The South Sydney Rabbitohs advanced to the Preliminary Finals by emphatically defeating the Manly-Warringah Sea-Eagles 40-24 in front of a sea of red and green at Allianz Stadium in week one of the finals.
Despite a late surge from Manly, a crowd of 25,733 were on hand to watch the red and greens put on a controlled performance that saw a handful of magic moments unfold, propelling the Club to its third successive Preliminary Finals berth. Doubles to Alex Johnston and Adam Reynolds – who scored a personal haul of 20 points – helped the side over the line in a seven try to four performance.
Both sides burst out of the blocks with enthusiastic football – the Rabbitohs getting an early opportunity at the Sea Eagles’ line thanks to some ill-discipline. But the red and greens were unable to convert the opportunity into points.
It was Manly who looked to score first though, when a kick into Souths’ in-goal stood up just long enough for Brett Stewart to have a desperate attempt to ground the ball. Greg Inglis shepherded the ball dead, but not before the video referee had a look for a possible four-pointer.
But it would be the Rabbitohs who would post first points, when Adam Reynolds put in a cross-field kick that was batted back by Lote Tuqiri, then grubbered forward by Dylan Walker for Reynolds to finish off the movement with the first try of the night. Reynolds converted his own try to give the side a 6-0 lead with 12 minutes gone.
The Rabbitohs continued on with their momentum when Kirisome Auva’a made a massive break down the touch-line. But while it seemed Auva’a had been grounded in a tackle, the movement continued up-field, culminating in the red and greens finding themselves again right on the Manly line. Reynolds put a short kick into the in-goal for a flying Luke Keary, who ultimately picked up the ball in the in-goal to score amid thunderous cheers from the predominantly red and green crowd. Reynolds added the extras to make it 12-0.
Not to be out-done by Auva’a, Greg Inglis then made his own statement by making a break of his own that almost lead to another try being scored – this time through young-gun Alex Johnston. A closer look at the try though showed that Johnston had lost the ball over the line.
Lote Tuqiri though would make no mistake on the other wing, when Reynolds hoisted a massive cross-field bomb to the dual-international, who towered over Manly’s Jorge Taufua to score. Reynolds converted mere feet inside the touch-line to make it 18-0 with 12 minutes in the first half remaining.
Anthony Watmough found himself on report following a dangerous tackle on Greg Inglis, and the penalty would prove costlier still. As a result, the Rabbitohs again found themselves on the Manly line, with Alex Johnston finishing off a back-line movement that saw John Sutton and Luke Keary combine – Johnston atoning for his earlier drop-ball with a four-pointer. Reynolds’ touch-line conversion attempt hit the upright, leaving the score at a stunning 22-0 to take the teams to the sheds.
From the very first set of six, Souths made their intentions clear when Kirisome Auva’a made a break up-field before being dragged down just short. The red and greens spun the ball out to Adam Reynolds who put the ball into the in-goal, before planting his hands down on it to claim a try in the first set of six of the second half. Reynolds converted his own try to make it 28-0.
Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran found himself on report following a desperate attempt to diffuse a try to Issac Luke, set up by a Johnston banana-kick. The Rabbitohs denied taking the two points, and after a second infringement on the following set, the red and green’s seemed even more determined to get four points. Dylan Walker delievered, before Reynolds again added the extras to make it 34-0.
It was raining red and green tries when a brilliant pass from Greg Inglis sent Johnston through for his second four-pointer of the night – the Souths Junior sprinting 30 metres to touch down mere minutes after the Walker try. Reynolds made no mistake to make it 40-0, bringing his own personal haul to 20 points.
With 16 minutes in the match remaining, Manly finally got on the board through Brett Stewart, who took a dubious looking final pass to make it 40-6 with Jamie Lyon’s conversion. Lyon grabbed a try of his own not long after. His conversion from the touch-line making it 40-12. It was to be the beginning of a gritty Manly fightback.
The Sea Eagles’ revival continued when Tom Symonds crossed for a four-pointer to close the gap slightly. Lyon converted to make it 40-18. A consolation try to Cheyse Blair made the final score 40-24.