The young Rabbitohs would concede a 12 point half time lead to lose their clash against the 7th placed Newcastle Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium. After starting slowly and rousing themselves to dominate the Knights just before and after halftime, the Knights would score a flurry of points in the last quarter of the game to snatch victory.
Ryan Carr’s men kicked off their Round Three clash in clear weather just after midday. The Knights opened strongly on home turf with some creative kicking and staunch defending but were unable to capitalise in the opening stanzas, Adam Doueihi providing the Rabbitohs with relief through some massive, clearing kicks.
The Rabbitohs would work their way into the match and find time in the Knights half of the field – coming close to scoring through a Cruz Topai-Aveai attacking grubber.
However, the Knights would grab first blood after Dean Kouka-Smith would latch onto a high pass on the right edge and finish acrobatically in the corner. The conversion by Matt Cooper would drift wide and the Knights took an early lead 4-0 after 13 minutes.
A beautiful kick off after the try saw the Rabbitohs regain possession. Pressuring the Knights line the Rabbitohs would hit back in the 15th minute through fullback Dylan O’Connor after a sweeping move to the right. Doueihi’s conversion attempt would be unsuccessful and the scores would sit at 4-4 after 16 minutes.
A penalty for a poor play-the-ball by Josh Saunders gifted the Knights an attacking chance shortly after the kick-off. Jack Johns, son of Newcastle’s Matty Johns, would force his way over the line to give the Knights their second try of the match. Matt Cooper wouldn’t miss this time and the Knights would take a 10-4 lead after 20 minutes.
Off the back of a late to release penalty, the Rabbitohs would shift the ball far right before quickly shifting left to stretch the Knights defence. Bailey Shiach-Wise would be the recipient of the last ball and cross in the left corner. Doueihi converted from the sidelines to tie it up 10-10 after 25 minutes.
The Rabbitohs would look to take the lead after Bailey Shiach-Wise found space on the left but he would be called back after a shepard call was made by the officials. In the 31st minute the Rabbitohs would again be denied a try after Lucky Taavale would be held up.
Adam Doueihi would grab the lead after taking the line on and beating four Knights defenders. He would convert his own try in the 33rd minute to take the scores to 16-10.
Phoenix Hunt would extend the Rabbitohs lead, darting from dummy half to slot through a gap and score in the 38th minute. Doueihi added two points with a pinpoint conversion on the half time siren and we’d head into the sheds leading 22-10.
The Rabbitohs would come out firing in the second half, enjoying plenty of attacking chances and possession in their opening sets. Phoenix Hunt coming close to scoring twice from dummy half but coming just short on the first attempt and losing possession on the second.
The Knights showed some fight as big Keanu Dawson smashed his way through our line but was held up from scoring by a great effort from the young Rabbitohs. They would work their way back into the game and would see plenty of opportunity to score but wouldn’t be able to capitalise during their dominant period.
The Rabbitohs defence was tested and would hold out until the 60th minute when Kouka-Smith grabbed his second try of the game after a strong push on the right edge. The conversion would go wide and the scores would sit at 22-14 after 62 minutes.
The Knights would go back-to-back after a Matt Cooper linebreak got them within striking distance. The next play would see Cooper go over under the posts to score. Johns would convert and would reduce the deficit to two points. Souths 22 – 20 Knights after 67 minutes.
The onslaught continued as Cameron King would grab another try for the Knights just a minute after the replay. Johns converted again and the Knights found themselves leading 26-22.
The Knights would see out the game to win by the four point margin.
Knights 26 (Kouka-Smith 2, Johns, Cooper, King tries; Cooper, Johns 2 goal)
Rabbitohs 22 (O’Connor, Shiach-Wise, Doueihi, Hunt tries; Doueihi 3 goals)