The South Sydney Rabbitohs were too strong for the North Sydney Bears in Week 1 of the Canterbury Cup finals, defeating them 32-12.
The Bears came out of the gates firing and dominated possession in the opening few minutes, led by their middle forwards.
Consecutive penalties put the Bears in good attacking field position and a gift two points opened the scoring through the boot of Lachlan Lam in the third minute.
Despite the early lead, the Souths halves really took control in this period and turned the North forwards around with their kicking game.
Their game management was eventually rewarded when a penalty in range of the Norths’ goal posts was awarded to the Rabbitohs.
While it seemed like a gift two-points to even the scores, Mawene Hiroti hit the left hand up-right which caused the ball to ricochet back into the field of play and into the Rabbitohs’ arms.
Despite retaining possession, the Bears defence held out any threat of a try.
In fact, it took 24 minutes for the first try of the game to be scored, through Connor Tracey, who brought his running game. Tracey showed the ball back on the inside and went straight through the middle of the Norths pack, before burning the fullback to find the try line.
Mawene Hiroti made no mistake with the conversion attempt this time to make it 6-2 to the Rabbitohs.
At this point you could feel the Rabbitohs had weathered the early onslaught from the Norths forwards and were free to move the ball from sideline to sideline.
Levi Dodd was particularly impressive breaking through tackles and linking well with Jaxson Paulo on the left edge.
On two occasions Dodd put him into space where he managed to score two quick-fire tries in the first half. The first of the two was particularly impressive by Paulo; stepping back off his left and outpacing the cover defence.
While Hiroti kicked only one of the two conversion attempts, he also kicked a penalty goal which extended the score to 18-2 to the Rabbitohs at half time.
The Rabbitohs started the half full of energy and it was Levi Dodd again putting teammates in space, this time linking with his opposite centre, Mawene Hiroti.
Hiroti had an uncontested run to the line after hitting the gap at speed and successfully converted his try taking the score to 24-2 in the 43rd minute.
He picked up his double 10 minutes later with a brilliant solo effort after being given early ball; his step and fend proving too hard to handle.
Despite missing the conversion attempt, South Sydney were truly in the driver’s seat, with a commanding 26-point lead.
The Bears continued to throw plenty at the Rabbitohs however and were eventually rewarded in the 66th minute when Egan Butcher crashed over close to the line off a short ball.
Frustrations boiled over for both sides and a bit of push-and-shove resulted in both teams playing the final seven minutes with twelve players after Bradley Dietz and Billy Brittain were both sent to the sin bin.
North Sydney went back-to-back after Kieran Moss put winger, Bernard Lewis, away in the corner, which brought the score to 28-12.
Jaxson Paulo picked up his hat-trick moments later to cap off a brilliant effort. Paulo out-muscled his opponent to get the ball down in the corner.
While Hiroti’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful, there was no chance of an upset with the final score finishing at 32-12.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 32 (Jaxson Paulo 3, Mawene Hiroti 2, Connor Tracey; Mawene Hiroti 4 goals)
North Sydney Bears 12 (Egan Butcher, Bernard Lewis tries; Lachlan Lam 2 goals)