The South Sydney Rabbitohs have gotten back in the winners’ circle by downing St George Illawarra 16-10 in Round 9 at ANZ Stadium.
Aaron Gray, a late inclusion in Michael Maguire’s side scored a double in just his second first grade appearance, helping his side to a controlled victory over the high-flying Dragons in front of a healthy Monday Night Football crowd of 14,126.
The game started poorly for the Rabbitohs when Greg Inglis sailed the kick-off over the dead-ball line on the full. Benji Marshall consequently kicked for touch from half-way gifting the Dragons first use of the ball inside the red and green 20. The Rabbitohs would ultimately survive the early onslaught though on the back of some positive defence.
A head-high tackle on the returning John Sutton earned Souths a penalty on the 30 metre line, with Adam Reynolds opting to take a shot at goal successfully to make it 2-0 after just seven minutes.
The advantage would be short-lived though, with a penalty at the other end of the pitch this time earning Saints a two-pointer through Gareth Widdop to square it up at two apiece.
Saints would then open the try-scoring account for the night when Peter Mata’utia broke through the South Sydney short-side before passing on to a lurking Widdop in support – the Englishman racing the remaining 20 metres to touch down to make it 6-2 in favour of the visitors.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the first half, a series of second-phase-plays out the red and green back-line saw the Dragons caught short out wide and Aaron Gray unmarked – the young-gun taking full advantage by racing over in the corner to claim his maiden first-grade try. Reynolds was unable to convert from the touch-line, leaving the score at six apiece.
But with the first half less than two minutes from a conclusion, a Dragons short-side play saw Jason Nightingale pounce over the line to reclaim the lead for the Red V mere millimetres inside touch to send the teams to the sheds at 10-6.
On the resumption, the Rabbitohs went wide in an attempt to stretch the Saints’ defence, and as a result Gray powered his way over for his second try of the night to lock things up at 10 apiece. Reynolds made no mistake with the conversion from touch to let the Rabbitohs lead 12-10.
The Rabbitohs were about to take control of the match by sheer weight of possession – the home-side earning five repeat sets on the Dragons line before a quick shift saw Alex Johnston race over in the corner, courtesy of an amazing pass from Dylan Walker. Reynolds’ conversion attempt hit the upright, leaving the Rabbitohs in the lead at 16-10 with 20 minutes in the match.
With the clock winding down, the Dragons threw everything they had at the men in red and green by turning the tables on them with their own string of repeat sets. But the Rabbitohs defence held strong, repelling wave after wave of promising red and white attack.
The effort would prove enough – the Rabbitohs coming away with victory by 16-10.
Rabbitohs 16 (Aaron Gray 2, Alex Johnston, tries; Adam Reynolds 2 goals)
Dragons 10 (Gareth Widdop, Jason Nightingale, 1 tries; Gareth Widdop 1 goals)