The South Sydney Rabbitohs have snatched victory from the Bulldogs’ grasps by a single point at the death on Good Friday at ANZ Stadium in front of a crowd of 40,523.
The victory wasn’t without controversy though, with an eight-point try as well as a penalty goal right at the death to the Rabbitohs sealed victory as Bulldogs fans threw bottles onto the pitch.
A Trent Hodkinson bomb on the Rabbitohs’ own line failed to be diffused by Alex Johnston, resulting in a scrum to the blue and whites inside the first five minutes of the match. The Dogs took full advantage from the ensuing scrum, with Curtis Rona racing over in the corner. Hodkinson’s conversion attempt was waved away, leaving Canterbury ahead by 4-0.
From the kick-off, the Bulldogs looked to attack from the very first tackle down the short-side, but were bundled into touch by some solid defence from Alex Johnston – gifting the Rabbitohs possession on the 20 metre line. But the red and greens failed to capitalise immediately despite a fluent attacking set.
The Bulldogs would be next to score though in the 15th minute, this time through other winger Sam Perrett, who in similar fashion to the side’s first try picked up a loose ball before planting it over the line. Hodkinson made no mistake from the touch-line to make it 10-0.
Six minutes from half-time, the Rabbitohs threw the ball out the back-line in an attempt to get out of their red zone, and with superior numbers, Alex Johnston broke through before kicking onwards to keep the play alive. But Bulldogs fullback Brett Morris was equal to the task, diffusing the effort by collecting the pill.
The opportunities didn’t stop there for the Rabbits though – Glenn Stewart making a brilliant break out wide with only one pass separating his man in support, George Burgess, and the try-line. But Burgess couldn’t hold on to the ball in the slippery conditions.
Two minutes from the break, Issac Luke was about to throw a spanner in the works when he darted from dummy-half and scored despite Brett Morris leading with the knees. Luke was knocked out, leading to the referees awarding an eight-point try, while Morris was placed on report. Reynolds slotted the conversion 15 metres in from touch, before making no mistake with the penalty-goal from right in front to take the half-time score to 10-8.
It was all Canterbury in the opening exchanges of the second half, with Rabbitohs mistakes keeping the red and greens firmly entrenched within their own red-zone.
The weight of possession eventually proved too much for Souths when Josh Reynolds put in a kick for Josh Morris, who picked up the ball right next to the sticks before crashing over for his second try of the season. Hodkinson added the extras from close range to make it 16-8.
With Issac Luke off the field, the Rabbitohs’ problems were compounded when Glenn Stewart’s face became acquainted with the knee of George Burgess – Stewart was taken from the field as a result.
Souths desperately needed something, and with a back-line re-shuffle that included Alex Johnston moving to fullback, while Greg Inglis slotted in at five-eighth, the red and green attack was rejuvenated. On the back of the change, Souths made good metres and eventually an Adam Reynolds grubber was picked up by Dave Tyrrell, who raced in behind the sticks to score. Reynolds added the extras from in front to make it a two-point ball-game again at 16-14.
Six minutes from full-time, a penalty 45 metres out saw Reynolds opt to take a shot at goal, and true to form, the Souths Junior was equal to the task, levelling the game up at 16 points apiece.
The kick-off though started poorly for the Rabbits with a knock-on in-goal-gifting the Dogs possession inside the half. Hodkinson took no chances by slotting a field-goal three and a half minutes from time to re-take the lead at 17-16.
With a minute and a half remaining, James Graham launched himself into Adam Reynolds’ leg as he made an attempt at field goal. Graham was placed on report for the incident and the Rabbits earned a penalty from right in front to take the lead 18-16 to round out the match.
Rabbitohs 18 (Issac Luke, Dave Tyrrell, tries; Adam Reynolds 4, Bryson Goodwin 1 goals)
Bulldogs 17 (Curtis Rona, Sam Perrett, Josh Morris, tries; Trent Hodkinson 2 goals, 1 field-goal)