The South Sydney Rabbitohs have gone down to the Parramatta Eels at Pirtek Stadium tonight by 29-16 in a match that proved to be a huge test for the red and greens in front of 15,562.
The loss is the first of the Rabbitohs’ 2015 season, and their first loss since round 26 of 2014, on that occasion against the Sydney Roosters.
The game started poorly for the Eels despite a positive first set, when Anthony Watmough spilled the ball right on half-way on the final tackle, gifting the Rabbitohs first meaningful use of the ball. But the Eels would ultimately survive the early Rabbitoh raid.
Two penalties to the Parra – including one that saw Glenn Stewart placed on report for an alleged crusher-tackle – saw the home-side afforded repeat-sets on the red and green line, but the Eels attack was diffused by some well-organised defence from the Rabbits.
Shortly afterwards, a brilliant Issac Luke final-tackle kick into the in-goal saw the Rabbitohs defence scramble on Will Hopoate to take the fullback in-goal, before then earning another repeat set courtesy of a drop-ball from Chris Sandow as he tried to diffuse Souths’ final-tackle option.
With the ground-work laid, Souths spread the ball wide before Daryl Millard passed on to Joel Reddy, who finished off the movement in the corner – the winger picking up a try against his old club just inside touch. Reynolds struck a booming-conversion, millimetres in the side-line to make it 6-0 after just 10 minutes.
Two penalties to the Eels put the blue and golds in prime field position, and the weight of possession eventually saw John Folau grab his side’s first try despite the better efforts of the Rabbitohs defence. Sandow added the extras from short range to level the match up at six apiece.
Issac Luke then came within a whisker of scoring right next to the sticks after a penalty saw Souths march up-field courtesy of a booming kick for touch from Reynolds. But Luke couldn’t hold onto the ball.
A penalty against the Rabbitohs for dissent gave Chris Sandow a chance to boot his side two points ahead from close range. The little halfback made no mistake, taking the lead by 8-4 for the Eels.
With the first half winding down, Adam Reynolds hoisted a dangerous torpedo bomb that Will Hopoate simply couldn’t hold onto – the Rabbitohs getting the ball back immediately with Chris Grevsmuhl dragging three Eels over the try-line with him to score. Reynolds converted to re-take the lead at 12-8 with five minutes in the half remaining.
With 30 seconds left, John Folau grabbed his second despite a thorough look from the video referee out wide – Sandow kicking the side-line conversion to send the teams to the break with Parra leading 14-12.
The second half saw the Eels grab a four-pointer inside the first four minutes of play when Reece Robinson raced in to extend the home-side’s lead to six at 18-12.
A dropped ball from the Rabbitohs inside their own half signalled a Parramatta resurgence that saw the men in red and green pinned on their own line for nearly ten minutes, fighting to keep their buoyed opposition from claiming more points. And after a tense period that saw Souths defend wave after wave of repeat sets, the pressure valve was finally released when the Eels made an error.
After 20 minutes of the second half, the Rabbitohs finally made their way back into Eels territory with a scrum-feed on the 20 metre line. Three penalties in quick succession restarted the tackle-count for the Rabbitohs, but finally, Alex Johnston crossed for the cardinal and myrtles out wide to make it 18-16 in favour of the Eels.
But despite the brave Rabbitohs effort, Parramatta were next to score with Robinson bagging his second of the night out wide to make it 22-16 with 11 minutes left on the clock.
After three repeat sets from the Rabbitohs on the Eels line, Sandow seized the opportunity to snap a field goal when the Eels got within striking distance to take the score to 23-16.
With the full-time siren about to sound, Sandow grabbed a converted try of his own to round out the match at 29-16.
Eels 29 (John Folau 2, Reece Robinson 2, Chris Sandow, tries; Chris Sandow 4, goals; Chris Sandow 1 field-goal)
Rabbitohs 16 (Joel Reddy, Chris Grevsmuhl, Alex Johnston, tries; Adam Reynolds 2 goals)