The South Sydney Rabbitohs recorded a gutsy victory against the New Zealand Warriors in Perth in round 13, defying a strong Warriors line-up and a mounting injury toll to take the points by 34-18.
In a match that will be remembered for the display of sheer guts and determination from the Rabbitohs perspective – as well as the ground record 20,267 crowd – the Rabbitohs lost the services of Greg Inglis and Bryson Goodwin for the night, while also momentarily losing Jason Clark and George Burgess, forcing a re-shuffle in Michael Maguire’s side that ultimately stood to defeat the New Zealanders after the visitors led at half time.
The Warriors were the first to draw blood, when winger David Fusitu’a got on the outside of the Rabbitohs’ defensive line before skilfully managing to stay within the field of play to plant the ball over the line despite the best efforts of John Sutton.
From the ensuing set, Warriors front-rower Suaia Matagi broke clean through the Rabbitohs line before drawing in Greg Inglis and passing on to Shaun Johnson who raced over to score. Johnson converted his own try to make it ten points in nine minutes.
A Manu Vatuvei error on a high ball inside his own 10 metres allowed the Rabbitohs their first real attacking opportunity with 15 minutes gone, but while John Sutton was valiant in his effort to power through the Warriors defensive line, his ball handling robbed him of the four points.
After being outplayed in the opening stages of the match though, the Rabbitohs’ composure got them back into the match when after a string of repeat-sets on the Warriors line, Dylan Walker danced his way through from short range to open the red and green account for the night. Adam Reynolds converted to make it 10-6 in the Warriors’ favour.
The Rabbitohs continued to build pressure, and with a minute and a half left in the first half, Bryson Goodwin took a kick just before the in-goal to almost score. But the Perth product’s arm was deemed to have gone out before he could plant the ball.
Souths fans collectively held their breaths as Greg Inglis left the field on the ensuing set with a leg injury after the Rabbitoh’s attempted tackle on Manu Vatuvei – rounding out the first half.
The Rabbitohs’ injury woes continued on the resumption, when Bryson Goodwin – who had shifted to fullback to cover the loss of Inglis – left the field after his arm was caught awkwardly in a tackle. The injury caused a major re-shuffle of the Rabbitohs’ line-up, with Chris McQueen shifting out to the wing, Kyle Turner moving into the centres and Dylan Walker to fullback.
The effects of the reshuffle showed immediately when Warriors skipper Simon Mannering crossed out wide to make it 14-6.
Despite the growing injury toll, Dylan Walker again danced through the Warriors defence, this time racing an extra 20 metres and stepping to score under the posts for his second of the night. Reynolds added the extras to make it 14-12 in the Warriors’ favour.
The Rabbitohs continued to gather pace, with the ensuing attacking raids allowing Kyle Turner to barge over from next to the touch-line to take the lead for the Rabbitohs for the first time in the night at 16-14.
With 11 minutes left, a deft pass from Issac Luke to Dave Tyrrell put resident Superman Dave Tyrrell through for his first four-pointer of the season under the sticks. Adam Reynolds converted to make it 22-14.
But anyone who thought there would be any let-up from the men in red and green were about to be proved wrong again, when the Rabbitohs went on the attack through an Adam Reynolds cross-field kick that landed in the hands of Joel Reddy who stepped through to score – all but defeating the Warriors psychologically. Reynolds made no mistake with six minutes remaining at 28-14.
Dave Tyrrell then bagged a rare try-scoring double inside the last four minutes before Adam Reynolds added the extras to make it 34-14.
A late try to Konrad Hurrell was too little too late for the Warriors – the Rabbitohs recording a famous victory.