Latrell Mitchell (left) gave the Roosters a heart-stopping win with his field goal in golden point against the Storm. (AAP: Hamish Blair)
The Sydney Roosters threw away a 20-point lead, but regathered their composure to beat the Melbourne Storm 21-20 in golden point after a stunning grand final rematch on Good Friday.
The game came after South Sydney earned the points in the traditional Good Friday encounter against the Bulldogs.
In the second minute of extra time all eyes were on Roosters half-back Cooper Cronk, who was playing in his first game back at AAMI Park since his 2017 departure from the Storm.
But the premiers turned to Mitchell, who slotted over the match-winner from 40m out to end Melbourne’s unbeaten start to the season.
It ended an epic comeback for the Storm, who trailed 20-8 at half-time.
Squaring off for the first time since last year’s title decider, the home side failed to keep pace with the champions.
But they roared back to life in the second half to take the game into extra time.
The ill-feeling between the two teams came to a head in the 68th minute when the game exploded in a melee although no players were sin-binned by referee Ashley Klein.
The Roosters’ cause wasn’t helped losing star playmaker Luke Keary in the 60th minute when he clashed heads with Storm full-back Jahrome Hughes and was assisted from the field.
The visitors had already lost powerhouse prop Siosiua Taukeiaho to a back injury in the warm-up.
The first half was all Roosters with Mitchell the main dangerman, scoring one try and setting up another as he ran 44m, fending off his Curtis Scott and then winger Suliasi Vunivalu before offloading to James Tedesco.
Ex-Storm champion Cronk was greeted by boos from the 17,000-strong crowd and came in for some special attention from his former teammates.
While the Roosters ran in three first-half tries, the Storm didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 38th minute with winger Josh Addo-Carr breaking the drought, while Brodie Croft kicked a penalty after the half-time hooter for a 12-point deficit.
Melbourne’s fightback started when skipper Cameron Smith darted out of dummy half and found Tui Kamikamica who crashed over the line.
With their tails up Scott then made amends for blowing a first half try when he failed to ground the ball over the line when he also charged from dummy-half to score, with the conversion by Croft locking the game up at 20-20.
Croft had two wayward attempts at a field goal to break the deadlock before Mitchell made no mistake in the first crack.
Rabbitohs hold off Bulldogs after scoreless second half
All the scoring came in the first half, as South Sydney beat the Bulldogs 14-6 at the Olympic stadium. (AAP: Craig Golding)
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have started life without Greg Inglis with a rusty 14-6 win over Canterbury at the Olympic stadium.
The Rabbitohs maintained their footing inside the top four with the two points however looked far below their best in the traditional Good Friday clash.
Both sides failed to trouble the scoreboard in the second half as Souths repeatedly invited the Bulldogs into the contest and Dean Pay’s side lacked the class to capitalise on their opportunities.
After what was the first scoreless second half since round one in 2017, Alex Johnston’s 26th-minute try off a Damien Cook grubber proved the match winner.
Souths skipper Inglis called time on his illustrious career during the week but the Rabbitohs still had enough star power to get the job done through Cook, Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker.
The Bulldogs put in a much-improved effort after last week’s 40-4 drubbing to St George Illawarra but, at times, looked devoid of ideas without injured five-eighth Kieran Foran.
The highlight of the afternoon was the running battle between Dogs half-back Lachlan Lewis and Souths enforcer Sam Burgess.
Lewis managed to get under Burgess’ skin on a number of occasions and, to the Queenslander’s credit, refused to be intimidated by the English international who was clearly targeting him on Souths’ right edge.
Tensions rose just before half-time when Burgess took offence to a tackle from Lewis, prompting the two sides to come together.
Wayne Bennett’s side had 66 per cent of possession and 63 per cent of territory in the first half, but only led 14-6 at the break.
The Bulldogs were denied by the bunker when Kerrod Holland pushed Dane Gagai in the back before grounding the ball.
However, they couldn’t be turned down when Ofahiki Ogden crashed over the top of Cook to make it 6-6.
But, when Cook trickled the ball behind the line, he found a flying Johnston to give the Rabbitohs an eight-point advantage at the break.
They could have led by more if Liam Knight had not obstructed Lewis which led to a Corey Allan try being turned down.