The South Sydney Rabbitohs have won their third game in a row tonight (Friday) at ANZ Stadium, accounting for the New Zealand Warriors 36-18 in front of a crowd of 6,213.
Fullback Alex Johnston’s hat trick gives him a handy lead at the top of the NRL’s try scorers list, but it was the electrifying play of the Rabbitohs’ throughout the second half which had South Sydney Members on their feet.
The Warriors had the better of the field position early and would only take six minutes for them to post points following a mix up between Bryson Goodwin and Alex Johnston. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was on the end of a neat backline movement, beating defenders to score. Issac Luke converted to give the visitors a six-nil lead.
The Rabbitohs would strike back nine minutes later off the back of two penalties which gave them their first opportunity in attacking territory. The ball was swung to right and 15 metres out from the line the defensive line opened up like Sydney Heads and the competition’s leading try scorer, Alex Johnston, strolled through to score to the right of the uprights. Adam Reynolds uncharacteristically hooked the shot at goal at the Warriors maintained a two point advantage.
The Warriors were the next to score off the back of three penalties which piggy-backed them up field. The try to Simon Mannering was a soft one, crashing over under the posts and next to the previous ruck. Issac Luke converted from in front to give the Warriors a 12-4 lead after 28 minutes.
With five minutes left on the clock in the first half, rookie Cameron Murray would score his first try in the NRL with a fantastic effort to get past internationals Issac Luke and Kieran Foran to score under the posts. Reynolds converted to take the score to 12-10 in favour of the New Zealanders.
A mistake from Ken Maumalo and then a penalty to the left of the sticks gave Reynolds the chance to level the scores in the final minute of the half, and level them he did, taking the score line to 12-all at the break.
The Rabbitohs only had 44% of the ball in the first half and a couple of crucial errors thwarted a number of chances for the home team to score. To be going into the break at 12-all was not great, but not the end of the world for Coach Michael Maguire either.
The second half got underway with the Rabbitohs having the better of the territory, leading to Kyle Turner getting over the line after some beautiful organisational work from John Sutton in the middle of the field. Turner however was denied the try by the video ref following a great tackle from the Warriors, holding him up off the ground then to see the ball spilled over the line.
In the next of six the Warriors would march up field and score their third try of the night, and the second for their captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, in the 49th minute of play. Luke converted from out wide to establish a six-point lead for the Warriors.
Reynolds would add another six points to his tally in the 56th minute when he chipped kicked ahead to try and get a repeat set. The ball deflected off Foran and bounced back into the arms of Reynolds who touched down beside the posts. He converted his own try to level the scores at 18-all.
Just three minutes later the Rabbitohs would take the lead for the first time in the match when Alex Johnston scored his 21st try of the season. It was again captain John Sutton who would set up the try, putting Johnston through a hole to race away, dummy past the fullback and score under the posts. Reynolds’ conversion gave Souths a 24-18 lead.
A classy display from the South Sydney Members in attendance followed as Issac Luke was replaced at the 60 minute mark. The Rabbitohs faithful had not forgotten the fine service Luke had given the Club for many years and gave him a standing ovation as he made his way to the sideline.
Reynolds had an opportunity to extend the lead in the 62nd minute with penalty goal from long range, but the kick missed and the Rabbitohs maintained their six-point advantage.
Reynolds would not make the same mistake again however, slotting a penalty goal from close range and in front in the 65th minute to extend South Sydney’s lead to eight with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Souths were not finished there with Cody Walker crossing the stripe in the 68th minute after some hot potato footy from the men in red and green. Robbie Farah was involved twice in the play which saw Walker score under the posts, and Reynolds’ conversion gave Souths a 32-18 lead after 69 minutes.
Alex Johnston scored his hat trick in the 73rd minute when he raced around the outside of the Warriors defence to score in the left hand corner, burning past Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the process.
The Rabbitohs should have been ahead by more at the break but a more controlled, yet exhilarating, second half performance led to the South Sydney victory.
Alex Johnston was at his potent best with John Sutton controlling things when required. Adam Reynolds was heavily involved and the forward pack was led by Thomas Burgess and Angus Crichton in attack and by Cameron Murray and Damien Cook in defence.
The Rabbitohs now have an eight day turnaround before heading to Melbourne to take on the Storm next Saturday evening.
South Sydney 36 (Alex Johnston 3, Cameron Murray, Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker tries; Adam Reynolds 6 goals)
New Zealand Warriors 18 (Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2, Simon Mannering tries; Issac Luke 3 goals)