The South Sydney Rabbitohs have knocked over competition leaders, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, in a brutal top of the table clash by 23-4 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in front of 27,062 Members and supporters.
In one of the side’s best defensive efforts of the season, the Rabbitohs continually put the Sea Eagles on the back foot throughout the match, while also managing to score some scintillating tries – notching up their fourth successive victory as a result.
But it was Manly who scored first – a penalty to the visitors for Souths laying on the play the ball, allowed the Sea Eagles to attack the Rabbitohs line with Peta Hiku diving over in the corner for the visitors. Jamie Lyon’s conversion attempt fell short, leaving the score at 4-0.
Two back-to-back penalties to the Rabbitohs marched the home-side up-field before a second-man play from Luke Keary allowed Kyle Turner to crash over in front of the Don Bradman stand to open Souths’ account for the night. Adam Reynolds converted from close range to take the lead at 6-4, with 16 minutes gone.
With 16 and half minutes left, the Sea Eagles mounted an attack on the Rabbitohs’ line that seemed would yield the visitors points. But Lote Tuqiri would have none of it – the veteran turning back the clock by intercepting the ball before racing 60 metres before being caught. From the ensuing play, Souths threw the ball out to Kirisome Auva’a who powered his way over to the sound of the elated Rabbitohs faithful. Reynolds converted from near the touch-line to make it 12-4 in their favour.
On the resumption, the Auva’a nearly did it again, this time when Greg Inglis burst through the Manly defensive line before being brought down 10 metres short. On the last tackle, Auva’a scooted from dummy-half before being brought down just millimetres short.
Manly threw plenty of attack at the Rabbitohs, but the home-side’s defence held strong right until the end of the opening stanza – even making the Sea Eagles go backwards on their final set of the half. The sides went to the sheds with the Rabbitohs leading 12-4.
On the resumption, both teams chanced their hands with adventurous plays, including a Lote Tuqiri chip down-field. Chris McQueen also nearly put his name on the score-card when the wide-running back-rower came within centimetres of scoring.
Souths continued to bash Manly in defence on their own line, keeping them inside their own 10 metre line for much of their set. But Daly Cherry Evans changed the momentum of the game with a crucial forty-twenty that nearly resulted in points for the visitors had it not been for some desperate defence from Lote Tuqiri, whose one on one strip diffused an almost certain try.
The Rabbitohs got a penalty right in front of the sticks on the last tackle following a crusher tackle from former Rabbitoh Josh Starling on Luke Keary. Souths opted to attack and gained a repeat set of six from the ensuing tackles.
From the line drop-out, a well-orchestrated set-play from Souths saw Kirisome Auva’a hit a hole on the 20 metre line, before passing on to Alex Johnston who crossed for the first points of the second half just inside the touch-line. Reynolds’ conversion went across the face of the uprights leaving the Rabbits two converted tries ahead at 16-4.
Some more brilliant defence from Souths saw Daly Cherry-Evans taken over the side-line to gift the Rabbitohs possession in good field position. The defence paid dividends when Sam Burgess was put through a gaping hole right in front of the sticks – the Englishman racing the remaining 15 metres to touch down in front of the Clive Churchill Grandstand. Reynolds added the extras to make it 22-4.
A late Adam Reynolds field-goal scraped over the cross-bar to make the final score 23-4, sealing the Rabbitohs’ fourth straight victory.
Rabbitohs 23 (Kyle Turner, Kirisome Auva’a, Alex Johnston, Sam Burgess, tries; Adam Reynolds 3 goals, Adam Reynolds 1 field-goal)
Sea Eagles 4 (Peta Hiku, tries; goals)