The South Sydney Rabbitohs have taken the two points in a thrilling Round 21 clash this evening at ANZ Stadium against the Panthers by 20-16 in front of 13,391 Members and supporters.
The ‘down to the wire’ win consolidates Souths’ place in the top four on 28 competition points, separating them from the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks on the ladder who are now on 26 points.
Greg Inglis notched up his 100th Rabbitohs game – becoming the 19th player in history play 100 games for two Clubs (Rabbitohs & Storm).
Just three minutes in, a towering torpedo bomb from Adam Reynolds into the corner of Robert Jennings yielded a mistake from the young winger, gifting possession to the Rabbitohs in perfect field position. But as the Rabbitohs looked to mount an attack, a rare Reynolds mistake let the Panthers off the hook.
Penrith got their chance at the other end of the field moments later, but in similar fashion to the Rabbitohs, a mistake diffused the opportunity.
It would be another mistake though – this time from the Rabbitohs – that would result in first points being scored, after a Luke Keary final-tackle kick went out on the full. The Panthers went straight on the attack and by final tackle, James Segeyaro burrowed over from dummy half. Jamie Soward added the extras to make it 6-0.
An error-riddled ensuing 10 minutes saw the Panthers achieve the upper hand, and it wasn’t long before Bryce Cartwright crashed over for his sides second from close range. Soward converted to take the score to 12-0 in favour of the Panthers.
With 14 minutes remaining in the first half and Kyle Turner coming on as a replacement amid thunderous applause, the Rabbitohs finally hit back through John Sutton, who put in a beautiful left-foot step close to the line before crashing over. Adam Reynolds added the extras to narrow the gap at 12-6.
After an enthusiastic set in attack, the Rabbitohs pinned the Panthers inside their own 10 metres with some impeccable defence. Penrith desperately tried to offload in an attempt to get the ball out of danger, but the ball would go loose for the Rabbitohs before swinging out to Alex Johnston to score a brilliant try in the corner. Reynolds was on song with the boot to equalise at 12 apiece.
An arm-wrestle ensued, with the Rabbitohs looking to be slightly ahead in terms of momentum right up until half-time when some hot-potato football almost yielded a try for George Burgess. But the teams would ultimately go to the sheds locked at 12 apiece.
On the resumption, Rugby League fans everywhere collectively held their breaths when Kyle Turner – playing in his return match from major neck surgery – was knocked out just minutes into the second stanza. The returning forward seemed to be out cold for an extended period, but as the young-gun – now wearing a protective neck-brace – got to his feet and left the field, fans of all colours rose to their feet to cheer.
A penalty to the Rabbitohs within kicking distance saw Reynolds take full advantage by opting to kick – the halfback putting his team ahead for the first time in the match with his penalty-goal to make it 14-12.
Reynolds was disallowed a try by the video referee on the grounds of a two on one strip in the goal, but the Rabbitohs continued to show plenty of grit in defence – the side dragging Panthers attackers over the touch-line. But in a similar vein, the Panthers were showing equal determination to keep the red and greens at bay.
An Issac Luke break down-field on a kick-return set the ball in motion for a crucial four-pointer to the Rabbitohs, with the men in red and green showing great determination and will-power to eventually create an overlap and put Dylan Walker in for a try. Reynolds made no mistake with the all-important conversion to give his side an eight-point buffer at 20-12.
The Panthers weren’t dead yet though, with the side managing to conjure a try out of nothing when Lewis Brown finished off a bizarre final-tackle movement to make it 20-16 to round out the match.
Rabbitohs 20 (John Sutton, Alex Johnston, Dylan Walker, tries; Adam Reynolds 4 goals)
Panthers 16 (James Segeyaro, Bryce Cartwright, Lewis Brown, tries; Jamie Soward 2 goals)