The Rabbitohs have booked a place in the 2014 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final, defeating arch-rivals the Sydney Roosters by 32-22 amid emotional scenes from the mass of support from the Rabbitohs Family at ANZ Stadium.
After 43 years, Grand Final day will again see the red and green of South Sydney take the field in the game’s biggest arena, for a chance at notching up a 21st Premiership.
A controlled team performance from the Rabbitohs saw Greg Inglis celebrate his 200th game in fine style with two tries to his name, while Adam Reynolds kicked six goals from six attempts.
Despite the end result and a physical start from the Rabbitohs in defence, four minutes into the match, Mitchell Pearce danced through the Rabbitohs defensive line before stepping Greg Inglis to score under the sticks. Maloney added the extras from right in front to give the Roosters an early 6-0 lead.
From the very next set, the Tricolours went through their set before Maloney hoisted a bomb that saw Inglis and Minichiello fly through to contest the ball in the air. Minichiello snatched the ball from Inglis’ grasp to run the remaining 10 metres to score. Maloney made no mistake with the conversion attempt to make it 12-0 inside the first 10 minutes of the match.
The injection of Ben Te’o after 15 minutes saw the Rabbitohs force an error from the Roosters mid-field on the back of some stinging defence. The error paid dividends when Lote Tuqiri tip-toed down the touch-line to open the scoring for his side. Adam Reynolds added the extras with a massive conversion from the sideline to make it 12-6 half-way through the opening stanza.
From the ensuing kick-off, Jared Waerea Hargreaves was placed on report for unnecessary contact on Te’o, allowing the Rabbitohs to kick their way up-field for another crack at the Roosters line.
The momentum of the match begin to shift noticeably, with the Rabbitohs now charging up the middle of the Roosters’ ruck and causing plenty of damage. After an opportunistic dummy-half run from Issac Luke. The red and green backs then took advantage when Alex Johnston crossed for the side’s second four-pointer in the far corner off a nice off-load from Luke Keary. Reynolds again added the extras from the sideline to level it up at 12 apiece.
With seven minutes remaining, the Roosters forwards were on the back-pedal inside their own half before Frank-Paul Nuuasala knocked on at the 30 metre line for the Rabbitohs to continue to apply the pressure.
As the first half wound down, Issac Luke was placed on report for a tackle on Sonny-Bill Williams, before Daniel Tupou was denied a late try that would have seen the Chooks go to the break with the lead – the half-time score ultimately reading 12-12.
On the resumption, both sides started the half poorly, but it would be Souths who would get on the board first. Ben Te’o made his presence felt when he hit a Sam Burgess short-ball at speed to power his way over 20 metres in from touch. Reynolds added the extras for the Rabbits to take the lead for the first time in the match at 18-12.
An Anthony Minichiello drop-ball from a bomb on his own line gave the Rabbitohs another opportunity. On the back of a scrum, Greg Inglis seemingly strode through a gaping hole in the Roosters goal-line defence in slow motion before doing his signature goanna celebration. Reynolds made it four conversions from four attempts to make it 24-12 in the Rabbitohs favour.
At the 15 minute mark, the Rabbitohs continued to apply pressure to the Chooks, and Greg Inglis was there to capitalise again when an Adam Reynolds cross-field kick was picked up by the Test fullback millimetres from the uprights padding. The Rabbitohs faithful erupted as Inglis crossed the stripe. Reynolds added the extras to make it 30-12 with 14 minutes remaining.
A penalty to the Rabbitohs in the ninth minute saw Adam Reynolds line up a 38 metre shot at penalty goal, with the little half making no mistake to make it 32-12.
Two late consolation tries to Aiden Guerra and Anthony Minichiello in the final two minutes saw the final score come to 32-18. But the day belonged to the Rabbitohs, who will now prepare for next week’s Grand Final.
Rabbitohs 32 (Lote Tuqiri, Alex Johnston, Ben Te’o, Greg Inglis 2 tries; Adam Reynolds 6 goals)
Roosters 22 (Mitchell Pearce, Anthony Minichiello 2, Aiden Guerra, tries; James Maloney 3 goals)