The South Sydney Rabbitohs have retained the Charity Shield for the fifth consecutive year defeating the St George Illawarra Dragons 32-14 at ANZ Stadium this afternoon (Sunday).
The match marked the last trial game, testing each side’s strengths and weaknesses before the 2017 season kicks off in March.
With several attempts held back by the Dragons goal line defence, Rabbitohs hooker Robbie Farah added the first points for the afternoon diving over a Dragons defender from dummy half and over the try line. The four points marks Farah’s first try in the Cardinal and Myrtle jersey. Adam Reynolds' successful conversion led the Rabbitohs into an eight point to nil lead ten minutes into the first half.
The 90% completion rate was paying off the Rabbitohs with 15 minutes down and it wasn’t long until speedy winger Alex Johnston found a gap in the Dragons defence and scored the Rabbitohs second try. Reynolds conversion kick shifted to the left of the uprights but the Rabbitohs had kept the Dragons scoreless and led 10 points to nil.
A strong defensive back line kept the Dragons from scoring but the Rabbitohs couldn’t hold off any longer and Dragons player Russell Packer got over for his sides’ first four pointer. The successful conversion by Garreth Widdop saw the Dragons trail only six points to 10.
The Rabbitohs rammed it up in response and a solid set piece saw Cody Walker draw in the defenders before he floated the ball into the powerful running path of Siosifa Talakai who ploughed his way over the try line. Reynolds extended the lead and the Rabbitohs were up 16 points to six.
The Dragons were quick to reply and a well-executed offload from Josh Dugan saw teammate Nene McDonald fly over the line on the far right side decreasing the Rabbitohs lead 16 points to 10.
In a game of catch and chase, the aggression started to build amongst the teams but the scores remained the same going into the sheds at half time with the Rabbitohs leading 16 points to 10.
The second half saw the Dragons gain more possession and spend the majority of the starting minutes in dangerous territory for the Rabbtiohs. Souths persistence in defence paid off denying the Dragons any extra points.
While Head Coach Michael Maguire dedicated a half to each of his hookers, Damien Cook made himself known after sprinting through a hole on the Dragons 20 metre line and delivering a well weighted kick to the right side of field that was picked up by rookie Braidon Burns. Burns’ try would mark the sides fourth four pointer for the afternoon and his second in the red and green.
The Rabbitohs would extend their lead further when Cody Walker brought his side up the field picking up a Dragons grubber and sprinting 80 metres. The team followed and after finding their composure, Angus Crichton barged over the line to bring the Rabbitohs into a 16 point lead. Reynolds nailed the conversion and the Rabbitohs were ahead 28 points to 10.
A double would come up for young winger Burns when once again he picked up a well-executed kick chase from Reynolds and slammed the ball down over the line.
The Dragons would finish off the scoring for the afternoon with an unconverted try to Jason Nightingale. For a game testing each team’s combinations for the 2017 season, the Rabbitohs came out on top defeating the side 32 points to 14.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 32 (Robbie Farah 1, Alex Johnston 1, Siosifa Talakai 1, Braidon Burns 2, Angus Crichton 1 tries; Adam Reynolds 4 goals)
St George Illawarra Dragons 14 (Russell Packer 1, Nene McDonald 1, Jason Nightingale 1 tries; Gareth Widdop 1 goals)