The Sydney Roosters will have to defy history to claim a third straight NRL premiership after they were thrashed 60-8 by South Sydney at the Olympic stadium in Homebush.
No team in the game’s 112-year history has won the premiership that season after conceding 50 points in a match, with the Roosters producing their worst defensive effort in a decade.
Alex Johnston scored five tries in a match for the second time in his career, while Cody Walker posted two and set up four more as the Rabbitohs compiled their highest score against their arch rivals.
It helped the Rabbitohs earn hosting rights for next week’s elimination final against Newcastle, avoiding a trip to the Hunter after the Knights hours earlier dropped their bundle against Gold Coast.
The thumping means they will have to face minor premiers Penrith to open the finals next week, provided Parramatta beat Wests Tigers on Saturday.
Jake Friend left the field in the third minute after a head clash with Campbell Graham, with his left cheekbone already ballooning as he went up the tunnel.
Any injury would come as a significant blow to the Roosters, given back-up hooker Sam Verrills is already out for the season with a knee injury.
The Roosters floundered with a 68 per cent completion rate and 34 missed tackles, while the Rabbitohs’ attacking dynamos starred.
Walker attacked on both sides of the field, regularly linking with Adam Reynolds in an ominous sign for their finals rivals.
Johnston became just the sixth Rabbitoh to reach 100 tries, going past Bob McCarthy and into their top-five try scorers.
After the Roosters crossed first through Morris, Walker had his first impact when he dummied and broke down field in the 13th minute before crossing three plays later.
He was in the thick of things again moments later when a cut-out ball helped Johnston break free, before a one-two with Bayley Sironen put the winger over.
The five-eighth was again responsible for Johnston’s second, as they again caught the Roosters short on the right and a lofted cut-out ball put the winger over.
His second half was just as impressive, putting Corey Allan over under the posts shortly after the break before running onto a Graham grubber for his second try.
Meanwhile, Johnston moved to the top of the NRL try scorers list on 20, with his last three coming in the space of five minutes.
It included one presented on a dime from Allan, after the fullback passed the ball back to him over the try line.
The Newcastle Knights endured a horror warm-up for their first NRL finals campaign in seven years, with Gold Coast dishing out a 36-6 thrashing in Robina.
The Titans rounded out their season with an impressive ninth win of 2020, which included a brilliant individual try-scoring double from young fullback AJ Brimson.
The victory means the Titans end the season in ninth place on the ladder on the back of a club-record equalling five-match winning streak.
The Knights have not won back-to-back matches since round 15 and will be sweating on the availability of star forward Jacob Saifiti for their elimination final against South Sydney.
Saifiti was placed on report in the first half for a crusher tackle on Titans centre Young Tonumaipea.
Under an NRL crackdown, the offence carries a minimum one-match ban even with an early guilty plea, meaning if Saifiti is charged he would need to challenge and win at the judiciary to play in next weekend’s final.
On a humid evening in Robina, the Titans made a perfect start when Ash Taylor opened the scoring in the fourth minute.
The Knights fired back to twice cross the Titans’ line, only for the bunker to rule out tries to Mitchell Pearce and Edrick Lee.
Titans hooker Mitch Rein then embarrassed the Knights by busting through some weak marker defence to extend the hosts’ lead in the 26th minute.
Lee finally got the Knights on the board late in the first half but there was time for the Titans to score again through Brian Kelly to take a 16-6 lead into the break.
With Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters watching from the stands, Brimson provided the highlight of the match with a 95-metre run through feeble Knights’ defence to score a wonderful individual try.
Taylor then finished off another length-of-the-field effort in combination with Treymain Spry, before Brimson danced through the defence brilliantly in the 69th minute.
The Titans’ first win against a top-eight team this year was sealed when captain Kevin Proctor finished a long-range attacking movement to score his side’s seventh try as the Knights’ defence simply fell apart.
Victory sends Titans coach Justin Holbrook and his players into the off-season full of excitement about what lies ahead in 2021.
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Newcastle Knights, Gold Coast Titans, National Rugby League, Alexander Brimson, Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs
Actu monde – AU – Roosters concede 60 points as Rabbitohs thump defending premiers on finals eve