The South Sydney Rabbitohs have dug deep to keep their undefeated start the season intact, with a gritty 24-18 win over Cabramatta, at New Era Stadium.
With matches now only lasting 60 minutes instead of the previous 80, both sides provided high intensity throughout the contest.
Unlike the previous round before, the Rabbitohs were challenged right from the very first minute to the last.
Cabramatta was clearly up for the challenge and stuck right into the league leaders.
Running hard and fast, Cabramatta’s attacking flair was on display early and it provided an immediate effect.
After just three minutes on the clock, Cabramatta winger Chanel Steiner crossed over in the corner to give Cabramatta a 4-0 lead.
Struggling to work their way into the match the Rabbitohs had to hold strong against a rampaging opponent determined to cause an upset.
However, in the 17th minute, the Rabbitohs had their reply. Lavina O’Mealey produced a lovely short ball to her teammate Nikitah Wilson, who then burrowed her way to the line to score under the posts.
Halfback Maddie Studdon easily added the extra points to give the Rabbitohs a 6-4 lead.
Cabramatta didn’t allow the try to get them down though, responding swiftly with another four points of their own.
Making their way up-field off the back of the penalty, Cabramatta threw the ball around with confidence near the South Sydney line and after a couple of clever offloads, they found room again out wide.
Hanno Sio was the beneficiary this time, going over for Cabramatta’s second try on the 22nd-minute mark.
The Rabbitohs were missing five players due to Country Championships but still had Jillaroos, O’Mealey and Studdon leading them forward and the two combined to score a miraculous try.
15 metres out from the Cabramatta line, Studdon shaped to kick out to her wingers but instead produced a controlled in field chip for her partner in crime O’Mealey, who displayed incredible athleticism and skill to catch and put the ball down at speed.
Once again, Studdon had the easy task of extending her side's lead, which would give the Rabbitohs a 12-8 advantage at half-time.
It was not a half of football that the Rabbitohs women had been accustomed to in the first three weeks of the season but began the second half with back-to-back tries.
First up was Wilson, who scored her second of the match.
The Rabbitohs created a great sweeping move across the park, which left Wilson with a nice open pathway to the line.
There was still work to do for the back rower, who shoved her away past two defenders before planting the ball down on the stripe three minutes into the second half.
Next up for the Rabbitohs, was interchange halfback Mary Taupau.
Finding herself up against a flat-footed defence, the 20-year old stepped her way to the line for Rabbitohs next four-pointer.
Studdon was unable to add extras on both occasions but the Red and Green held a healthy 20-8 lead with 20 minutes to play.
However, this back and forth game was far from done as Cabramatta came roaring back.
Once again profiting from the Rabbitohs ill discipline they found themselves in great attacking position to strike back, which hooker Dahlia Tahu took full advantage of, crashing over the line from dummy-half.
Halfback Kiya Simon made it a six-point game with a successful conversion from in front.
Then in the 46th minute, the Rabbitohs were punished again for sloppy defence as Cabramatta crossed through winger Arerina Ihaka.
Simon couldn’t quite squeeze the ball through the posts from a difficult angle, which left the Red and Green with a nervy 20-18 lead.
It was looking like Cabramatta may snatch victory but the undefeated Rabbitohs showed why they are the form side in the competition, holding their nerve to see out the match with a late try to fullback Taleena Simon.
Finding herself on the wing in the second half the Rabbitohs speedster was too fast and too strong close to the line scoring a tough try and sealing her side's fourth consecutive victory.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24
Nikitah Wilson 2, Lavina O'Mealey, Taleena Simon, Mary Taupau tries; Maddie Studdon 2 goals
Chanel Steiner, Hanna Sio, Dahlia Tahu, Arerina Ihaka tries; Kiya Simon goal