Similarly to the South Sydney Rabbitohs Round 16 victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, the men in red and green would once again claim victory coming off the back of a loss and a bye – defeating the St George Illawarra Dragons 24-8 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Round 19.
The Men of League Heritage Round clash would re-ignite the fierce rivalry between the Rabbitohs and Dragons, who had played five grand finals – South Sydney claiming three victories and St George two – at the SCG before St George amalgamated with the Illawarra Steelers in 1998.
The Rabbitohs had won their past three encounters against the Dragons, including a 16-10 victory in Round 9, providing the red and greens with the edge leading into the affair.
Although Isaac Luke would be absent owing to suspension, the Rabbitohs would receive a boost with skipper, Greg Inglis, returning from Origin duties. Similarly, the Dragons would be bolstered by the return of key players; Josh Dugan, Benji Marshall, Tyson Frizell and Joel Thompson.
The match started in concerning fashion for the Rabbitohs, as it appeared that Justin Hunt had crossed over in the corner for the opening points of the match. Luckily for Souths, the try was overruled upon review as Hunt was deemed to have lost control of the ball.
St George Illawarra’s early attack on the Rabbitohs line proved to be the wake-up call that South Sydney needed, as Dylan Walker responded to the close call, busting through the Dragons defensive line after darting from dummy half, claiming the first try of the night. Adam Reynolds was up to the challenge of a sideline conversion, adding the extras with ease and securing a 6-0 score line.
Despite the Rabbitohs butchering a golden opportunity to extend their lead, they would still be next to post points. Souths were awarded a ruck penalty and opted to take the two. Reynolds slotted the penalty goal from close range to give his side an 8-0 lead, bringing up 700 career points for the Souths junior.
The Dragons would have the final say of the first stanza though, as Hunt made amends for his prior effort, capitalizing on a brilliant Benji Marshall no-look cut-out ball to score out wide. Gareth Widdop’s attempt at conversion was unsuccessful, leaving the score at 8-4 in favour of the Rabbitohs heading into the break.
On the resumption, both sides fought for field position, resulting in a stalemate in the opening stages of the second period. South Sydney forced a goal-line drop-out that would prove to break the standoff, as Marshall opted for a short re-start that would prove to be costly. Within two plays, the Rabbitohs spread the ball to the right courtesy of Reynolds and Inglis, who found Alex Johnston in space, with the try scoring freak finding the line once more. Reynolds was unsuccessful with the conversion and the score remained 12-4.
With 11 minutes on the clock, the Dragons got themselves on the board once more, keeping their hopes alive, as Dugan showed some skill to step back on the inside of Aaron Gray and muscle his way over the line despite the best efforts of John Sutton. Once again, Widdop was unable to add the extras, leaving the score at 12-8 to South Sydney.
Reynolds swung the pendulum back in the Rabbitohs favour, as he grubbered toward the St George Illawarra in-goal area, with the ball hitting the upright and rebounding back to the halfback who crashed over under the sticks. Reynolds converted his own try to extent his side’s lead to 18-8.
The Rabbitohs consolidated the victory, as Reynolds put boot to ball, finding a flying Luke Keary who raced over under the posts. Once again Reynolds had no issues with the conversion, adding the final points of the match and securing a 24-8 victory.