The South Sydney Rabbitohs have retained the coveted Charity Shield following a solid victory over the St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium to the tune of 18-14.
There were promising signs from the Rabbitohs for the season, with impressive performances from the likes of Cody Walker, Damien Cook and Cameron McInnes among a host of others.
After the Rabbitohs managed to force a line drop-out in the opening five minutes of play, it was John Sutton who would ultimately capitalise by barging over for the first try of the match – some brilliant lead-up work from Cody Walker and Cameron McInnes laying the platform. Bryson Goodwin converted to give Souths an early 6-0 lead.
The six-point advantage would be short-lived though, when Dragons winger Jason Nightingale showed tremendous athleticism to keep the ball in play after an in-goal kick that looked sure to go dead was kept in play by the Kiwi. Kurt Mann was on hand to pick up the scraps and score out wide to make it 6-4.
Once the Rabbitohs got the ball back, a towering John Sutton kick on the end of a brilliant set of six was dropped cold by Peter Mata’utia on his own goal-line, gifting possession to the men in Red and Green. But the home-side was unable to capitalise, opting instead to be adventurous by kicking on the second tackle.
With the Dragons on the back-pedal late in the first half, skipper Ben Creagh found himself having a close look at the ANZ Stadium turf after putting his head in the wrong position attempting a tackle on Cameron McInnes – Creagh left the field as a result.
Poor ball-control would hamper both teams’ advances up-field as the off-season rust continued to have an effect on the match, but flashes of brilliance would ultimately keep Members and supporters cheering.
Exciting breaks by Cody Walker and Damien Cook almost resulted in tries to the Rabbitohs, with both players showing their wares for the first time in the Rabbitohs jumper at ANZ Stadium.
Saints looked certain to score seven minutes from half-time when Euan Aitken carried three Rabbitohs defenders over the try-line. But the Video Referee would rule against the four-pointer on the grounds of a loss of control of the ball. The teams would go to the sheds locked at 6-4
A twelve minute arm-wrestle following the break saw both teams trade opportunities in what looked from the outset to be a higher quality clash.
Siliva Havili picked up a try to take the lead for the Dragons though with Benji Marshall converting to make it 10-6. But the Rabbitohs would hit back immediately.
The injection of Kirisome Auva’a into the match saw the centre finish off a back-line movement to score out wide. Damien Cook continued his impressive first foray for the Club by converting from the touchline to re-take the lead at 12-10.
New recruit Michael Oldfield then showed his wares at fullback when he managed to get out of the in-goal despite a well-weighted kick by the Dragons that looked certain to catch the former Sea Eagle in-goal.
A strong combo from Walker and Hunt on their own side of half-way saw the Rabbitohs lay the platform for a brilliant try to Ed Murphy – Walker making a long break to set the try up before converting from the touch-line to make it 18-10.
With five minutes in the match remaining, Aitken got a four-pointer after having his first attempt disallowed – the centre crossing millimetres in from touch to make the final score 18-14.
Rabbitohs 18 (John Sutton, Kirisome Auva’a, Ed Murphy, tries; Bryson Goodwin 1, Damien Cook 1, Cody Walker 1, goals)
Dragons 14 (Kurt Mann, Siliva Havili, tries; Benji Marshall 1 goals)