On paper and among the bookies, the Sydney Roosters were the favourites to go back-to-back but their premiership campaign has not gotten off to the best start, going down to the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the 2014 season opener 28-8.
In a game that has long been billed as one of the great traditional rivalries of rugby league, there was action aplenty and passion galore, as Souths ran rampant on the back of a hat-trick from superstar fullback, Greg Inglis.
Not the result they wanted to start the season, it was easy for Roosters coach Trent Robinson to pinpoint as to where the game was lost – the ruck.
He lamented his side’s inability to control the ruck area and as a result, it cost his side dearly.
“They carried the ball well, they dropped to the ground well, they got some quick play-the-balls, and they controlled our carries really well. I thought they definitely won the ruck area,” said Robinson.
Not one to shy away from the truth, Robinson also believes that Souths dominance in the ruck area only got better as the game went on.
“The finish to their sets was really good, we struggled to complete a lot of our sets there, in our end, we had some errors on receiving balls,” he said.
Still on the issue of the ruck and perhaps one of the biggest talking points about it, have been the recent rule changes. For Robinson, he knows that the Bunnies adapted quicker to the changes than his side did.
“They’re not getting the third man in like they used to, around the ankles, they’re just holding up and dragging a bit more,” he observed.
“They’ve adapted quickly. Other than that… it was just who was going to control the tackle the best, and they did that.”
2013 saw the Roosters as the most penalised team and if you ask captain Anthony Minichiello, that is one area that needs improvement in 2014, especially after his team gave away so many penalties.
“It’s disappointing obviously, we’ve got to fix up a few areas in our own backyard. Our defence and tackling wasn’t good enough tonight from our standards so we learnt a few lessons. We’ll have to rectify that and get better for next week,” he said.
For Souths, although he scored a hat-trick, Greg Inglis was quick to praise the tireless efforts of both his halves and forwards, who helped gain the momentum and keep the ball rolling.
“I think [the halves] give us a great edge, especially with [John] Sutton in the middle, he’s just another big forward playing five eighth,” the Rabbitohs said.
“It frees them up and Dylan Walker with his speed out the back there and the forwards give us a lot of room,” he said.
Although Inglis was quick to deflect praise off himself, club captain John Sutton did anything but, lauding Inglis for his stellar performance and work from the back.
“It looks like he’s playing under-7s sometimes when he’s bowling people over,” Sutton said.
“He’s all class, he’s been doing it or years now and I’m glad to be playing alongside him.”
The Bunnies now have a decent portion of time off before their next game against Manly in Gosford.
3. Chris McQueen
2. Greg Inglis
1. Dylan Walker