Coming off the back of a Round 14 loss to the Wests Tigers and a Round 15 bye, the South Sydney Rabbitohs received a confidence boost in their clash against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, claiming the two premiership points with a 20-8 victory in Round 16 at ANZ Stadium.
With both teams coming into the encounter having played their last match against the Wests Tigers – with vastly differing results – the Rabbitohs were hoping to improve their performance from their prior match while preventing the Sea Eagles from backing up their victory against the joint-venture.
The match against the Sea Eagles marked the first time that key players including Adam Reynolds, Greg Inglis, Glenn Stewart and Isaac Luke would all take part in a match together since the early rounds of the season.
The affair between the two fierce rivals proved to live up to the high expectations, as both sides put in high quality performances with a host of highlights.
The Sea Eagles made the most of their attacking field position early, as Kieran Foran kicked cross-field, with the ball being gathered by a Manly player and spread out wide to Peter Hiku, who in-turn crashed over in the corner. Hiku was unable to convert his own try, leaving the score at 4-0 in favour of the visitors.
It would be the Rabbitohs that would score next, as James Hasson made an error from the kick-off, gifting Souths with a prime opportunity to attack. The men in red and green made no mistake, executing a beautiful shift to the left side that saw young-gun Aaron Gray dive over in the corner. Isaac Luke’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the scores locked at four apiece.
Momentum swung back in favour of Souths as the Rabbitohs tightened the screws and built pressure with the first-half winding down.
Despite being unable to capitalize on their chances in attack, the red and greens extended their lead via an Isaac Luke penalty-goal two minutes from the break, providing the home team with a 6-4 lead heading into the sheds.
Not long after the resumption, the Rabbitohs moved further ahead as Luke made a long distance run out of dummy-half before linking up with Gray, who bolted down the wing and off-loaded the ball to Bryson Goodwin before being bundled into touch – the veteran centre scoring his 50th NRL try. Once again, Luke’s conversion was waved away meaning the score would remain 10-4 to South Sydney.
The men in red and green were on the attack once again minutes later, making easy metres up the middle of the field before John Sutton delivered a perfectly weighted kick to the flank, with Gray gathering the ball and crashing over in the corner for his second try of the night and his seventh try in eight games. The score remained at 14-4 as Luke could not convert from the sideline.
A penalty would allow the Sea Eagles back in the game, as Steve Matai took full advantage of the chance to attack, streaking away down the touch-line and displaying his skill to plant the ball down while remaining in the field of play. The trend of missed conversions continued, as Peter Hiku failed to add the extra points – the score remaining 14-8 in favour of Souths.
The advantage shifted back to Manly as pressure mounted on the Rabbits half way through the second stanza. The Rabbitohs held out three repeat sets, showing determination in defence and boosting the confidence of the side.
As Souths found themselves on the attack once more, Keary delivered a towering bomb which was marked by Johnston, before the winger offloaded back to the Rabbitohs half who showed pace to streak away and score. Luke’s conversion was successful, proving to be the last points of the game and giving South Sydney a 20-8 victory.
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