The Rabbitohs made it two in a row in their Round 2 clash with the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium, with the home team claiming a 34-26 victory in the local derby against the Tri-colours.
With both sides securing victories in their opening encounters against Queensland teams away from home, the rendezvous between the game’s fiercest rivals – who have competed against each other since 1908 – was guaranteed to be enthralling.
Throughout the week leading into the blockbuster clash, the respect that the Rabbitohs held for the Roosters was evident, with Coach Michael Maguire praising Roosters consistency, which saw the team claim the 2013 and 2014 Minor Premierships. The expansive style of football and tough defence showcased by the Roosters meant that the Rabbitohs would have to step up their game from the previous match against the Broncos.
The significance of the occasion was bolstered by the fact that the two teams had not met since the 2014 Preliminary Final, which saw the Rabbitohs advance to the Grand Final, accounting for the old foe 32-22 before going on to eventually defeat the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 30-6 in the decider.
Coming off the back of a controlled opening performance against the Broncos, the men in red and green fought tooth and nail in a game dominated by flamboyant attack. Despite facing a 16-12 deficit at half-time, the Rabbitohs were able to bounce back and claim the two Premiership points from their cross-town rivals, with the 34-26 victory.
A solid start from South Sydney saw Dylan Walker deliver the first blow within the first five minutes – running onto a short-ball from five-eighth Luke Keary to crash over next to the uprights. Adam Reynolds added the extras to give the home side an early 6-0 lead.
Conceding early points appeared to inspire the Roosters, who looked dangerous close to the Rabbitohs try line. Despite this, it would be the Rabbitohs that would go on to score next, with Greg Inglis giving a demonstration of his freakish ability by turning defence into attack.
After gathering a dangerous Mitchell Pearce grubber from the in-goal area – which appeared destined to provide the Tri-colours with a repeat set – Inglis beat three defenders to not only avoid giving the ball back to the Roosters, but then went on to link up with winger, Alex Johnston, who streaked away to score. The 110 metre effort provided Souths with a 12-0 lead after Reynolds converted.
The tables were set to turn though when Reynolds was escorted from the field for a concussion test after the halfback copped an accidental knee to the head. The Roosters took full advantage of the loss, spreading the ball out wide to winger Daniel Tupou who could not be stopped from close-range despite the better efforts of the South Sydney custodian. Maloney missed the conversion, leaving the score at 12-4.
The Roosters continued their fight-back via James Maloney, with the five-eighth delivering a swirling torpedo bomb that was allowed to bounce by Joel Reddy – a decision that would result in a try to the Bondi club courtesy of Michael Jennings. Maloney made amends for his previous conversion attempt by kicking the additional points.
After leading early, the Rabbitohs conceded their scoreboard advantage as the Roosters made the most of a handling-error which saw Jennings run 45 metres to score his second try of the afternoon. Maloney converted from close range, giving his team a 16-12 lead.
Neither team would add any further points prior to half-time, although both teams had opportunities with Shaun Kenny-Dowell bombing a certain try and Dylan Walker coming close to securing a double.
On the resumption, the red and greens were put under pressure after a Reynolds final-tackle kick sailed out on the full, gifting field position to the Roosters, who utilized their chance to attack by bombarding the Rabbitohs goal-line and securing a repeat-set, which saw Dylan Napa barge over for his first NRL try. Maloney converted to make the score 22-12 in favour of the visitors.
With momentum heavily in the Roosters favour, the Rabbitohs kept their hopes alive in the match after George Burgess showed some fancy footwork and burrowed over from close range 10 minutes into the second period of the match. Reynolds had no issues adding the extras, setting up a 22-18 score-line.
Although South Sydney found themselves in prime attacking position, once more courtesy of an Adam Reynolds forty-twenty, it would be the Roosters that would score next. A well-executed back-line shift saw Kenny-Dowall taking advantage of the overlap, scoring out wide. Maloney wasn’t up to the task of the side-line conversion, leaving the score at 26-18.
Souths responded immediately, with Luke Keary breaking the Roosters defensive line and linking up with Alex Johnston, who touched down under the uprights for his second try. The extras were added by Reynolds from right in front, leaving the Rabbitohs two points down with 18 minutes remaining.
Reynolds showed his class ten minutes from full-time, breaking numerous tackles and spreading the ball to Reddy, who did well to score in the corner. The game was far from over as the conversion was waved away, meaning Souths held a two point advantage leading into the final 10 minutes of the match. Although, it would be the Rabbitohs that had the final say in the affair, with Isaac Luke closing out the match by wrestling his way over from dummy-half. Reynolds kicked the conversion, sealing a 34-26 victory.
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