The South Sydney Rabbitohs’ NYC side’s season is over, after going down 28-24 in a tight elimination final at Allianz Stadium tonight (Friday).
Despite being down 16-0 late in the first half, the Rabbitohs fought back to briefly take the lead, before a late flurry from the Tigers secured the match and their spot in the next round of the finals – the South Sydney side wrapping up their season courageously.
Inside the first two minutes of play, a failed final tackle kick diffusion from the Rabbitohs, saw the ball land in the hands of Tigers centre Delouise Hoeter, who sprinted 25 metres untouched to score right next to the side-line. Eli Levido slotted the conversion to give Wests the early lead.
The Tigers continued on with their enthusiasm out of the box when a Tigers back-line movement was finished off by wide-running back-rower Salesi Funaki, who broke through the Rabbitohs’ line from close-range for the side’s second try. Levido added the extras to make it 12-0.
Despite opportunities at the other end of the field for the red and green’s, half-way through the opening stanza, the Tigers spun the ball out to winger John Ogden, who planted the ball one-handed over the line in the far corner. Levido missed his first conversion attempt of the evening, leaving the score at 16-0.
The Rabbitohs’ breakthrough finally came with 10 minutes in the first half remaining, when winger Sam Manuleleua raced 25 metres down the touch-line, before monstering the final Wests defender over the try-line to open the red and green account for the night. Devon Makoare-Boyce’s conversion hit the upright but bounced through to make it 16-6 to take the sides to the break.
After the break, the Rabbitohs hit-back inside the first five minutes when Brock Gray powered over right under the sticks to narrow the gap. Makoare-Boyce’s conversion made it a four point ball-game.
The fight-back continued when the Rabbitohs upped the tempo to put the Tigers on the back foot in defence. Jack Gosiewski powered through from short-range to equalise, with Makoare-Boyce again adding the extras for the Rabbitohs to lead for the first time in the match.
But the Tigers would hit back through centre Watson Heleta, who raced 30 metres while trampling a handful of red and green defenders to re-take the lead for his side at 22-18. John Ogden then added his second try of the night, with Levido again converting to make it 28-18.
With forty seconds in the match remaining, a consolation try to Rabbitohs winger, Tom Hughes narrowed the gap, with Makoare-Boyce adding the extras from short-range to make the final score 28-24 in the Tigers’ favour.
Tigers 28 (Delouise Hoeter, Salesi Funaki, John Ogden 2, Watson Heleta, tries; Eli Levido 4 goals)
Rabbitohs 24 (Sam Manuleleua, Brock Gray, Jack Gosiewski, Tom Hughes, tries; Devon Makoare-Boyce, 4 goals)