A back-and-forth encounter saw the Rabbitohs just fall-short to the Bulldogs 18-12 in a physical battle, won in the forward pack. While they fought hard, it was that added polish on the end of sets of six that edged out the win for the visitors.
It wasn’t the ideal start for the cardinal and myrtle after a mistake from the kick-off gifted the Bulldogs with a scrum 10 metres out. A simple slide of hands by the Dogs proved too much for the retreating edge defence, which resulted in the first points of the game being scored in the second minute by, Tyrone Harding.
Despite this, the Rabbitohs rolled up their sleeves to get in the arm wrestle but a careless high-tackle relieved the pressure for the Bulldogs and put them back in good ball territory. Fullback, Declan Casey ensured he made the most of this opportunity when he was able to cross the try line.
As Casey’s try was converted, this saw the Bulldogs leading 10-0 with just as many minutes passed.
The boys from Belmore did everything right by completing their set after points, but a crucial run by Rabbitohs left-winger, Muong Dut, got them out of their own in-goal and really shifted the momentum for the home team.
This was a followed up by a bust from Fullback James Tautaiolefua and a pin-point kick on the front foot by Blake Taaffe, put the ball right on the spot for Jaxson Paulo to pluck the ball out of the air and post first points to the Rabbitohs.
While the conversion attempt was unsuccessful, another outstanding run by Muong Dut saw him almost go the length of the field on the set after points only to be dragged down in pure Bulldogs desperation.
Back-to-back penalties to the Rabbitohs allowed for the defence to reset their line, while an unforced error released the pressure and left the Dogs unscathed.
Despite this, the Rabbitohs looked likely to break the line, led predominantly by Blake Taaffe and skipper, Nick Mougios.
The mounted pressure was soon rewarded when Jaxson Paulo picked up a first half double after pure strength and explosive footwork got him over the top of his opposite centre. As the try was unconverted, this saw the Rabbitohs just behind at 10-8 to the Bulldogs with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half.
It seemed as though the Rabbitohs were storming back after a mistake at the back by Bulldogs Fullback, Declan Casey gifted them with an opportunity just before the break.
However, a crucial play-the-ball penalty gave the Bulldogs a piggy-back out of their own end where they were able to get the final points of the half, through Tyrone Harding, crossing for his second.
With the score at 14-8 at half time to the Bulldogs, it was clear the Rabbitohs needed a big second 40.
Similarly to how the game began an error featured in the first set of the second half, this time from the Bulldogs which immediately put the Rabbitohs on the attack.
The Rabbitohs were patient with this opportunity and managed to build pressure through a well-weighted kick that resulted in a repeat set of six. The Bulldogs however managed to stick strong through aggressive ‘up-and-in’-style defence which was the theme for most of the second half.
Despite this, the Rabbitohs were hot on the attack and had most of the possession during the second half, but the Bulldogs’ energy in defence forced some uncharacteristic mistakes out of their opponent.
Jaxson Paulo picked up his hat-trick however which was a great individual accolade but the Bulldogs we’re too strong in the end after they returned serve with yet another try to close the game out at 18-12.
The second half was a true arm wrestle with both sides only scoring one try a piece. In the end, Canterbury-Bankstown’s determination and game management shone through at the crucial moments.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 18 (Tyrone Harding 2, Declan Casey, Jackson Topine tries; Jackson Topline goal)
South Sydney Rabbitohs 12 (Jaxson Paulo 3 tries)