The South Sydney Rabbitohs bounced back from their first loss of the season against the Parramatta Eels, with the men in red and green claiming an 18-17 Good Friday victory against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in Round 5.
After tasting defeat for the first time in 2015 the previous week against the Parramatta Eels, the Rabbitohs were seeking to get their season back on track with a win against a rampaging Bulldogs side that were coming off the back of three straight victories – including a resounding win against the team that inflicted South Sydney with their first loss of the season.
The significance of the affair was enhanced by the fact that the two teams had not met since their encounter in the 2014 Grand Final, which saw the men in red and green secure a 30-6 victory. The eagerly awaited Grand Final re-match would no doubt see the Bulldogs come out firing, seeking to re-position the competition’s benchmark and claim compensation for their prior loss to the Rabbitohs.
With South Sydney still missing the likes of John Sutton and Dylan Walker – who had been instrumental in the team’s early success – the pressure was well and truly on the Redfern-based team, who were seeking to show the depth of their squad and prove that they could triumph over adversity.
The Bulldogs were first off the mark, scoring within the first five minutes after taking advantage of a South Sydney handling error. Curtis Rona received the ball after it was spread out wide from the scrum, with the winger crashing over in the corner. Hodkinson was unable to add the extra points, leaving Canterbury with a 4-0 lead.
Despite having to deal with slippery conditions, the Bulldogs continued to attack, adding to their tally in the 15th minute through a try to winger Sam Perrett, who pounced on a loose-ball and showed some fancy footwork before diving over the try-line. Hodkinson made up for his previous miss, slotting the conversion from the opposite sideline to his first attempt to extend the lead to 10-0.
As the half-time break approached, South Sydney found a spark in attack, producing a number of opportunities and shifting the momentum of the match. Despite both Alex Johnston and George Burgess coming close to posting the opening points for the Rabbitohs, it would be Isaac Luke that would eventually open the team’s account for the evening.
Luke burrowed over from dummy-half before being knocked by Josh Morris, who was deemed to have led with his legs whilst attempting to prevent the try, resulting in an eight-point try. Reynolds made easy work of the conversion and the penalty goal, resulting in Rabbitohs trailing by 8-10 after the first period of the match.
Canterbury dominated the opening exchanges of the second stanza, with the wet conditions getting the best of South Sydney, who were entrenched in their own half courtesy of handling errors.
Once again, it would be the Bulldogs that would make the most of their attacking opportunities when Josh Morris crossed over for the opening try of the second half next to the uprights. Hodkinson converted, resulting in a 16-8 lead to the blue and whites.
The Rabbitohs bounced back soon after as the side demonstrated their ability to make metres up the middle of the field and place themselves in a position to attack. The attacking movement saw Dave Tyrell claim a rare try, after gathering an Adam Reynolds grubber and scoring under the sticks. Reynolds converted from close-range, reducing the deficit to two points, with the scorecard reading 16-14 in favour of the Bulldogs.
With six minutes remaining in the match, a 45 metre penalty goal saw Adam Reynolds lock the game up at 16 points-apiece, setting up a thrilling finish to the encounter.
A handling error from the Rabbitohs in their own in-goal area from the kick-off provided Canterbury with a prime opportunity to seal victory. With three and a half minutes remaining on the clock, Trent Hodkinson re-claimed the lead for his team via a field-goal, with the score sitting at 17-16.
The drama of the affair continued right into the dying stage of the match, as James Graham was penalized for his attempted-tackle on Adam Reynolds, as the halfback looked to level the game with a field goal of his own. The subsequent penalty awarded for dangerous contact on the legs of Reynolds saw the Rabbitohs opt for a penalty goal, with Bryson Goodwin adding the two-points from right in front, ensuring that the men in red and green would clutch a thrilling victory.
Please press play on the video player to re-live all the highlights.