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The Young Guns

In an Origin affected and injury ravaged clash between South Sydney and the Gold Coast Titans in 2017, it was the youngest Rabbitohs on the field who would stand tallest and claim a momentous, come-from-behind victory.

A desperate Gold Coast Titans outfit, struggling to find form and fielding a weakened team, came out firing in the NRL's truncated round 15 clash at ANZ Stadium - South Sydney looked dead in the water after the first 20 minutes.

With regular captain Greg Inglis sidelined for the season and replacement captain Sam Burgess a late withdrawal with a glute strain, the match was grabbed by the scruff of it's neck by a rampaging youth brigade led by Angus Crichton and Alex Johnston - who scored five tries between them in the match.

Whilst Crichton and Johnston headlined the South Sydney revival, fellow young guns Zane Musgrove, Tyrell Fuimaono and Braidon Burns were massive in keeping the Rabbitohs alive during the match.

Off the bench, Musgrove ran for 157 metres (59m post-contact) in his 49 minutes in the forward pack whilst Fuimaono's 30 tackles and 116 metres ran in his 80 minutes at second-row kept the Titans on the back foot.

But the young guns might not have felt so empowered that night if it wasn't for an impassioned speech by captain John Sutton, playing his 300th match in all grades for Souths, at halftime when the team was trailing 20-10.

Fittingly steered by John Sutton - who as a young Souths Junior helped bring the Rabbitohs through the turmoil of the early 2000s - the youngsters upheld South Sydney's "never-say-die" attitude.

Angus Crichton described the match as "an ugly win" after the final whistle. The Rabbitohs had claimed a 36-20 victory in the dour clash.

But the match was more a statement from the team. Highlighting the strong youth prospects coming through the club - now bolstered further by the emergence of Cameron Murray late in the 2017 season.

The milestone match for Sutton was of huge significance to the club, as General Manager of Football Shane Richardson points out.

"When John first came through into first grade, he wasn't playing in the best South Sydney sides of all time," Richardson said.

"I think a factor in John's milestone; and the fact that some of the Club's great players like 'Tugger', like Mario, like Gary Stevens and Bob McCarthy who had to go to Canterbury, like Ron Coote going to the Roosters, and even a Rugby League Immortal in Clive Churchill who had to go to Queensland; these players not reaching the number of games John has speaks directly to the increased stability, both financially and in terms of management, that we have seen over the past decade or so at South Sydney, stability that wasn't there for decades.

"John started his football career during a difficult period for the Club both on and off the field, but the introduction of a more stable management structure and the change in the ownership and investment model has meant players can be assured that when they play for Souths they are coming to a well-run club that has their best interests at heart and they know they are going to be paid every month so they can provide for their family and their future.

"The facilities and the support that have been put in place over the past 13 or 14 years have meant that players like John, like Adam Reynolds, like Jason Clark, like Nathan Merritt, have been able to follow their dreams of representing their club and they haven't had to worry about whether the club will be there next week or not.

"That's not a situation that some of the Club's legends like the ones we mentioned earlier were able to enjoy.

"Mario, Tugger, Bob, Gary, Ron, Clive and many others all had to leave Souths because Souths couldn't pay them, or wouldn't pay them what other clubs were able to. The Club was unstable and no one could blame a player for wanting to be at a stable club that they know is going to look after them, and in turn their family, so they can play their best football.

"With recruitment and retention you're always making decisions on players about what is best for the Club and I'm absolutely certain that the administrators of those times would have fought tooth and nail to keep those guys in our colours for their whole careers, but that wasn't achievable at the time.

"Now, with the way the owners, and I include our Members as one of our key ownership groups, have invested into this club over the past decade, coupled with the quality of our Board and the hard work put in by the Directors, with the support of our sponsors and corporate partners, the management structures that are in place as well as the coaching and support structures that bring out the best in the players, it allows players like John to build a stunning career at this Club and gives them a chance to reach the heights which he has."

Match report first posted on on June 17, 2017.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have claimed a 32-20 victory over the Gold Coast Titans tonight (Friday) in their Round 15 clash at ANZ Stadium.

Injuries rattled this week's line-up with a late exclusion of Sam Burgess who sustained a strained glute injury while Braidon Burns stepped in for Aaron Gray who was out with a facial injury. The Titans also had a shake up to their starting line-up with three players out for the State of Origin Game II and a long list of injuries.

The game celebrated John Sutton's 300th appearance for the South Sydney Rabbitohs across all grades and marked his 272nd NRL game. The night was made even sweeter for Sutton when he ran out as Captain for the match.

The Titans produced the first completed set for the night off the kick-off but after the Rabbitohs gained possession, a knock on by Bryson Goodwin saw the Titans on the attack again. They capitalised on the opportunity and the Titans claimed the first points for the night when their debutant hooker Pat Politoni scored holding on to a well-placed offload from Nathaniel Peteru. Ash Taylor slotted the extras and the Rabbitohs fell behind by six points.

The Titans extended their lead by another two points off a penalty kick and the Rabbitohs were on the back foot early on.

The Rabbitohs were the next to get up to the try line but forward Tom Burgess lost it in the last seconds resulting in a no try call from upstairs.

The Titans got the home crowd worried when Kevin Proctor picked up the rebound from a Politoni attacking grubber in the 17th minute and scored the second try for the evening. Taylor's successful conversion added to the Titans 14 points to zero lead.

The away side got the sweat rolling off Souths supporter's foreheads when the Titans went over again but the video referee saved the four points calling a no try.

With minutes ticking away in the first half, the Rabbitohs team gave the stadium something to cheer about with Angus Crichton stepping past three defenders and flying over the line to score. Adam Reynolds slotted the ball straight through the uprights and the Rabbitohs were on the board six points to 14.

You could see the fire of determination light up in the Red and Green side and the Rabbitohs amped up their power and speed.

The change showed on the scoreboard and a long powerful pass from Cody Walker out to Alex Johnston saw him sprint to the left side of the field and over the line. Reynolds conversion swayed to the right but the Rabbitohs narrowed in on the Titans 14 point to 10 lead.

But the Titans had one more try in them for the first half with Joe Greenwood securing the points for the Gold Coast side. A successful Taylor conversion held the Titans in a 20 points to 10 lead as the half time siren sounded.

The second half saw the Rabbitohs come out and add the first points for the next 40 minutes when a slick pass from Sutton to Walker resulted in a try. Reynolds added the two point conversion and the Rabbitohs secured 16 points to the Titans 20.

With 30 minutes remaining on the clock, the Titans turned the ball over after trying to run it on their last run and the Rabbitohs made the most of the opportunity. Robbie Farah made a break on the left side of the field and offloaded to Johnston who sprinted into the middle and up the field to bring his side 20 metres out from the try line. Crichton made a powerful run and scored himself a double to level the scoreboard. Reynolds kick at goal slotted through the posts and the Rabbitohs gave themselves the lead for the first time in the game 22 points to 20.

The South Sydney side wouldn't stop there and extended their lead by another converted try when Goodwin weaved through the Titans defence to stumble over the line and place the ball down for the Rabbitohs 26th point. Reynolds had a shot from out in front nailing the kick and bringing the Rabbitohs into a 28 to 20 point lead.

Once again Johnston showed his skills out on the wing, leaping for the score line and slamming the ball down for the Rabbitohs second double. An unlucky Reynolds kick hit the post but the Rabbitohs had a strong lead 32 points to 20.

The Rabbitohs held the Titans off for the remainder of the match and the Rabbitohs claimed their first victory in front of their home crowd this season.

Angus Crichton capped off a remarkable individual performance by scoring in the dying minutes, running through several Gold Coast defenders and crashing over to seal his hat-trick. Adam Reynolds couldn't convert but the Rabbitohs were comfortable ahead to claim the win.

South Sydney Rabbitohs 36 (Angus Crichton 3, Alex Johnston 2, Cody Walker, Bryson Goodwin tries; Adam Reynolds 4 goals)
Gold Coast Titans 20 (Pat Politoni, Kevin Proctor, Joe Greenwood tries; Ash Taylor 4 goals)

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