40 (T Symonds 2 B Anasta A Minichiello BJ Leilua FP Nuuausala S Perrett tries Anasta 6 goals) bt SOUTH SYDNEY 29 (J Sutton N Merritt G Inglis E Pettybourne C Sandow tries C Sandow 4 goals field goal) at Sydney Football Stadium. Referees: T Archer/A Shortall. Crowd: 28,703.
AS IT HAPPENED….
80 mins: Symonds try, Anasta goal. Sydney Roosters 40-29.
75 mins: Symonds try, Anasta goal. Sydney Roosters 34-29.
73 mins: Sandow field goal. South Sydney 29-28.
70 mins: Sandow try. 28-28.
67 mins: Pettybourne try, Sandow goal. Sydney Roosters 28-24.
61 mins: Inglis try, Sandow goal. Sydney Roosters 28-18
52 mins: Merritt try, Sandow goal. Sydney Roosters 28-12.
47 mins: Perrett try, Anasta goal. Sydney Roosters 28-6.
Halftime: SYDNEY ROOSTERS 22 SOUTH SYDNEY 6
40 mins: Anasta goal: Sydney Roosters 22-6.
35 mins: Nuuausala try. Sydney Roosters 20-6
29 mins: Leilua try. Sydney Roosters 16-6.
25 mins: Minichiello try, Anasta goal. Sydney Roosters 12-6
17 mins: Sutton try, Sandow goal. 6-6
8 mins: Anasta try, goal. Sydney Roosters 6-0
SYDNEY ROOSTERS v SOUTH SYDNEY
Anthony Minichiello 1 Rhys WESSER
Sam Perrett 2 Nathan MERRITT
Kane LINNETT 3 Dylan FARRELL
Shaun KENNY-DOWALL 4 Greg INGLIS
BJ LEILUA 5 Fetuli TALANOA
Braith ANASTA (c) 6 John SUTTON
Mitchell PEARCE 7 Chris SANDOW
Nate MYLES 13 Ben LOWE
Mitch AUBUSSON 12 Dave TAYLOR
Frank-Paul NUUAUSALA 11 Sam BURGESS
Martin KENNEDY 10 Roy ASOTASI (c)
Mark RIDDELL 16/9 Issac LUKE
Jason RYLES 8 Luke STUART
Jared Wearea-Hargreaves 14 Scott Geddes
Mose Masoe 15 Ben Ross
Jake Friend 9/16 Eddy Pettybourne
Tom Symonds 17 Shannon McPherson
Referees: Tony ARCHER/Alan SHORTALL
Toyota Cup fulltime: South Sydney 32 Sydney Roosters 28