The tradition of Good Friday football between the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs has always produced some classic encounters, and few are as good as Souths’ 2013 effort – defeating the Bulldogs by 17-12 in front of a then-record regular season crowd of 51,686.
Both teams gave it to each other in defence in the opening exchanges, with the first points not coming until the 14 minute mark.
Those points came through Bulldogs left winger Mitch Brown. After four sets of six in the Rabbitohs' half, the Bulldogs played some hot potato football, finding Brown out wide. Krisnan Inu converted from the western touchline to give the home side a six-nil advantage.
The plan from the Rabbitohs was clearly to bomb the back three of the Bulldogs, giving the chasers time to get through and pin the Bulldogs near their line. The 'Dogs were doing a good job of making metres though, and the game was turning on some entertaining, end-to-end footy. The Rabbitohs mounted a heap of pressure on the defending shoulders of the Bulldogs, earning three repeat sets from Inglis charges and Reynolds short kicks.
The persistence paid off when big George Burgess crashed over for a try in the 34th minute. From a Bulldogs' drop out, Roy Asotasi returned the ball with gusto, running over 'Dogs captain Michael Ennis, knocking him out in the process. Three plays later, John Sutton turned a ball inside to George, who spun out of a high tackle and bumped off four other defenders to barge over for a powerful try. Adam Reynolds' conversion levelled the score at six-all.
The Rabbitohs were under pressure in the final minute of the half as the Bulldogs tried to make the most of a South Sydney error in their own half. Sam Burgess saved the day in the final stages, shovelling the ball over the dead ball line from a clever grubber kick in goal.
Both sides opened the half in gruelling fashion, throwing everything they could at each other in the early stages.
The Rabbitohs were under pressure in the 52nd minute with the Bulldogs enjoying a repeat set deep in South Sydney territory. The Rabbitohs defended their line with intent, with George Burgess pulling off a try saving tackle, and then on the next play the Rabbitohs forced an error, relieving the pressure valve.
It was the 'Dogs turn to be under pressure when Martin Taupau coughed up the ball 40 metres out from his line. From the third play of the set, Adam Reynolds came to the left side of the ruck, putting in a perfect cross field kick to hit Nathan Merritt on the chest, on the full, at pace, who then charged into the left hand corner for the four-pointer. Reynolds' conversion attempt hit the left hand upright and bounced away, giving the Rabbitohs the lead for the first time in the game, ten points to six.
The Rabbitohs continued to mount pressure, particularly following their first penalty of the game which came in the 68th minute when Inu lifted and dropped Inglis on the point of his head 40 metres out from the Rabbitohs line. The tackle was put on report with the Rabbitohs' crowd contingent calling for Inu to be sent from the field. From the next set, the Rabbitohs charged up field. The play came to the left to Inglis, who threw a perfect, looping cut out pass to Merritt on the left wing. He cut back inside to be wrapped up one metre short of the goal line, but got his left arm free and flicked a ball out to Bryson Goodwin who scored a try against his former club. Reynolds converted from the left hand, western touchline to take the score-line to 16-6 in favour of South Sydney with less than ten minutes left on the clock.
With time slipping away, the Bulldogs started to play catch up style football, throwing the ball around looking for gaps in the South Sydney defence. But those gaps were harder to find than a child without a showbag at the adjacent Sydney Royal Easter Show.
The Rabbitohs put the icing on the cake with a field goal to Adam Reynolds from 30 metres out in front, winding down the clock, but Ben Barba went on to score a consolation try in the 80th minute, and Inu's conversion took the final score to 17-12 in favour of the red and greens.