The NYC Rabbitohs pulled off a thrilling comeback victory against the New Zealand Warriors youth side at Mt Smart Stadium for their Round 23 clash of the Holden Cup. In a game that saw both teams trade blows and hold periods of dominance Souths managed to claw back an eight point deficit to end up winning the contest 30-20 on away soil.
Marwene Hiroti got things underway at Mt Smart Stadium for the clash as the New Zealand Warriors started with the ball. Staunch defence from Souths in the first set forced an error as a loose carry by the Warriors saw them knock on.
The Rabbitohs almost made them pay immediately as Francis Laloua Tui found his way over the try line on our last tackle only to be held up by a scrambling Warriors effort.
Several sets later the Warriors again put themselves under pressure through a knock on and the Rabbitohs were able to make their way to the try line only to be held up again.
A stripping penalty from Kenese Kenese added to the Warriors woes after their opening set was plagued by handling errors. The ensuring movement set the Rabbitohs free on the left edge but a wayward pass from Campbell Graham handed the ball back to the Warriors.
A rampaging Brock Gray run saw the Rabbitohs positioning within 10 metres of the Warriors try line in the 16th minute. An offload from Marwene Hiroti proved the breakthrough as he set up Maia Sands for the Rabbitohs' opening try. Chad O’Donnell successfully converted to push the Rabbitohs to a 6-0 lead.
The Warriors' response was immediate as they stepped up the intensity to force a goal line drop out in the 21st minute. Souths couldn’t hold the line as Kane Telea found a gap and scored under the posts. He converted his own try.
The young Warriors were buoyed by their breakthrough and put more pressure on the Rabbitohs forcing an error in a hard tackle which got the Warriors within striking distance. Melino Fineanganofo found himself first to a Warriors attacking grubber and added the next try of the game in the 28th minute. Kane Telea converted to make the score 12-6 in favour of the home side.
Souths found themselves on the back foot shortly after kick off but a high shot from Kenese took the Rabbitohs up field before Harry Leddy mishandled as we looked to attack the Warriors line.
A Warriors break almost ensued but an interference from Cordtz resulted in a penalty for the home side. The Warriors were close to capitalising soon after but a double movement from Chris Sio robbed the Warriors of a chance to extend their lead in the 33rd minute.
Harry Leddy put himself back in the good books as he grubbered and regathered after the ball took a knock from a Warriors defender and streaked away to score. O’Donnell converted to equal the scores just before half time.
It was a back and forth affair for the first half with Souths looking to snag points before the half but the Warriors struck back and following a high shot opted to kick for two points to take the score to 14-12 after the siren.
The second half started where it left off as Tom Perrin made a huge run down the left edge to put the Rabbitohs into a good scoring opportunity. However, Souths couldn’t capitalise as their attacking bomb ran dead.
The Warriors responded in equal measure making their way up field and forcing a goal line drop out. A dangerous attacking move was met by a good defensive effort from Souths and the Warriors were held up as they made their way into our try area.
The next twenty minutes was a stalemate as both teams pushed hard at each other. Warriors five-eighth, Eiden Ackland, was assisted from the field after an accidental clash with Josh Saunders. Both teams had chances to take the lead but the breakthrough would come in the 61st minute as Sheldon Pitama, hooker and captain of the young Warriors, scored from a dummy-half run from two metres out. Telea converted to push the Warriors to an eight point lead at 20-12.
Brock Gray stepped up and made a huge run, barging past several Warriors defenders, to score under the posts and pull the Rabbitohs back into the match. O’Donnell converted easily from in front of the posts.
Souths continued to scramble to regain the lead and saw themselves nearing the Warriors' line. A penalty against the Warriors gave Souths the opportunity to equalise which they promptly did through the boot of Chad O’Donnell. Entering the 70th minute the scores levelled at 20-20.
Souths continued their resurgence and managed to take the lead through Marwene Hiroti after he found a gap on the right edge from a Harry Leddy cut out pass. The conversion inched just wide and the Rabbitohs found themselves with a four point lead.
Tarquinn Butler extended the lead in the last minute of the game as Souths put their side in a comfortable position to see out the game with the win. O’Donnell converted from in front and the score became 30-20.
With the clock winding down Souths only needed to hold the ball from the kick off to claim the two points in an exciting clash with the New Zealand Warriors.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 30 (Maia Sands, Harry Leddy, Brock Gray, Marwene Hiroti, Tarquinn Butler tries; Chad O’Donnell 5 goals)
New Zealand Warriors 20 (Kane Telea, Melino Fineanganofo, Sheldon Pitama tries; Kane Telea 4 goals)