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A dominant second-half display carried the Wayne Bennett-coached South Sydney Rabbitohs to a 26-16 upset of defending champs Sydney Roosters at the SCG on Friday night.

The Roosters led 12-10 at halftime as the heavyweights went try-for-try. But the Rabbitohs scored the first three tries after the break – with winger Campbell Graham crossing for his second in the 47th minute, Cody Walker pouncing on an Adam Reynolds grubber in the 58th, and Alex Johnston sealing the deal in the 67th from a Reynolds pass – to make an early-season statement.

The Roosters’ attack clicked into gear during the latter stages and Daniel Tupou crossed with four minutes left, but Souths were never really threatened.

Tempers overflowed repeatedly during the last 20 minutes, with Cooper Cronk – who was celebrating becoming just the fourth player to rack up 350 first-grade appearances – clashing with Walker, and Latrell Mitchell typically in the thick of the flare-ups.

South Sydney Rabbitohs 26 (Campbell Graham 2, Sam Burgess, Cody Walker, Alex Johnston tries; Adam Reynolds 3 goals) defeated Sydney Roosters 16 (Jake Friend, Mitchell Aubusson, Daniel Tupou tries; Latrell Mitchell 2 goals) at SCG

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