But it was Burgess’ desperate defensive effort to knock the ball loose from Roosters skipper Boyd Cordner as he crossed for what looked a certain try in the 52nd minute that proved a defining moment.
Cordner looked sheepish as he jumped to his feet, and was then forced to watch Burgess’ desperation which looked better with every replay beamed on the big screen.
Burgess also copped a giant whack from Mitchell to the jaw that will no doubt pop up on the radar of the match review committee on Saturday morning.
As Burgess was caught low by Luke Keary, Mitchell lined him up with his right arm.
Burgess was forced from the field for a head injury assessment after some heavy fire from Mitchell a second time shortly after.
Mitchell was frustrated late in the night as he rag-dolled Alex Johnston long after he had been pinned in-goal, and was happy to continue the push and shove inside the final minute. A head clash left him with a giant split across his forehead.
Burgess proved why he is regarded as one of the toughest players in rugby league when he somehow bounced back to his feet after surviving a brutal second-half shot from Victor Radley.
Bennett would have been impressed with his men who looked the better team for much of the night.
Adam Reynolds had the ball on a string, finding the upright twice to set up tries for Cameron Murray and Cody Walker.
And to think Reynolds came into the game without any pre-season trial form. He will only strip fitter against St George Illawarra next Thursday night.
The Greg Inglis switch to the right side of the field also proved no cause for concern, despite the skipper being another Souths top-liner with no trial action.
The Roosters were hardly awful but got a quick snapshot of what life will be like trying to lift every week against teams desperate to prove a point against the reigning premiers.
Tensions boiled over late in the game when lightweights Walker and Cooper Cronk went to shape up. Mitchell wanted for it to kick off with anyone wearing red and green.
To his credit, Mitchell did come up with a big play in the first half when he stripped the ball from Johnston to put the Roosters on the attack.
They scored through Mitch Aubusson the next set to go into half-time with a 12-10 lead.
Souths opened the scoring through the immensely talented Murray who watched a Reynolds grubber find the upright and then bobble in the hands of Sio Siua Taukeiaho.
Jake Friend hit back for the home side when he threw a dummy and ducked under Mark Nicholls for a try.
But five minutes later Damien Cook dropped one on to his boot for Burgess to race through and score.
Despite plenty of rain that fell throughout the night, the playing surface at the historic venue appeared to hold up fine.
There were concerns early when a Roosters trainer was seen repairing a couple of divots, including one James Tedesco dug up, but there were no further issues.
SOUTH SYDNEY 26 (S Burgess C Graham A Johnston C Murray C Walker tries A Reynolds 3 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 16 (M Aubusson J Friend D Tupou tries L Mitchell 2 goals) at Sydney Cricket Ground. Referees: Gavin Badger, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 24,527
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.