Match winner ... Anthony Minichiello scored the Roosters last minute try as they toppled the Rabbitohs in the final minute. Photo: Getty Images
A new era for South Sydney, but an all-too familiar problem. The Rabbitohs simply do not know how to win yet. The Roosters waited and waited and finally pounced, scoring twice in the final three minutes. Souths were guilty of going through the motions while their opponents kept the ball in motion.
The final try was an astounding example of keeping the ball alive; beginning at the defensive end of the field before Boyd Cordner kicked for Anthony Minichiello, who touched down with 19 seconds left.
Roosters ransack the Rabbitohs
Rabbitohs fans at ANZ Stadium Photo: brendan esposito
The Roosters, who had trailed 20-12 up until Jared Waerea-Hargreaves bounded over, never looked like winning the contest but did, which says a lot about an unheralded squad.
''We kept fighting, that's the key,'' Minichiello said. ''You've just got to keep fighting in these games.''
Just as winning becomes a habit, so does losing. And the Rabbitohs, whose supporters still offer standing ovations at half-time - and count moral victories - have had their fair share of losses.
Michael Maguire is the right coach for the club but he still needs to overcome that hurdle. Last night, they came up against a resolute Roosters side that made their plays count. Which is exactly what the Rabbitohs had failed to do in the second half, when they had most of the ball and couldn't take advantage.
It will be a learning curve for the Rabbitohs' new halfback Adam Reynolds. It's no secret that playmakers are important to any side but there was more interest in the key halves in both sides than usual, and they both impressed.
One, Roosters five-eighth Daniel Mortimer, was making his club debut, while Souths' No.7 Reynolds was making his first-grade debut. Reynolds is a good player. But he is a Todd Carney-type player in tattoo-sleeves only. That is not a criticism; Maguire has already stated he is the right player for his style of coaching.
He is a player more likely to get his side out of trouble than create it. That might be exactly what the Rabbitohs need, when they eventually learn how to put a game away.
When the team got into the attacking 50, John Sutton seemed to take over. That might have had a bit to do with the Rabbitohs' advantage on their left side, where Greg Inglis and David Taylor were loitering alongside the No.6.
Many have noted that Sutton needed to lift to take pressure off Reynolds. The opposite might also occur; Reynolds might be the type of player who takes pressure off Sutton. A reliable man for an occasionally unreliable one.
Replacing Carney as Roosters five-eighth was not Braith Anasta, as expected, but Mortimer. The former Parramatta playmaker replaced Anasta on game day, after the captain was ruled out with a back injury.
Both newcomers performed admirably, being heavily involved in early endeavours. Reynolds kicked accurately for Chris McQueen's try while Mortimer followed with another pin-point effort for his second-rower Aidan Guerra. But they were both aided by their more experienced partners; the Roosters by half Mitchell Pearce and the Rabbitohs by Sutton, who looked more automatic than enigmatic, before he was felled by cramps.
Souths have spoken about the structures and the processes over the off-season, which have been buzzwords for successful line-ups in recent years, but they quickly broke down. The Rabbitohs' first two sets resulted in loss of possession, and subsequently the first points of the evening went the way of their opponents.
But the Rabbitohs' profligacy was more crucial in the second half, when they were in control. When the game was there for the taking, the team that has more experience winning took over.
The term waste not, want not, can apply to rugby league.
The Rabbitohs will be repeating that in their heads this morning. They wasted that one.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS 24 (A Guerra A Minichiello L Tasi J Waerea-Hargraves tries D Mortimer 4 goals) bt SOUTH SYDNEY 20 (M Crocker C McQueen J Sutton tries A Reynolds 4 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Adam Devcich. Crowd: 18,278.