The South Sydney Rabbitohs have been defeated by the Parramatta Eels by 22 points to 16 tonight at ANZ Stadium in front of a crowd of 21,533 in their final match of the season.
Injury forced multiple changes to the side both during the week and on game day, with Aaron Gray, Sam Burgess, Angus Crichton and Adam Reynolds forced out of the contest.
The absences would force a myriad of changes to the side, which would see regular hooker Damien Cook starting for the first time at fullback, Luke Kelly playing his second and final match for the club at halfback, as well as giving Jason Clark his first run with the side since Round xx and Dave Tyrrell his final match for the Rabbitohs since debuting back in 2009.
In the first few minutes the Eels would throw the ball around in an attempt to run around the Rabbitohs, however the resilient Red and Green defence would plug the holes, stopping a rampaging Siosaia Vave close to the line.
With the Rabbitohs on the attack, a dropped ball from Tyrell Fuimaono would gift Parramatta possession 30 metres from their own try line, and through some slick passing, centre Michael Jennings would burst through the right edge past the Rabbitohs’ line, scoring the first try of the match in the 8th minute. Mitchell Moses would convert the try from the sideline to give the Eels a 6-point lead after ten minutes.
Cook’s experience in the custodian role at a young age would put him in good stead as he set the ANZ Stadium field alight by not only preventing a 40/20 , but also turning winger Semi Radradra inside out, then running forty metres downfield to give his side a much needed field advantage.
The ad lib play seemed to give his teammates inspiration, as Luke Kelly would put in a deft grubber kick for Bryson Goodwin to score, however the try was disallowed as Goodwin was deemed to be offside.
A Parramatta lost ball would put the Rabbitohs back in position to redeem themselves, and after a receiving penalty, the Red and Greens hit back through a quick shift to the left where Cook would finish off what he started with winger Robert Jennings touching down in the 16th minute.
Goodwin would take over the goal kicking duties, however he would be unsuccessful from the sideline, with the ball just edging the posts to the right.
Some clever kicks from Robbie Farah would pin the Eels in their own territory, with the Rabbitohs showing some great resilience and teamwork in defence to keep their opponents at bay, however it would all come undone with the Eels receiving a fifth tackle penalty due to illegal ruck play.
Both teams were unafraid of going down the unorthodox route, with plenty of expansive passing and plenty of offloads being made, but despite the plethora of mistakes, the intensity continued to build with each run.
The off the cuff play would soon pay off for the Rabbitohs, with a Robbie Farah offload allowing Kyle Turner to crash over for his first try of the year under the posts in the 28th minute.
Goodwin would make sure he would hit the mark this time, giving the Rabbitohs a 4-point lead.
Farah’s performance as the kicking maestro would continue to ease pressure off the Red and Greens, and with ill-discipline creeping into Parramatta’s play, Souths would go close to extending their lead through Cody Walker, only for the five-eighth was held up over the line.
Minutes later, a Corey Norman spiral bomb would ricochet off teammate and former Rabbitoh Kirisome Auva’a’s head, and with the ball headed towards the Rabbitohs try line, youngster Campbell Graham saving the day by touching the ball down in goal.
Off the ensuing dropout, in a complete mismatch of size and strength, Luke Kelly would put a monster shot on Radradra, forcing the star winger to lose the ball just as the Eels were building momentum.
With just two minutes left in the half, Radradra would make amends by crashing over the line, making the scores level. This time Moses’ kick from the sideline would hit the mark, giving the Eels a 2-point advantage at the break.
The second half would start with both sides continuing their expansive style of play, however the Eels would be the first to get a penalty for a player being dragged into touch after being held.
After a Damien Cook try saver on a high flying Semi Radradra, the Red and Greens would receiving a ruck penalty, giving them the perfect opportunity to capitalise on their territory, however a forward pass from Cook went forward.
A lost ball from Tom Burgess in the Rabbitohs’ own half would gift the Eels prime possession, and on the next set a Corey Norman cut out pass would send over Semi Radradra for his second try of the night, with Mitchell Moses converting the try.
The Eels would look to put on more points with some quick passing, but would lose possession through some wayward passing and then giving away a penalty on the very next set.
Souths would use this to their advantage, and Cody Walker would replicate Norman’s effort by sending Robert Jennings for his second try of the match in the 55th minute. With Bryson Goodwin converting the try from the sideline, the Red and Greens would be behind by just 2 points.
With Parramatta continuing to threaten the Rabbitohs’ line, and a multitude of handling errors from the Red and Greens, the Eels looked to score once again, only for Jennings to save the day by intercepting a Manu Ma’u offload.
Souths looked to forge a counterattack through their experienced campaigners as Robbie Farah threw a well-timed offload to John Sutton, who briefly relived his playing days as a centre just inside the left touchline, however the Eels defence was able to barrel him out of play.
Pressure continued to mount on the Red and Green wall, which continued to repel wave after wave of the blue and gold attack, but the Eels would look to Radradra for points, and he would get his third try of the match in the 74th minute thanks to a Corey Norman kick.
Mitchell Moses’ conversion kick would fail to hit the mark, and off a short kickoff from the Rabbitohs, they would earn a penalty after Radradra attempted to take out opposition winger Campbell Graham.
With less than five minutes left of their season, the Rabbitohs would throw everything at their opponents, however it would not be enough to claim victory.
Eels 22 (Michael Jennings, Semi Radradra 3 tries, Mitchell Moses 2 goals)
Rabbitohs 16 (Robert Jennings 2, Kyle Turner tries, Bryson Goodwin 2 goals)