The bad blood is historic, over a century of dispute between two rugby league neighbors. It involves a deep wine of Bitterness over disparate Achievements, star players poached and onfield incidents. It is a rugby league folklore, taught to Juniors and reinforced into senior representation. South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters are more than rivals, they are Clubs who carry with them a genuine hatred for each other.
With the 2022 Rabbitohs off to an ordinary start in the post of Adam Reynolds, Wayne Bennett era, the two Clubs met again on the manicured turf of Sydney’s Olympic Stadium. Souths had lost their first two games, while the Roosters themselves had started poorly against the Knights before Bouncing back against the Sea Eagles. It was set to be a typical fight to the death.
Adding to this latest chapter was the bad blood remaining from the last time these two teams met. South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell missed his team’s charge to the Grand Final after Smashing the cheekbone of Roosters center Joseph Manu late last season. Mitchell had served his suspension and was expected to come in for some special attention in this game. The hype may have been misplaced, as both teams seemed more focused on winning a Vital game of football than exacting an form of physical Revenge.
Latrell Mitchell’s first touch of the ball came with a kick return after a minute of the game and Manu raced to greet him, they clashed heads, and Manu reeled out of the contact. It was the first of only four runs for the enigmatic Rabbitohs fullback in the first half. Each touch of the ball by Mitchell was greeted with boos from the Roosters fans in the cavernous stadium, but with scant additional ferocity from any of the Roosters Defenders.
Into the ninth minute of the game Souths Captain Cameron Murray worked some sleigh of hand magic ten meters out from the Roosters line. Holding the ball out in front like any good ballplayer, he dummied, straightened and had the defense expecting and looking for so much more as he cut through and crossed for the opening try.
Murray was on hand again in the 21st minute as the Roosters spilled the ball from a 20 meter restart. He scooped up the Loose ball and lined up Alex Johnston with a ten meter pass to put him over for the Rabbitohs’ second try of the night. Mitchell converted to give Souths an Unexpected 12-0 lead.
The Roosters’ first try came not long after with a brilliant interchange between Manu and James Tedesco down the right hand side. Tedesco put Manu though half a gap, he stepped, fended and shuffled the ball back to Tedesco on the inside. The Roosters Captain raced away to score near the posts.
The Rabbitohs started the second half with a spilled ball and shortly after Manu cut through some flimsy defense to score, with Mitchell wrapped despairingly around his legs. He stood and slammed the ball into the turf, just inches from Mitchell, as he screamed with Joy at taking his team to within two points.
He had Barely finished celebrating when the Rabbitohs scored their third of the night, once again through some Murray brilliance. This time Murray cut halfway through the line before turning his back to the defense and giving the inside ball to Cody Walker who waltzed though to score. Mitchell converted to take the Bunnies to an 18-10 lead.
The Exchanges through the forwards were typically Brutal, but it was in the bad and outside backs where the biggest plays and biggest hits were being made. Playing the Vital linking role between forwards and the backs for the Rabbitohs was Murray, in a starring role.
The Bunnies wrapped up the match with a perfect flat ball thrown by dummy-half Damien Cook from five meters out which hit a Charging Keaon Koloamatangi, who made up for a bombed three minutes earlier. The conversion took the score to a comfortable 24-10 with 15 minutes remaining.
The party wasn’t over for Mitchell though. Luke Keary shuffled right on the last tackle 20 meters out and tried to force a pass to his outside men. The ball dribbled along the ground, was swooped on by Jaxson Paulo, who flicked the pass up to Johnston who found Mitchell in support. The fullback ran 60 meters down the left-hand touchline, celebrating with the crowd as he went, touching down for the Myrtle and Cardinal cherry on top of the powerful performance.
As you would expect, the Roosters were not finished with their efforts. They scored a try through Daniel Tupou and finished the game straining every sinew to close the gap on the scoreboard. There may have been some late swooping finishes between these two, but it wasn’t to be tonight.
Apart from a bit of a push and shove around the ever-fractious Jared Waerea-Hargreaves at Halftime, there were no confrontations during the game, just fast, hard and entertaining football. The Clash may have been down on animosity, but the importance of the two points to the Rabbitohs was clear. As much as they couldn’t stand to go 0-3 for the season, the thought of losing to the Roosters was an even Stronger driver.
After the game Mitchell approached Manu and appeared to exchange some reconciliatory words. Manu would only reveal that Mitchell had Suggested they catch up later.
Mitchell would not tell Channel Nine what they got to Manu, but was more than happy to discuss the Victory.
“I’m pretty proud of the boys, we stuck to the process and kept it pretty simple, and I’m glad we delivered,” he said.
“Our leaders had to do our jobs, it was a collective job, we came together as a team and got it done.”
He finished with the Essence of what drove him and his teammates to Victory.
“I love to be a Rabbitoh.”