The South Sydney Rabbitohs have retained the Charity Shield after drawing with the St George Illawarra Dragons in a low-scoring affair at ANZ Stadium.
Missing key names such as Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, Thomas Burgess and a host of others, the men in red and green were kept scoreless for 65 minutes of the game, before tries to young-guns Sam Manuleleua and Chris Grevsmuhl – plus two conversions to Issac Luke – confirmed that the Shield would return to Redfern.
After five minutes of the match that saw a penalty go each way, a promising Dragons play right on the Rabbitohs’ line saw Mitch Rein come within a whisker of scoring. Referee Adam Devcich sent the try to the video referee, eventually ruling against it.
As the red and green’s attempted to grind their way out of their own red zone without the aid of some of their big men, mistakes allowed the Dragons to keep the pressure up inside the first ten minutes of the match.
It wasn’t until after 15 metres had elapsed that the Rabbitohs got into prime attacking position. But despite some promising combinations, another mistake courtesy of some stinging Dragons defence saw the ball fly loose.
An arm-wrestle ensued, but yet another mistake from the Rabbitohs gifted the Dragons territory, and 24 minutes in, Benji Marshall finally broke through the red and green defence for a solo try. Gareth Widdop converted to make it 6-0.
With less than two minutes on the clock left in the first half, Souths had their best opportunity yet to get on the board when Luke Keary sent the ball out to Bryson Goodwin, who in turn threw the ball on to Tom Hughes who looked certain to score. But the young gun couldn’t hold onto the pill – the two sides going to the break with the Saints leading 6-0.
On the resumption, the Dragons went straight on the front foot thanks to a series of penalties that gave the red v repeat sets. Jason Nightingale seemingly got the ball down for a try inside the first four minutes of the second stanza, but a tackle from Setefano Taukafa jolted the ball loose.
The Dragons grabbed their second try of the night 55th minutes into the match when Charly Runcimen took a tap-back from Eto Nabuli right on the touch-line to extend the Saints’ lead. Widdop added the extras to make the difference two converted tries.
It took 65 minutes for the Rabbitohs to get on the board, and it would come ironically courtesy of a Benji Marshall pass. The Kiwi’s wayward pass hit the dirt and found another Kiwi – only in red and green – in the form of Sam Manuleleua, who showed plenty of pace to streak 60 metres to score. Issac Luke converted from short range to make it 12-6.
With the clock winding down and the game slowly slipping away for the red and green’s, Chris Grevsmuhl hit a short-ball hard close to the line to score a crucial four-pointer. Issac Luke converted to lock the game up at 12 apiece with three minutes later.
Rabbitohs 12 (Sam Manuleleua, Chris Grevsmuhl, tries; Issac Luke 2 goals)
Dragons 12 (Benji Marshall, Charly Runcimen, tries; Gareth Widdop 2 goals)