The South Sydney Rabbitohs retained the Charity Shield in their first full-format fixture of the 2015 pre-season against the St George Illawarra Dragons, with the clash ending in 12-12 draw.
Off the back of South Sydney winning the second instalment of the Auckland Nines, a number of key players were in doubt leading into the 32nd annual Charity Shield. Adam Reynolds and George Burgess – who were instrumental in the Nines victory – were unable to participate in the game due to injuries incurred during the nine a side tournament.
In addition to missing the premiership winning halfback and front-rower, the Rabbitohs were also without Greg Inglis, John Sutton, Thomas Burgess, Ben Lowe and new-recruit Glenn Stewart.
The team – which included a 16 man bench – provided an insight into the depth of the Rabbitohs squad and showcased plenty of talent. Similarly to the Nines, a mixture of young blood and experience was on display. The match also provided the first look at new recruits Tim Grant and Daryl Millard, who joined the team from the Penrith Panthers and Catalans Dragons respectively.
The new-look Rabbitohs team initially struggled against a full-strength Dragons outfit, who kept the men in red and green scoreless for the first 65 minutes of the encounter. Tries to young-guns Sam Manuleleua and Chris Grevsmuhl, plus two conversions to Isaac Luke, provided the Rabbitohs with the draw, ensuring that the Charity Shield would return to Redfern.
St George Illawarra dominated the opening stages of the match with Mitch Rein coming agonisingly close to scoring a try within five minutes, before being deemed to have been held up by the video referee.
Re-live Charity Shield week
With the Rabbitohs attempting to grind their way out of their own half; there were a number of uncharacteristic handling errors that would ensure that the Dragons could continue to build pressure close to the Rabbitohs line in the early stages.
The Rabbitohs toiled hard in defence to deny the Dragons and keep the scores level, and it wasn’t until the 15 minute mark that the men in red and green had their opportunity to attack, but the Dragons defence proved to be up to the challenge.
Despite a solid defensive display from Souths, errors in attack were proving to be too costly. The deadlock was broken when Benji Marshall managed to break the worn down red and green defence, scoring a dazzling solo try. Gareth Widdop had no issues in adding the extras, giving St George a 6-0 lead.
Souths had an opportunity to get on the board late in the second half with a nice back-line shift, as Luke Keary spread the ball to Bryson Goodwin, who threw a pass to Tom Hughes who couldn’t reel the ball in – the two sides going to the break with the Saints leading 6-0.
After the break, the Dragons were gifted a number of penalties that provided the red v with repeat sets. The pressure seemed to have broken the South Sydney defence, when Jason Nightingale seemingly scored out wide within the first four minutes of the second period, but Setefano Taukafa managed to do enough to prevent the Dragons winger from scoring.
The 30 minute scoring drought was broken when St George Illawarra scored their second try of the night, courtesy of Charly Runcimen, who took a tap-back from Eto Nabuli. Once again, Widdop was able to provide the two additional points, with the Dragons leading 12-0.
After 65 minutes, the Rabbitohs were finally able to get over the line, with Sam Manuleleua turning defence into attack, gathering a loose ball and dashing 60 metres to score. Isaac Luke converted from short range to keep the Rabbitohs in the game at 12-6.
With the clock winding down and the game slowly slipping away for the men in red and green, youngster Chris Grevsmuhl hit a short-ball hard close to the line to score a crucial four-pointer. Issac Luke converted to lock the game up at 12 apiece, which would be the final score against a full-strength Dragons line-up.
To re-live the highlights from the Charity Shield, please press play on the image above.