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Fast-finishing Canterbury Cup land upset comeback against Panthers

The South Sydney Rabbitohs Canterbury Cup side have completed an emphatic comeback against the Penrith Panthers at ANZ Stadium for Members' Appreciation Round.

Down 16-8 at the break, the Red and Green went on a try-scoring blitz in the second half, touching down three times in the space of seven minutes to steal the lead and ultimately the game 36-16.

A number of changes before kick-off were made, with the side bolstered by the addition of Corey Allan, Mawene Hiroti and Connor Tracey and front rowers Tom Amone and Rhys Kennedy named to in the extended NRL side. 

It was an undesired start for Shane Millard's men, with a penalty on the first set of the match giving Penrith an opportunity to score early, but luckily for the Red and Green, an error from their opponents eased early pressure.

The Rabbitohs would get a penalty themselves on their first set with the ball in hand, and with the side coming off the momentum from last week's victory, it was Jacob Gagan who crossed over after just three minutes to open the scoring. With Hiroti back on kicking duties after his NRL stint, the winger nailed the sideline conversion to give the Red and Green a 6-nil lead with as many minutes gone.

And the side would continue their momentum with strong running and tireless defence, however, back-to-back errors would soon see the Panthers strike out wide through Jed Cartwright. But thanks to an unsuccessful conversion, the Rabbitohs would hold the lead after fifteen minutes.

With the Panthers now with the wind behind them, a number of half-breaks and penalties saw them stake their claim, but a loose ball scooped up by Leigh Higgins saw the winger dash 80 metres downfield to put the Rabbitohs on the front foot again. A penalty on the ensuing set then saw Hiroti point for the sticks and put the side up by four after a quarter of the match complete.

But ill-discipline soon crept in as sloppy pass saw the side hand over possession 30 metres from the try line, and Penrith would take the lead for the first time with Kaide Ellis barging over the line. 

And the Panthers would continue to apply pressure, with a 40/20 on the next set giving them the ball in the once again putting them in the Rabbitohs' red zone, but the Red and Green wall held strong, forcing an error and halting their progress.

A high tackle on Jack Johns then put the home side over halfway, and a quick tap from Lyndon Hills looked like the front rower was over for all money, only for the ball to come loose as he went down. 

That missed opportunity proved to be a big turning point in the match, with the Panthers striking once again just before half-time through Kurt Falls to give themselves an eight-nil advantage.

Not deterred from their deficit, the Rabbitohs roared in their opening set with fullback Corey Allan making a break, and Billy Brittain putting in a well-weighted kick that saw Penrith start their opening set ten metres from their try line.

And the perfect start to the second stanza continued with the Red and Green's aggressive defence forcing an error from their opponents, but in another let-off for the Panthers, the final pass on a left-hand shift saw the ball in the first row of seating.

Brittain's second half continued to impress, with the captain leading his troops with another deft kick and darting runs, but again the side failed to execute their last-tackle options.

A Connor Tracey break on the left nearly saw the wily five-eighth cross in the corner, but the Penrith defence forced the playmaker into touch in what was another lost opportunity.

But both five-eighth and hooker would push their side over the advantage line, and with the extra space, the left side got it right this time around with Hiroti crossing in the corner. It was an unlucky finish for the winger, however, as his conversion hit the uprights to leave the deficit at four points.

A penalty on the resumption gave the Rabbitohs the perfect ammunition to strike again in quick succession, and again it was the left-hand side with Corey Allan crossing on the next set. 

Not to be deterred from the missed conversion, a kick out on the full gave the Rabbitohs the perfect chance to get their third try in succession, but the Panthers were able to gather a Blake Taaffe kick close to the line to prevent the Red and Green from scoring again. 

But again, an error from their opponents gave another chance to the home side, with Allan nearly over again only for a forward pass from Gagan denying him his double.

That then allowed the Panthers to gain the ascendency, with a penalty on Tracey for being offside gifting them another set of six, but a great defensive read from Leigh Higgins saw the winger bundle his opposition winger into touch. 

The effort then saw the Rabbitohs score a landslide of tries with winger Dylan O'Connor taking the lead for the side, and lock Brock Gray scoring with Hiroti bagging his double in a seven-minute period.

A try two minutes from fulltime to O'Connor completed the comeback. 


South Sydney Rabbitohs 36 (Mawene Hiroti 2, Dylan O'Connor 2, Jacob Gagan, Corey Allan, Brock Gray tries; Mawene Hiroti 4 goals; Mawene Hiroti penalty goal)


Penrith Panthers 16 (Jed Cartwright, Kaide Ellis, Kurt Falls tries; Kurt Falls 2 goals)




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