When the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs step out onto ANZ Stadium this Sunday night for the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final, it will mark the third time that the teams will have squared off for the 2014 season after two feverishly contested battles in rounds seven and 25.
A total of 63,679 Members and supporters watched the two sides fight out one win apiece for the season – the Bulldogs winning the round seven Good Friday clash by a single point, 15-14, while the Rabbitohs returned the favour in round 25 by 21-14 in a bruising encounter.
Round 25 – Rabbitohs 21 defeated Bulldogs 14
The Rabbitohs survived a Bulldogs onslaught to record a 21-14 victory – taking the Special Olympics Cup in the process.
The Bulldogs made their intentions clear from the opening minutes with an aggressive start that bore all the hallmarks of a traditional ‘softening-up period’ – Michael Ennis leading the way by getting under the skin of the Rabbitohs forwards and halves with some characteristic niggle.
Just eight minutes in, Ennis’ niggling bore fruit as he wrestled with Issac Luke as the Rabbitohs attacked the Bulldogs line. Luke struggled to get up and landed a boot in Ennis’s face. Luke was place on report for the incident – an incident he would later be cleared of.
From the ensuing set however, Mitch Brown managed to open the scoring out wide, with Trent Hodkinson adding the extras from near the touch-line.
The Bulldogs continued to apply pressure while Ennis was repeatedly warned by referees for indiscretions and niggle in the play the ball. With the Rabbitohs looking unlikely to score thanks to the Dogs controlling the ruck, Souths finally managed to manufacture points from close-range when Luke Keary turned a ball back inside to Sam Burgess who crossed the stripe. Adam Reynolds converted to square it up at six apiece.
A South Sydney mistake gifted the Bulldogs possession inside the Rabbitohs half, and it was Ennis who would capitalise, when the hooker charged over the stripe despite a gallant defensive effort to keep the ball from touching down. Hodkinson converted to make it 12-6 to round out the first half.
On the resumption, Canterbury looked to pick up where they left off by taking Alex Johnston over the touch-line. But it was the Rabbitohs who would level the scores thanks to a jink, step and pass off the ground from Luke Keary to Sam Burgess, who crashed over for his second in front of the sticks. Reynolds added the extras to tie the game up again, this time at 12 apiece with 3 minutes in the second half gone.
A penalty to the Bulldogs within kicking distance allowed Hodkinson to kick his team two points ahead, making it 14-12 as Sam Burgess went up the tunnel owing to injury.
The niggle then continued through Ennis, and Adam Reynolds found himself on report for a dangerous tackle as a result with just over 20 minutes in the match remaining – the referee this time threatening Ennis with time in the bin if the indiscretions continued.
With the match winding down, the Rabbitohs threw everything they had at the Bulldogs in search of points and they eventually came through an unmarked Lote Tuqiri, who took a long pass from Adam Reynolds to score in the far corner to take the lead for the first time in the match. Reynolds made no mistake from the touch-line to make it 18-14.
A penalty to Souths for an offside 33 metres out with four minutes left, provided an opportunity for Reynolds to boot the red and greens a further two points ahead. Reynolds made no mistake to make the difference a converted try with three minutes remaining.
A long-range late field-goal from Adam Reynolds put the result beyond doubt – the Rabbitohs taking the match by 21-14.
Round 7 – Bulldogs 15 defeated Rabbitohs 14
The men in red and green went down to the Bulldogs by one point in this year’s Good Friday clash at ANZ Stadium in front of 43,255 Members and supporters.
Both sets of fans turned out in force to see the Rabbitohs lead for much of the game, only to be denied in the dying stages of the match by a Trent Hodkinson field goal.
The Bulldogs looked to score early – putting the Rabbitohs on the back-foot in defence with Josh Morris’ pass to Corey Thompson sending the winger in. The video referee didn’t agree though, with a Dogs player deemed to be offside during the play.
Souths bombed a chance at the other end of the field just minutes later when a back-line movement drew the Dogs defence thanks to Greg Inglis before the fullback threw the ball out to an un-marked Bryson Goodwin, but the former Bulldog couldn’t hold it.
The Rabbitohs continued to attack with Adam Reynolds kicking to the wing of Nathan Merritt, but the record-breaking try-scorer could only get a finger-tip to the pill in mid-air before going dead in-goal.
After 29 minutes, a penalty to the Rabbitohs 11 metres out gave the home-team an opportunity to get the first points of the match through Adam Reynolds.
With four minutes remaining in the first half, Sam Burgess took a short-pass from Greg Inglis inside the Dog’s 10 metre line with Burgess hitting the ball at speed and crashing over to open the try-scoring tab for the afternoon out wide. Reynolds converted to make it 8-0 in the Rabbitohs’ favour.
From the ensuing kick-off Dave Tyrrell’s head clashed violently with James Graham – the Rabbitoh leaving the field.
Despite some strong attack from the Bulldogs close to the South Sydney line after the break, the Rabbitohs’ defence held strong, with Adam Reynolds managing to kick the side out of trouble on a number of occasions.
But after 12 minutes of holding out, the Rabbitohs line was finally broken by Bulldogs winger Mitch Brown out wide to put them back into the game. Trent Hodkinson converted to make it 8-6 in favour of the Rabbitohs.
The Bulldogs’ celebrations were short-lived though thanks to Bryson Goodwin’s kick-off being knocked on by Dogs fullback Sam Perrett – gifting Souths an opportunity in good attacking position. A final tackle grubber from Reynolds was then taken by Hodkinson, but Greg Inglis caught the blue and white half in-goal.
Hodkinson’s line-drop out travelled 70 metres, but the Rabbitohs were right back up their end by the end of the tackle count to apply yet more pressure.
Eventually it came down to Captain John Sutton, who barged over from first-receiver to extend the Rabbitohs lead. Reynolds converted from out wide to make it 14-6 with 14 minutes remaining.
A Souths mistake from the kick-off put the pressure right back onto them, with the Bulldogs’ Corey Thompson coming away with a four-pointer of his own. Hodkinson added the extras from the touch-line to make it 14-12 with 11 minutes remaining.
A penalty to the Bulldogs mere minutes later gave Trent Hodkinson the opportunity to equalise with 8 minutes remaining. Hodkinson made no mistake, levelling it all up at 14 apiece.
Both sides began then began to trade field goal attempts with Hodkinson and Merritt both missing opportunities from close range. But with two minutes left and with the Rabbitohs on the back-foot, Hodkinson snapped a field goal from 25 metres out to boot his team into the lead for the first time in the game.
To watch the best of both matches, please press play on the video player.