It was a closer contest than most expected, but the Rabbitohs made it three from three for 2019 after a close shave against the Gold Coast Titans.
All Guns Blazing
How good was the side’s opening twenty minutes?
We saw tearaway lock Cameron Murray bust up the middle, making a 30-metre break to get his side on the front foot on the first set of the match.
It was then the deft touch from five-eighth Cody Walker that saw the Titans pinned behind their in-goal to force a drop-out. Then a penalty saw his halves partner Adam Reynolds kick for goal to score the opening points of the match.
The Titans applied some pressure with a number of attacking raids throughout the first half in particular, but committed defence from the Cardinal and Myrtle shut them down, forcing a number of errors from the opposition.
Then the Red and Green who scored twice thanks to the pressure, with wingers Campbell Graham and Corey Allan swooping to score, giving the side an 18-8 lead at the break.
Titans Prove Worthy Opponent
Many predicted that the Gold Coast Titans would be easybeats, but they just showed that anything can happen in Rugby League.
After trailing 24-8, the Titans scored two quick tries to bring their deficit within four with less than fifteen minutes to go, making everyone in Red and Green on the edge of their seat.
With the scores locked up at 26-20 with five minutes to go, the Titans threw everything at the Red and Green, only for a penalty - something they struggled with - in the last seconds to give Reynolds the chance to sew up the match.
That isn’t to say that the Rabbitohs didn’t take them for granted, but it goes to show that every team in the NRL is up to compete each and every week.
Halves Show Great Vision
It’s been a bit of a hot topic this year, but our halves have been particularly impressive so far in 2019, and they didn’t disappoint against the Gold Coast.
In the first set, Cody Walker forced a drop-out, and later on set up the first try of the match with a looping cut-out pass sending Campbell Graham over in the fifteenth minute,
Not to be outdone, a pinpoint Reynolds bomb a few minutes later forced another drop-out, and the clever halfback took from his five-eighth’s playbook to put Corey Allan in for his first NRL try in a near-identical manner.
The two then combined with less than ten minutes to go, with a Reynolds inside pass seeing Walker dart across field, finding Dane Gagai who put Ethan Lowe in for his first try in Rabbitohs colours.
Walker then set up the sides’ fourth try of the night, kicking ahead for Graham to bag his second., with Reynolds providing the pass.
The two combined for over 600 kicking metres and 3 drop-outs - and ultimately won the match for the side.
Safe As A House
I think an under-appreciated aspect of the match was Alex Johnston’s composure in defence.
The fullback was peppered with a number of tricky kicks, notably in the first half, but didn’t wince once, which also included diffusing a 40/20 attempt early in the second half.
Just as the Titans looked to gain the ascendency in the second half, Johnston made a break and streaked away to put his side on the front foot, with a penalty giving Adam Reynolds the chance to get his side six points ahead.
AJ was calm and collected in a number of tricky situations - including diffusing 6 bombs - and it goes to show the maturity that AJ has shown in his last few seasons playing fullback, going from a try-scoring winger to a reliable no.1.
Kennedy Gets Deserved Debut
Rhys Kennedy was a surprise inclusion to the squad in 2019 and a relative unknown to many, rising from the ranks in the Canterbury Cup and earning himself a call-up to the first-grade squad.
It’s been a long journey for the 24-year-old, who had previously been in Canberra’s first-grade system before making his way through a number of clubs before landing at Redfern.
And the big man did not disappoint on debut, with 17 tackles with a 94% tackle efficiency, an offload and 34 metres from his 23-minute stint.
In one of the feel-good stories of the season, a big congratulations is in order for a player who never gave up on their dreams, and will hopefully have a long career in Red and Green.