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Winging It

Going into their Round 17 clash in the 2008 season, the South Sydney Rabbitohs had just come off a miraculous 29-28 comeback victory over the North Queensland Cowboys. But coming up against bitter crosstown rivals Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs was a tough prospect in itself, with over half a century of history between the two clubs spearheading the late-season clash.

The competition's centenary season was far from ideal for the Grand Old Club, and particularly for favourite son Craig Wing, whose long-awaited return to Redfern was cut short as he suffered a long-term injury in just his first game back in the Red and Green.

As a result, Souths struggled to gain any momentum with their star signing on the sidelines. But all of a sudden, with the introduction of youngsters Chris Sandow and Luke Capewell, the side managed to conjure up a three-game winning streak midway through the season from nothing.

After returning to the first grade side from his lengthy stint on the sideline, Wing was one of the catalysts in the victory against the lowly Bulldogs, who themselves had been struggling and were near the bottom of the competition ladder.

The Bulldogs always seemed to find their best when they played the Rabbitohs, and to the surprise of many, they managed to take a 24-6 lead with just over half an hour left into the contest.

Enter Craig Wing, who injected himself into the contest with only the class and poise he possessed.

"It was a big win, and it followed from that close game against the Cowboys the week before, where we were down 28-4. It was one of the biggest ever comebacks we'd had in the Club's history," said Wing.

"We got that win underway and found ourselves in a similar position against the Bulldogs, and although we were well behind, I guess we were buoyed by the confidence from the previous week."

Just twenty metres out from their own line, a wrap-around play saw Wing slice through the defence, run 40 metres and send rookie Luke Capewell over for a try.

Three minutes later, Wing himself crashed over in the same corner, and another five minutes after that, his halves partner Sandow plunged under the sticks to equal the scores and then kicked a penalty goal to bring the lead to 26-24.

"We stuck to our game-plan, just kept attacking and eventually things turned around for us," he said. 

"The team was also trying to bring in a mentality around working on every play to get back on the scoreboard and just to focus on attack as well."

With the heavens opening up late in the contest, it seemed like the famous South Sydney Spirit had been extinguished, as the Bulldogs bit back late to give themselves a 30-26 lead.

However, the young Rabbitohs weren't to be outdone, and with some ad-lib play and plenty of courage, they clawed their way back to draw level on fulltime. 

"There were some really crafty attacking players, and they had the capability to score points from anywhere on the field," said Wing.

"We got about three tries in succession after we were down to level up, they scored then we scored at the end to bring it to Golden Point."

But as they had done all game, the young Rabbitohs took their opportunities and in the 85th minute, a quick shift to the right initiated by Wing saw Capewell score his second as Souths charged home to record a famous 34-30 victory, their first against the Bulldogs since 2005.

Wing put the comeback victory down to the enthusiasm of his young side, and building upon the lessons they learned a week prior.

"We knew we had it in us to put some tries on, particularly in a short space of time, which we were able to do," he said.

"It was less about being panicked and under pressure, but more about being disappointed that we were letting them get away from us, and we knew we weren't playing as well as we could have.

With the Golden Point format being a highly debated topic ever since it's inception in 2003, there's no doubt that it adds a new dimension to a match, as Wing described it. 

"Golden Point is a tricky one. It's quite stressful footy, actually," he said.

"You've just got to really try to play with field position, and one mistake – whether it's a turnover or a knock-on – can cost you the game. You're really just trying to play disciplined football and get to the other side of the field and put yourself in that position to take the kick.

"Particularly when you're behind it's all about trying to keep the positivity up. It's less about panic talk and more about constructive feedback when you're chasing points and behind the goalposts.

"You talk about who needs to do what, how the last try occurred, how we can fix that up and more about directing instructions and getting teammates things to think about as opposed to freaking out and going away from the gameplan – and that's when the scorelines really do blow out."

Being in the twilight of his NRL career and a senior player of the side, the Souths junior put it upon himself to lead the charge, with the match not only finishing in a victory for the Rabbitohs, but also as one of his best performances in the famous Cardinal and Myrtle.

"I always tried to put it on my shoulders in the last few years – in particular with that team that had a lot of young guys – so I tried to play that role in trying to give us direction and putting us on track and not letting the panic take over.

"That really lifted us. And for me personally, I dislocated my shoulder in the first game that year and came back only two or three weeks beforehand, so it we definitely got a lot of momentum from that and scored some good tries.

"I remember Chrissy Sandow started playing some really good footy and Johnny Sutton started to come to the forefront as well so things started to come together for us."



Match report supplied by Michael Curin 

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have completed an amazing stretch of four straight, come-from-behind, victories after defeating the Bulldogs 34 points to 30 in golden point extra time in an away game at ANZ Stadium in front of 15,562 fans.

They came back from a 24-6 deficit to level the scores at 30-all in the 74th minute, with rookie fullback Luke Capewell scoring in the 87th minute to take the two competition points. The Rabbitohs have now completed big comebacks in their past four games, defeating the Warriors, Titans, Cowboys and now the Bulldogs. Throw in the bye and South Sydney has collected ten competition points in five weeks.

The Rabbitohs were applying the pressure in the opening minutes, securing back-to-back sets-of-six, but they could not convert the pressure into points. The Bulldogs scored first courtesy of an 80 metre try to rookie five-eighth Arana Taumata in the 12th minute. They backed up that effort with a try to fullback Brent Crisp three minutes later, with Hazem El Masri's conversion giving the home side a 10-nil advantage.

It took the Rabbitohs 30 minutes to post their first points when David Fa'alogo crossed on the right-hand side of the posts. Halfback Chris Sandow drifted right and found five-eighth Craig Wing steaming into the backline. He drew the defence and turned the ball back inside to Fa'alogo who beat two defenders to score. Issac Luke converted to take the scoreline to 10-6.

In the 38th minute, El Masri kicked a penalty goal, with the Rabbitohs handing the Bulldogs field position and territory on too many occasions. One minute later, the Bulldogs found themselves in Rabbitohs territory again, with captain Andrew Ryan crossing for the last try of the half to take the teams into sheds at 18-6 in favour of the Bulldogs.

The second half did not start well for the Rabbitohs with Tim Winitana scoring in the 45th minute. El Masri converted from out wide to lead 24-6. The Rabbitohs struck back in the 49th minute, and again it was Wing setting up the try.

Wing ran a run-around move and pierced the defence, running 40 metres before drawing the defence and offloading to Luke Capewell who ran the final 20 metres to score. Chris Sandow converted to bring the scoreline to 24-12. Three minutes later Wing scored a try himself, standing one off the ruck and dummying at the line to score out wide on the right-hand side. Sandow converted from out wide to bring the Rabbitohs within six points of the home side.

The Rabbitohs were building momentum with every play, scoring their fourth try in the 58th minute through diminutive halfback Chris Sandow. Sandow ran at the line from 10 metres out and jinked his way through four defenders to score. He converted his own try to level the scores at 24-all. The Rabbitohs hit the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute when Chris Sandow kicked a 30-metre penalty goal to give the red and greens a 26-24 lead.

The Bulldogs fired back in the 65th minute when winger Heka Nanai scored in the left-hand corner. El Masri's conversion from the sideline gave the Bulldogs a 30-26 lead with 13 minutes left.

The rain started tumbling down with 10 minutes to go but the Rabbitohs did not curb their adventurous style of play. Chris Sandow's 40/20 in the 71st minute gave the Rabbitohs great field position for their next raid. The Rabbitohs scored in the 74th minute when John Sutton grubbered for the left-hand corner and found Fetuli Talanoa who touched down out wide. The scores were locked at 30-all with five minutes remaining.

The Rabbitohs presented the Bulldogs with a chance to snatch the win with a knock on in their own half, but Ben Roberts grubber kicked on the first tackle and ruined any opportunity the home side of winning in regular time. Neither side could break the deadlock, and the game went into golden point.

The Rabbitohs stole the win in the 87th minute of play when fullback Luke Capewell scored in the right-hand corner. Despite being set up for the field goal attempt, the Rabbitohs went to the blindside through Craig Wing, and the ball made it out to Capewell who was playing on the wing to score.

Rabbitohs Head Coach Jason Taylor said he was not sure if his team could make a miracle comeback again.

"At 24-6 I wasn't sure we could do it two weeks in a row," Taylor said.

"Craig Wing was inspirational in the way he sparked us out there tonight. It was special to watch."

Taylor said his team needs to start playing 80 minutes of football.

"We were poor in the first half. They were desperate to stop their losing streak, but we got it going in the second half. Our job now is to learn to play from the start of the game. That's the challenge for us," Taylor said.

Captain Roy Asotasi said the team needs to make sure its attitude is right next week against the Parramatta Eels.

"It's all mental," Asotasi said. "We need to turn up with the right attitude. It was harder in the first half than it was in the second half."


South Sydney 34 (L.Capewell 2, D.Fa'alogo, C.Wing, C.Sandow, F.Talanoa tries; Sandow 4, I.Luke goals)


Bulldogs 30 (A.Taumata, B.Crisp, A.Ryan, T.Winitana, H.Nanai tries; H.El Masri 5 goals) 



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