Devastating injury toll rocks Roosters
A devestated Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has confirmed the Tricolours' worst fears with halves Luke Keary and Lachlan Lam suffering ACL and medial knee injuries in a forgettable loss to South Sydney.
If getting thumped by your arch rivals isn't bad enough, the Roosters will have to fight on without Keary and Lam for an extended period while prop Lindsay Collins could also face time on the sidelines after suffering a concussion.
Robinson was shattered when asked about his side's injury toll post-game.
"The way we played the game was really disappointing and then you load the (injuries) on top, you can imagine how it is going to be in the sheds," Robinson said. "Lindsay is pretty clear and he is OK (concussion), Lachy I think it is medial and Luke is ACL."
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Asked if it was devastating, Robinson said: "Yeah it is."
"It is really tough, but what do you do? Let's go and let's find a way. That is what you do. You get disappointed for five minutes and then you get excited for what is next.
"It is now up to the acceleration of some other guys on our team to take opportunities and it is up to us to find a way. It is round three."
The Roosters coach refused to enter debate about who would come into the halves to replace Keary and Lam, but rookie playmaker Sam Walker looks primed to receive a call-up.
Walker has excelled in the Canterbury Cup for North Sydney, including an impressive effort in a 30-12 win over Souths on Friday night.
Really hate to say it, but concern for Luke Keary here is an ACL injury. Non contact direction change. Best case meniscus/bone bruise but not looking good #NRLRabbitohsRoosterspic.twitter.com/TisnfkUVTC— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) March 26, 2021
Injuries aside, the Tricolours had no answers as the Rabbitohs ran riot.
A Latrell Mitchell masterclass, including the most majestic flick pass seen at Stadium Australia since Benji Marshall's in the 2005 grand final, helped Souths record a statement 26-16 victory over the Roosters.
All the talk in the lead-up to the game was how Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook boldly hailed Mitchell a better fullback than Roosters star James Tedesco.
Cook's claim was largely scoffed at, and understandably so given Teddy's terrific form in recent seasons, but Latrell clearly believed.
The Taree-born No.1 was brilliant, utilising his big body and silky skills to dominate the Bunnies' oldest and most fierce foes.
It was a forgettable night for the Roosters, with Keary failing to finish the match after hurting his knee.
The playmaker stumbled off the field with four minutes remaining.
Collins also left the field in the second after coping some friendly fire from teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
But it was all joy for the Rabbitohs, as Mitchell's starring performance gave him a knockout victory over Tedesco in the battle of the fullbacks.
The Chooks No.1 was uncharacteristically off his game, with two poor dropped balls and a lack of energy compared to his high standards.
Mitchell, though, was a man on a mission.
Before kick-off, he looked focused as he went straight to the Roosters team box to greet his former teammates.
It was high-fives and hugs all round in a clear sign that the Rooster turned Rabbitoh is still hugely respected at Bondi.
Mitchell quickly put his friendships aside to torch the Tricolours with some scintillating football, especially in the first half.
The Rabbitohs No.1 produced a freakish flick pass off his right hip for five-eighth Cody Walker to capitalise after seven minutes.
Walker beat three defenders to race away and score South Sydney's opening try with a special solo effort.
Mitchell was at it again 10 minutes later when he produced a perfectly timed try assist for Dane Gagai to extend the Bunnies' lead to 12-0.
The Rabbitohs maintained the rage in the second half led by Walker, who snared his second try with more fleeted footed skill.
The Roosters received a ray of hope when Tedesco scored in the 47th minute, but Souths refused to leave the door open as they surged to an emphatic win.
The Roosters roasted their opposition in the opening fortnight to rack up 86 points, but they went missing against the Rabbitohs. The Tricolours' normally watertight defence fell in a heap as the Bunnies piled on the points in a poor first half.
The poor old Roosters must be having nightmares about playing at Stadium Australia after conceding a whopping 60 points at the venue against the Bunnies last season.
Robinson's men looked like a shadow of their normally dominant selves as the Rabbitohs went to town in a romp.
Robinson should also be worried about his side's poor discipline.
Emerging prop Daniel Suluka-Fifita was sent to the sin bin and placed on report for an ugly elbow on Souths forward Jai Arrow.
Former premiership-winning Cronulla forward turned ABC radio commentator Luke Lewis labelled the tackle a "dog shot" on air while he urged Suluka-Fifita to "pull his head in".
GIVE REYNOLDS A NEW DEAL
What more can South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds do to prove he deserves more than a one-year deal?
Reynolds strangled the life out of the Roosters with his pinpoint kicking game as the Bunnies racked up 18 first-half points. He was equally effective with the ball in hand, calmly steering the Rabbitohs around the park with his passing.
Reynolds, the boy from Redfern, is the heart and soul of Souths, and it would be an injustice if he didn't finish his career in red and green.
Souths coach Wayne Bennett admitted veteran winger Josh Mansour "caught a break" to return to the NRL ranks after Jaxson Paulo succumbed to concussion.
Mansour spent a week in the NSW Cup after struggling in the opening round, but the former Panther responded against the Roosters. The former Australian international finished off a classy team try in the first half while he ran for 95 metres.
If Mansour can maintain this form, he will force coach Bennett to pick him every week.
ARROW TARGETTED IN FIERY DERBY
By Nick Walshaw
Jai Arrow had to know something was coming.
But still, you reckon not even the big unit expected this.
If ever anyone questioned Arrow's standing as Public Enemy No.1 in Roosters HQ, the debate was ended on this night - as so many tend to be - at the end of a short, right hand.
Thwack. Right into the melon of this newest South Sydney Rabbitoh.
Delivered by Roosters interchange forward Daniel Suluka-Fifita, the punch becomes the latest chapter - and one, seemingly, with far more to be written - in Russell Crowe's infamous Book of Feuds.
Coming into this Sydney derby at Stadium Australia, Roosters coach Trent Robinson had warned his players could be looking to get square for Arrow's treatment of James Tedesco, he of the Tricolours and NSW No.1, in the Origin decider last year.
Despite being laid out on the ground unconscious, Tedesco was picked up by Arrow and flung into the turf again - a moment of madness for which the Queenslander has since apologised several times.
Yet said apologies seem to have carried little weight down Bondi Junction way.
Or certainly that appeared the case when Suluka-Fifita, with a tackle on Arrow completed, then appeared to make a fist and … well, no guesses for what happened next.
"He punched him in the f…ing head," one of the Souths players shouted towards referee Ashley Klein, who didn't disagree.
As a result, the hyphenated Rooster, who was sin binned, can now expect at least one week on the sidelines, possibly more.
Oh, yeah, you can also start buying up tickets now for Round 24, when these two greatest of arch rivals go at it again.
Which isn't to say this one was especially close.
Come September, you just know both these teams will be right in the running.
Elsewhere, Bunnies halfback Adam Reynolds also took aim at Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who, coming off the interchange bench, seemed wonderfully keen on causing as much carnage as possible.
Apart from a high shot on Cam Murray in the first half, for which he was penalised, the fiery New Zealander also hit Reynolds after kicking downfield not much later, which upset the No.7 more than a little.
"It's going to get ugly," Reynolds warned Klein, shortly before it did just that.
Of course, JWH also appeared to have his own little set-to with Arrow at a scrum, then in an ugly case of friendly fire whacked Lindsay Collins so badly his team-mate left the field via medicab midway through the second half.
"But off the field," Roosters premiership hero Sonny Bill Williams said in Channel Nine commentary about his old teammate, "he's a big soft teddy bear".
A comment, coincidentally, which came immediately after JWH also whacked Bunnies fullback Latrell Mitchell high, for which he was also penalised.
Yet amid all this, Arrow was outstanding.
All up, ran for 133m Or many than any other forward but Tom Burgess.
Better, he gets to play the Roosters again in Round 24.
When, surely, he will know something is coming again.
Originally published as Devastating injury toll rocks Roosters