Inglis shines the brightest among galaxy of superstars
Sydney Roosters 10 South Sydney Rabbitohs 28
So this was the night of the superstar. Not for Sonny Bill Williams, however. His first-night nerves were matched by a rather jittery opening, as the hype of his return to the NRL was popped by South Sydney fullback Greg Inglis.
Inglis and his impressive Rabbitohs made an early statement with victory over their rivals, who bought up big over the off-season but will clearly still take some time to find their feet and their combinations.
Takes two to topple him: the Rabbitohs' Greg Inglis shows his devastating form. Photo: Anthony Johnson
What was probably missed in the circus surrounding Williams' first game with his new club was the ominous form of the Rabbitohs fullback. Perhaps no longer. Round one, game one, it might be, but the Rabbitohs showed signs they would once again contend with the best in the premiership. If they have Inglis at the back, it is hard to see them faltering too often.
These two teams produced two classic finishes last year, with one win apiece. And given some expect the two teams playing the first match of the season to also contest the last, the expectations were high. It began at a frenetic pace, as you would expect. But also predictably, once the two teams settled down they showed some signs of rust.
The Roosters began brightly, and it was one of their new signings who scored the first try of the new season. Five-eighth James Maloney bounded over after halfback Mitchell Pearce's ball was deflected off Souths No.7 Adam Reynolds.
Rabbitohs rule the roost in opener
Sonny Bill Williams before the game. Photo: Anthony Johnson
But when the heat went out of the opening exchanges, the Rabbitohs began to take charge.
They did so via some neat work by Inglis, who is bigger, fitter, and perhaps smarter and cheekier than he was last year. When Roosters winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck jammed in from his wing, Inglis's ball found winger Nathan Merritt, who ran in untouched. Then when Reynolds, who began nervously but gradually worked his way into the contest, kicked high, Chris McQueen did well to feed Inglis, who gave centre Dylan Farrell room to manoeuvre. He found Merritt, who has not misplaced his try-scoring touch despite missing the team's final trial.
As the Rabbitohs celebrated, Williams took the field. Roosters fans had waited a long time for the moment, but the extra half-hour was still frustrating. They would have hoped for Williams to make an early impact to mark his return, but his side was already on the back foot. Roosters coach Trent Robinson had stated previously he would play Williams on the right edge, but ended up alternating between in tight and the left edge. Perhaps Williams wasn't entirely sure where he was supposed to play; at his first scrum, he appeared to require advice about where to pack down.
There was the occasional Williams highlight. Unfortunately for Williams, the first one involved Rabbitohs forward Sam Burgess running over the top of him. Burgess clearly wanted to make an impact of his own.
And Souths, meanwhile, were in the mood to make a point about their own title chances, following the hype around the Roosters' big-name signings. Just before halftime, Inglis put just enough pressure on Pearce as a Reynolds kick came down, the ball bounced fortuitously off the fullback's head, and McQueen scored. The Roosters were being out-muscled but also penalised out of the contest. A 6-1 count against them at half-time was just as disappointing as the 16-4 scoreline. But it would only get worse. Just six minutes into the second half, front-rower George Burgess charged over to score.
SOUTH SYDNEY 28 (N Merritt 3 G Burgess C McQueen tries A Reynolds 4 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 10 (J Maloney S Williams tries J Maloney goal) at Allianz Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, Chris James. Crowd: 35,952.
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