The Rabbitohs have taken down the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles by 20-8 at ANZ Stadium tonight (Friday) in a high quality encounter that yielded plenty of magic moments and plenty of high quality goal-line defence.
Faced with multiple repeat-sets from the Manly side, the Rabbitohs kept their cool – repelling wave after wave of high intensity attack on their own line to grind out the win.
Souths Junior Aaron Gray was again in the thick of the action – the young gun picking up a try-scoring double, while Bryson Goodwin picked up his 50th NRL try in front of the crowd of 14,236.
With the late inclusion of Glenn Stewart to the Rabbitohs side, the match also proved a unique event with two sets of brothers taking each other on – Stewart facing off against brother and Manly fullback Brett, while Thomas and George Burgess came to face to face with former Rabbitoh and older brother Luke.
As the two sides battled for supremacy in mid-field in the opening exchanges, neither was able to break through for points in what was a controlled opening to the match. It took some 14 minutes for the first penalty to be blown, and it would be Manly who would be the beneficiaries.
Despite some brilliant ball handling and some adventurous play by the north-siders, Manly were unable to take advantage of the penalty – losing the ball at the back of a promising raid in part thanks to some solid Rabbitohs defence.
With over half of the first half gone, neither side looked like scoring until a myriad of drop balls inside Souths’ own half from both teams swung the pendulum slightly in Manly’s favour. The Sea Eagles would be gifted two penalties during the period of pressure – the Rabbitohs goal-line defence holding strong.
Adam Reynolds was taken from the field during the course of proceedings for a concussion test after being collected by the hip of a Manly player – the halfback would play no further part in the match.
After more repeat sets than the Rabbitohs would have cared for on their own line, Peta Hiku would cross first for the Sea Eagles after taking a kick from Kieran Foran to open the scoring with 14 minutes in the first half remaining. Hiku failed to convert leaving the score at 4-0.
But the advantage would be short-lived. Manly instantly made a mistake through James Hasson on the kick-off return, before also conceding a penalty, gifting possession to the red and greens 10 metres out.
Souths immediately went left, spinning the ball out to an unmarked Aaron Gray, who crossed for the home team’s first points of the night out wide. With Adam Reynolds off the field, Issac Luke assumed kicking duties, but was unable to convert the try to leave the score unchanged at four apiece.
Luke Keary came within a whisker of scoring after the five-eighth took a grubber-kick from John Sutton into the in-goal – Keary juggling the ball for some 10 metres before losing the pill over the line.
Manly tried in vain to get out of their own red-zone from the ensuing set, but with the red and greens muscling up, the final tackle kick from the Sea Eagles was rushed and would ultimately go out on the full. The Sea Eagles then gave away a penalty 15 metres out and 10 metres in, with Luke taking the opportunity to kick his team two points ahead to take the teams to the sheds.
The Rabbitohs started the second half in the best possible way when Aaron Gray tip-toed down the side-line before defying an attempt by Tom Trebojevic to push the winger into touch – Gray throwing the ball back on the inside for Bryson Goodwin to score his 50th NRL try, making it 10-4.
Souths made it a one-two punch in the opening 10 minutes when Sutton showed brilliant vision to kick down the left side for an unmarked Gray, who picked the ball up to score his seventh try in just eight games and his second of the night.
A penalty against the Rabbitohs would prove just the thing Manly needed, with Steve Matai taking full advantage by streaking down the touch-line to score for the north-siders. Hiku’s conversion attempt was waved away to leave the score reading 14-8.
Half-way through the second stanza, Manly began to build some pressure when they earned themselves three repeat sets on the South Sydney line. But despite the growing defensive load, the men in red and green held strong in what was a huge boost of confidence for the side – and it would show mere minutes later.
With Souths attacking, a high bomb was taken by Johnston, with the Souths Junior throwing the ball over his shoulder to a flying Keary who raced the remaining metres to score. Luke converted his second of the night to make it 20-8.
Johnston was then denied what could have been one of the tries of the season after Inglis batted the ball back in over the dead-ball line to the winger, But video replays showed Inglis’ foot was marginally over the line.
But the Rabbitohs’ hard work would prove enough – Souths finishing the match strongly with even more solid goal-line defence.
Rabbitohs 20 (Aaron Gray 2, Bryson Goodwin, Luke Keary, tries; Issac Luke 2 goals)
Sea-Eagles 8 (Peta Hiku, Steve Matai, tries)