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Souths Downed in Low-Scoring Affair

Words: Tom Skolarikis I Photos: Nrlphotos.com

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The Rabbitohs have today (Sunday) gone down to the St George Illawarra Dragons by 8-6 in Round 3 of the NRL at the SCG in wet and slippery conditions.

In a game whose style was dictated by the difficult conditions, the crowd of 17,824 witnessed a scoreless second half – both team’s few points coming in the opening stanza of the game.

The Rabbitohs endured a horror start to proceedings, with a string of drop-balls, penalties and misdirected kicks and passes littering the opening eight minutes of play, eventually resulting in a penalty-goal to the Dragons through Gareth Widdop – the five-eighth kicking his team two points ahead.

But the bad news didn’t stop there for Souths, with Greg Inglis’ kick-off being taken over the dead-ball line on the full by Dragons half Josh McCrone. Mercifully, the Rabbitohs would survive the Dragons onslaught in good field position thanks to a good pick-up from Cody Walker from an early Dragons kick.

The men in Red and Green would make up for their early misdemeanours in part thanks to an inspiring run from Sam Burgess out wide. Burgess, who rampaged over two Dragons defenders, would be brought down just 10 metres from the line before the Rabbitohs backline clicked into gear – spinning it out to an unmarked Alex Johnston who scored the first try of the match and his 42nd try in 46 games.

Souths fans collectively held their breath when Greg Inglis stayed down following a ‘third-man-in’ tackle from Jack De Belin. The Test fullback received treatment on his knee from trainer Troy Thomson in back-play while Cody Walker put the men in Red and Green’s back on the front foot with a torpedo kick that was knocked-on by Josh Dugan mere metres from the try-line. But the Dragons would survive the ensuing Rabbitoh onslaught.

But the Rabbitohs would not survive the following Dragons set. With some adventurous play in the slippery conditions, Widdop kicked to the corner of 200 game veteran, Jason Nightingale, who planted the ball down just inside the dead-ball line to equalise the match. Widdop was unable to convert the try, leaving the score at six apiece.

Another penalty to the Dragons within kicking distance saw Widdop again kick his team two points ahead as the rain began to tumble down to make it 8-6 in favour of the Red V.

The sides continued to battle it out in the poor conditions with tempers beginning to fray seconds from half-time as Widdop and Rabbitoh Nathan Brown were warned for a minor altercation as the teams went to the sheds – the Dragons leading 8-6.

On the resumption, the Dragons looked to be in control in the early stages as they continued to ask questions of the Rabbitohs defence. But the game would come to a grinding halt with just under half an hour of the match remaining as Sam Burgess stayed down injured following a strong run close to the line. Burgess was slowly medi-cabbed off the field with all the usual care and precautions necessary being taken.

The loss of the lock-forward would momentarily jolt the Rabbitohs into action – Paul Carter seemingly going over to score the Club’s second try of the match. But the Bunker would disallow the try owing to an obstruction, leaving the score at 8-6.

With 15 minutes on the clock remaining, a string of penalties against the Rabbitohs keept Saints parked firmly on Souths’ try-line. Compounding the issue, referee Jared Maxwell placed Kirisome Auva’a on report for a suspected crusher-tackle. The Rabbitohs would survive the onslaught, but not before things got even worse for the men in Red and Green. Damien Cook was taken from the field under the game’s concussion rules after being clipped on the head as the hooker made a tackle.

The final score would read 8-6.

Dragons 8 (Jason Nightingale, tries; Gareth Widdop 2 goals)

Defeated

Rabbitohs 6 (Alex Johnston, tries; Bryson Goodwin 1 goals)