The South Sydney Rabbitohs have shown calm and composure to grind out a 14-12 victory over the Parramatta Eels at ANZ Stadium tonight (Friday) in front of 11,658 Members and supporters in wet conditions.
With three tries being scored by both sides, in the end it came down to the sole conversion of the match, struck by Issac Luke in the final five minutes of the match following a beautiful four-pointer from Cameron McInnes to level the scores up.
It took almost ten minutes for first points to be scored in the difficult conditions, with John Sutton threading a kick in behind the Eels’ defensive line for a flying Aaron Gray to swoop through and score. Issac Luke’s conversion attempt went wide, leaving the score at 4-0.
From the ensuing set, Ben Lowe was caught in an awkward tackle with the forward leaving the field with a limp as a result – Tom Burgess coming on as an early replacement.
The Eels hit back when Semi Radradra collected a final-tackle Luke Kelly kick before passing to an unmarked Brad Takairangi, who raced over to score in the corner to make it four apiece after 15 minutes of play.
A failed final tackle kick diffusion from the Eels on their own 10 metre line allowed Souths to have a full set of six on the Eels line, but despite a couple of opportunities opening up for the red and greens through Sutton and Reddy, the Rabbitohs were unable to score in the slippery conditions.
With five minutes remaining on the opening stanza, Kelly fired a bullet-like pass out to Reece Robinson on the wing, with the Souths Junior diving over despite a closing gap. Chris Sandow again failed to convert, leaving the score at 8-4 in favour of the Eels.
The Eels’s Richie Fa’aoso was lucky not to find himself in hot water after the front rower put his elbow into George Burgess’ face on the first tackle. The Rabbitohs forwards – dormant until the incident – roared into life when a penalty wasn’t given and managed to keep the Eels inside their own 20 for the rest of the set.
But the sides would ultimately go to the break with the Eels leading 8-4.
On the resumption, Joel Reddy came within a whisker of scoring thanks to some dangerous attacking play from Luke Keary, who gave the Rabbitohs winger half an opportunity. But Reddy’s boot was deemed to be in touch before he could get the ball down.
The men in red and green threw everything they had at the Eels, and with the aid of two penalties on the visitors’ line, were finally able to score thanks to sheer perseverance – Aaron Gray picking up a double to make it eight apiece.
With 13 minutes in the match remaining, a final-tackle contest in the air right on the try-line saw Manu Ma’u benefit from a loose-ball to make it 12-8. Reece Robinson took over the kicking duties for the conversion attempt, but his attempt also went awry.
The clock continued to wind down and with the Rabbitohs desperately trying to swing momentum in their favour, a low and hard kick into the corner for Chris Sandow was knocked on by the Eel, gifting the Rabbitohs possession inside the 10.
The mistake would prove costly, with the men in red and green attacking hard before finding Cameron McInnes, who raced through a confused Parramatta defence, bettering the position and scoring under the sticks. Issac Luke converted from right in front in what was the first conversion of the match for the Rabbits to re-take the lead by 14-12 to round out the match.
Rabbitohs 14 (Aaron Gray 2, Cameron McInnes, tries; Issac Luke 1 goals)
Eels 12 (Brad Takairangi, Reece Robinson, Manu Ma’u tries; goals)