The South Sydney Rabbitohs’ 2015 season has come to an end this evening, going down to the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks by 28-12 in this afternoon’s Elimination Final at Allianz Stadium.
A crowd of 27,031 was on hand for the Sunday afternoon clash, with the requisite strong showing of red and green present in the crowd to cheer on the men from South Sydney, who welcomed back skipper and fullback Greg Inglis from injury for the all-important clash.
Despite missing damaging players such as George Burgess, Issac Luke and John Sutton, the Rabbitohs’ attack looked ferocious in the opening minutes of the match, and coupled with some pin-point kicking from Adam Reynolds, Souths put themselves in prime attacking position early.
An opportunity to kick themselves two points ahead thanks to a penalty though, was denied by Souths in favour of an attacking raid close to the line, but the men in red and green were unable to convert the opportunity into points.
With both teams looking every bit as desperate as the other to gain an advantage, passion bubbled to the surface as minor scuffles broke out in a number of plays – Luke Keary landing himself on report for a tackle on Paul Gallen that went above the eyes as a result.
The game began to see-saw in terms of possession, but it was the Rabbitohs who seemed to have the upper hand when it came to opportunities. With the red and greens on the attack, Reynolds bumped off multiple defenders to come within metres of the line before Kirisome Auva’a nearly managed to finish off the set with a try – the centre eventually being held up over the line.
But it would be the Sharks who would open the scoring before going on a point-scoring rout when Jack Bird burst through a gap before touching down, despite the efforts of Luke Keary to hold the five-eighth up. Michael Gordon converted from out wide to make it 6-0 with 22 minutes gone.
The pendulum had shifted in favour of the Sharks’ when a Jeff Robson kick close to the line came off Paul Carter and landed in the hands of Wade Graham, who in turn planted the ball down after a brief look by the video referee. Gordon added the extras to make it 12-0.
With just four minutes remaining in the first half, Daniel Tupou hit the ball at speed close to the line, slicing through two Rabbitohs defenders and overpowering Inglis to score under the posts. Gordon converted to make the score 18-0.
From the ensuing kick-off Souths fans had something to cheer about when Jack Bird dropped the ball cold on his own line, gifting Souths possession in good field position.
The Rabbitohs rolled the dice on the first tackle with Stewart giving a short-ball to Inglis off the scrum, but the misdirected pass would go to ground, meaning the sides would go to the sheds with Cronulla holding an 18 point advantage.
On the resumption, the Sharks continued to pile the pressure on the Rabbitohs with some well-weighted kicks into the in-goal. Luke Keary scooped up one of the attempts before racing 110 metres to seemingly score under the sticks, but the try was disallowed on the grounds of an obstruction way back on the opposing try-line. As a result, instead of narrowing the gap by six points, the Sharks were awarded a penalty and took the score to 20-0.
Nothing seemed to be going the way of the Rabbitohs with drop-balls and penalties stifling their progress, before Sam Tagataese added to their woes by extending the Sharks’ lead when he crashed over from short range in the 61st minute. Gordon made no mistake with his conversion attempt to take the score to 26-0.
Paul Gallen made a break for the Sharks before being taken down by Greg Inglis, who found himself on report for the tackle. Gordon took advantage with a penalty to make the score 28-0.
From the kick-off, the Rabbitohs went short, with a flying Inglis taking the ball on the full to give Souths an attacking opportunity.
After a number of tackle re-starts and a penalty, Souths finally broke the drought when Dylan Walker powered his way over for a try, before Reynolds added the extras to narrow the gap to 28-6.
Another player was placed on report moments later, this time from the Sharks as Michael Ennis hit Chris McQueen high in a tackle. But despite being given an opportunity in good field position, the Rabbitohs weren’t able to capitalise.
With four minutes remaining and the Rabbitohs on the attack, Chris Grevsmuhl double-pumped close to the line before crashing over out wide for a consolation try. Reynolds added the extras to make the final score 28-12.
Sharks 28 (Jack Bird, Wade Graham, Daniel Tupou, Sam Tagataese, tries; Michael Gordon 6 goals)
Rabbitohs 12 (Dylan Walker, Chris Grevsmuhl, tries; Adam Reynolds 2 goals)