The South Sydney Rabbitohs have finished the 2016 season on a high note, and taken home the Special Olympics Cup, with a resounding 28 points to 10 victory over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs away from home at ANZ Stadium in front of 14,731 Members and supporters tonight (Friday).
The Rabbitohs scored five-tries-to-two to finish the season with four straight wins as they look to launch into preparations for the 2017 NRL Premiership season.
The Rabbitohs were aggressive in defence to open the half, but a repeat set to the Bulldogs led to the first points of the match with Josh Jackson slipping between two defenders to score adjacent to the posts. Moses Mbye converted to give the Bulldogs a six-nil lead after seven minutes.
The Rabbitohs struck back ten minutes later when Sam Burgess, playing against the Bulldogs for the first time since the 2014 Grand Final, scored a try from a neat pass by John Sutton. Burgess steamed onto the ball like a freight train and beat three defenders in a perfectly timed run to line. Adam Reynolds converted the try to level the scores at six-all.
The Rabbitohs took the lead for the first time in the 30th minute when Joe Burgess showed a clean pair of heels over almost 90 metres, cleaning up a loose Bulldogs’ pass to race away and score next to the uprights. Reynolds’ conversion gave South Sydney a six-point lead.
The Bulldogs had four repeat sets, including a seven-tackle set, at the back end of the half deep in South Sydney territory, however the Rabbitohs’ stoic defence held strong to deny Canterbury-Bankstown any further points in the first 40 minutes.
The Rabbitohs were very aggressive with their defence in the opening half and the attack was on song, with an 85% completion rate asking plenty of questions of the Bulldogs’ defence. Both sides threw plenty at each other but South Sydney was fully deserving of their six-point lead at the break.
A couple of handling errors, and some better kicking and defence from the Bulldogs, had the Rabbitohs under pressure in the opening ten minutes of the second half. A running battle between England team mates Sam Burgess and James Graham threatening to overheat at one stage, and Graham was put on report when he lashed out with his boot in a tackle in the 53rd minute.
The Rabbitohs took a shot at penalty goal in the 56th minute from 40 metres out and 15 metres from the eastern touchline. The kick missed leaving the scoreline at 12-6 in favour of South Sydney. The Bulldogs then missed two scoring chances when the video referee denied tries to Josh Morris and Kerrod Holland courtesy of Souths’ scrambling defence.
Despite the sides putting each other under pressure in each other’s attacking zones, a lucky piece of play which saw a grubber kick bounce off Josh Reynolds’ foot, a loose ball which he cleaned up, racing 80 metres to score in the right hand corner following a great chase from Damien Cook. A terrible attempt at conversion from Mbye left the Rabbitohs with a 12-10 led with 12 minutes left on the clock.
From the ensuing kick off, Thomas Burgess pulled off one of the biggest hits of the season on Danny Fualalo which saw him turn the ball over to give Souths the ball deep in Bulldogs territory. The Bulldogs were able to hold the Rabbitohs out though meaning they had to work the ball out of their own end the way the Rabbitohs had done so often throughout the first 30 minutes of the second half.
The Rabbitohs made the most of opportunity in Canterbury-Bankstown’s territory, scoring a fantastic try which saw team effort and individual brilliance deliver the four points. Multiple offloads amongst the forwards and the halves saw the ball end up with Aaron Gray out wide on the left. Gray then danced across field, bamboozling the defence before straightening up in front of the uprights to charge over under the black dot. Reynolds converted and the Rabbitohs established their biggest lead of the night, eighth points, with seven minutes left on the clock.
The result was put beyond doubt with four minutes left on the clock when Aaron Gray scored his second try of the night courtesy of some clever dummy half play from Damien Cook. It was nowhere near as brilliant as his first, but just as important, as the Rabbitohs extended their lead.
South Sydney broke the hearts of the remaining Bulldogs fans at the ground when Cody Walker put in a perfect kick for Joe Burgess on the left wing who scored his second try of the night before heading back to Wigan at the end of the season. Nathan Brown took the final shot at goal which didn’t trouble the scorers, giving the Rabbitohs a fantastic 28-10 victory in their final game of the season.
The Rabbitohs fought hard throughout the season but 2016 wasn’t to be the year for the men in red and green. The end to season gives all Rabbitohs Members and supporters hope for a much better result by this time next season.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 28 (Aaron Gray 2, Joe Burgess 2, Sam Burgess tries; Adam Reynolds 4 goals)
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 10 (Josh Jackson, Josh Reynolds tries; Moses Mbye goal)