John Sutton celebrated breaking the Rabbitohs all-time appearance record with an emphatic 26-6 victory over the St George Illawarra Dragons at the SCG, in front of 24,368 Members and supporters tonight (Saturday).
To see John Sutton's post-match reaction, please click here.
To see all the match highlights, please click here.
To see the post-match press conference, please click here.
With the perfect stage set in the form of the historic Sydney Cricket Ground the Rabbitohs turned on a controlled performance to help Sutton celebrate his milestone in style in the Men of League Heritage Round.
A penalty to the Rabbitohs right on the 10 minute mark allowed halfback Adam Reynolds an opportunity to boot his side two points ahead from 31 metres out. Reynolds knocked it over to give the Rabbitohs a two point advantage.
The red and greens attacked the St George Illawarra line with purpose, momentarily causing the Dragons to scramble in defence, but Souths were unable to convert the opportunity into points.
Joel Reddy seemed to score with 20 minutes in the half gone off the back of a suspected Dragons knock-on from Gareth Widdop, but the video referee concluded that Ben Te’o had knocked the ball on first before Widdop, ultimately ruling against the try.
But Souths’ patience was rewarded with 12 minutes in the first half remaining when Luke Burgess steamed onto a short-ball from Apisai Koroisau at dummy half to score right next to the uprights. Reynolds converted to give Souths an 8-0 lead.
The Dragons looked to hit-back at the other end of the field when Gareth Widdop put in a short chip-kick for a flying Josh Dugan, who tried to wrestled the ball down over three Rabbitohs defenders. The video referee ruled that Dugan momentarily lost control of the ball, denying the Dragons their first try of the night.
The Rabbitohs responded in the best way possible with Jason Clark finishing off a Rabbitoh raid that saw Sutton go to the air, Reddy bat the ball back inside to Clark who dived over the line in his return game. Reynolds converted from close-range to make it 14-0 with five minutes in the half remaining.
With a minute to go the Rabbits’ halves provided two show and go’s with decoy runners before Reynolds put in a cut-out ball for Nathan Merritt who raced 20 metres toward the SCG corner. But Dragons winger Brett Morris bundled the Rabbitoh into touch just shy of the line in a desperate cover tackle to end the half.
On the resumption, both sides traded opportunities, but it was the Rabbitohs who went in first through Sam Burgess, who snuck in next to the uprights to give the Rabbitohs a 20-0 lead with Reynolds’ conversion.
The Rabbitohs began to show some real steel in defence, repelling wave after wave of red v attack with some brilliant tackles and scramble, despite the Saints’ well-formed attack.
With 12 minutes in the match remaining, Greg Inglis took a beautifully timed inside ball from Sutton before palming off Josh Dugan and racing 20 metres to score the team’s fourth try of the night. Reynolds added the extras to make it an impressive 26-0.
The Dragons would not finish the match empty handed though – Jack De-Belin diving over for the red and whites’ first of the evening with seven minutes in match remaining. Gareth Widdop converted to make it 26-6.
With four and a half minutes left, Dragons winger Jason Nightingale was placed on report for a high shot on Apisai Koroisau. The Rabbitohs charged up-field and nearly grabbed another four-pointer through Dylan Walker, who picked simply put downward pressure on a Nathan Merritt toe-through. But the try was disallowed on the grounds that Walker was off-side.
But the points were enough to get the Rabbitohs their second victory of the year at a venue that has been a happy hunting ground for the men who wear red and green.
Rabbitohs 26 (Luke Burgess, Jason Clark, Sam Burgess, Greg Inglis tries; Adam Reynolds 5 goals)
Dragons 6 (Jack De-Belin, tries; Gareth Widdop 1 goals)