It was brutal, it was tough, and it was the Sydney Roosters who emerged victorious 26-16 at the new Allianz Stadium against bitter rivals, the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Despite the match, however, the talking point is on the injury front for both sides, particularly when it comes to Joey Manu and Cameron Murray.
Manu may have re-aggravated a calf injury and Murray’s concussion concerns will have him battling the clock for the finals rematch between the two sides.
Siliva Havili (concussion), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (neck) and Sam Verrills (finger) all have concerns of their own.
There are no two sides in the competition with a greater hatred for each other, dating back to their fierce matches in 1908.
It did not take long for drama to unfold when on the second tackle, Murray went low, caught the hip of Roosters winger Kevin Naiqama and that was his night done.
Ruled a category one concussion, Murray failed to return and the Rabbitohs’ middle seemed lost at times without him.
History then reared its head when Roosters back-rower Angus Crichton scored the first NRL try at the new Allianz Stadium, crashing over from a Luke Keary short pass.
The Roosters then had a second soon after as Crichton turned provider. He made a second break, drew in Latrell Mitchell and found captain James Tedesco.
A rare Tedesco error from a bomb gave the Rabbitohs a chance to capitalise, however, and they did just that.
It was Mitchell who put the ball on a platter with a pinpoint kick for Peter Mamouzelos and he won the race to the ball to score.
Not to be outdone, Sam Walker then showed his own individual brilliance, grubbering behind the Rabbitohs defence and winning the race to score.
At 20-6 at the break, the Rabbitohs were not out of the contest but they had some work to do, though it only got tougher when the Roosters extended their lead.
Keary was again the provider as Egan Butcher managed to squeeze his way through some Rabbitohs defence to score.
But where there is hope there is life, and Taane Milne gave the vocal Rabbitohs support something to cheer about.
He was able to tip-toe down the sideline and get the Rabbitohs back in the contest.
Their own worst enemy at times, the Rabbitohs were forced to play ten minutes without Mitchell who was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
Despite being a man down, however, Cody Walker was able to scoop up a loose ball and find Milne for his second try of the game.
That would be all she wrote, though, as the Roosters gained the home ground advantage for the grudge rematch.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson knows his side have to improve and was critical of their lack of urgency in the second half.
“I thought we were really good in the first half, and clear how we wanted to play, executed well, in a good space and then I thought with a few of the changes we just lost our way,” Robinson said.
Rabbitohs assistant coach Ben Hornby fronted the media with Jason Demetriou absent due to covid and he was straight forward; start the game better.
We have just got to be better at the start, it’s as simple as that, “Hornby said.
“We have got to be cleaner with the ball and not give the penalties away and we won’t be in our own end the whole time.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Angus Crichton (SYD)
2. Luke Keary (SYD)
1. Taane Milne (SOU)