It was mid-August in 2015 and the South Sydney Rabbitohs and North Queensland Cowboys were looking to make a statement ahead of their September fixtures. Souths were in the top four but were being written off as genuine Premiership contenders as they faced the toughest last four games of any team in the competition.
It wasn't known at the time but this match would pit the 2014 Premiers against the 2015 Premiers in a highly physical and entertaining tussle on a cold, winter night in August.
Jonathan Thurston was in scintillating form coming into the fixture while South Sydney had struggled to recreate their 2014 form that saw them break the Club's 43-year Premiership drought. But that night Souths would send a statement to the rest of the competition as they ran away 31-18 victors in the Cowboys backyard.
It was a match reminiscent of our 2014 style of play as the Rabbitohs forward pack bullied the Cowboys. The Burgess brothers set the tone in the middle of the park by running for a combined 271 metres, including a barnstorming try to Thomas in the 24th minute.
"It is pleasing to head up there and put in a good performance," admitted Reynolds after the match.
"It's something we spoke about during the week and we really challenged ourselves and were more focussed on ourselves more than anything."
NRL.com wrote after the game:
"South Sydney's patented 'bully ball' was a sight to behold on Thursday night as they bounced back from a weak showing at Brookvale Oval to physically dominate the more fancied Cowboys on their home patch. With the Cowboys pack primed for a big game – looking to respond from a pounding at the hands of Cronulla with the aid of a rested Matt Scott – it was Souths who motored through the middle with more ease on Thursday."
Match report originally posted on Rabbitohs.com.au in 2015
A strong showing from the Rabbitohs has seen the red and greens claim a 31-18 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys in a blockbuster top-four clash in Townsville tonight.
The five tries to three effort, coupled with a perfect night with the boot for halfback Adam Reynolds, saw the successful return of Kirisome Auva'a as well as the Rabbitohs debut of Paul Carter – both players celebrating with victory in the physical clash.
After just two minutes, a penalty to the Rabbitohs deep inside their own half saw Adam Reynolds boot the side up-field before a second-phase ball from John Sutton close to the line allowed Greg Inglis to stroll through for first points. Reynolds converted from out wide to give the Rabbitohs an early six-point lead.
But the penalties were going both ways, and with a string of them going the way of the Cowboys, an attacking raid close to the Rabbitohs line saw Justin O'Neil take advantage of an overlap to score out wide. Thurston converted to equalise at six apiece.
The Rabbitohs hit back in the 24th minute in a big way when Thomas Burgess stepped off his right foot before defying two Cowboys defenders to score right next to the posts in typical Burgess fashion. Reynolds made no mistake to re-take the lead at 12-6.
With the first half winding down, the Cowboys came within a whisker of scoring through Michael Morgan, after a final tackle bomb from Thurston failed to be diffused by Inglis. A scramble for the ball ensued in-goal, and despite Morgan eventually getting the ball down, the try was disallowed for an earlier knock-on.
Adam Reynolds seized the opportunity to kick a field-goal with two minutes left in the opening half to take the score to an unusual 13-6. But the decision would prove crucial mere minutes later.
Justin O'Neil kicked into the in-goal for a flying Lachlan Coote, who took the ball to score seven metres in from touch 59 seconds from the break. Thurston converted to take the teams to the sheds with Souths leading by 13-12.
On the resumption, Issac Luke was placed on report for a dangerous tackle just shy of half-way, allowing the Cowboys first meaningful use of the ball in the second stanza.
But despite the opportunity, it would be the Rabbitohs who would be next to score on the back of a well-timed short-ball from Luke to Jason Clark – the Souths Junior hitting the ball at speed to score. Reynolds was on song yet again with the boot to extend the lead to 19-12.
The match began to heat up with both sides partaking in niggle as the teams looked for any advantage they could in the tight encounter – players from both sides being warned for a series of push and shoves.
The rise in intensity saw the Rabbitohs grab the next try when a massive Reynolds bomb was allowed to bounce by the Cowboys, - Alex Johnston taking the ball to score his 37th career try next to the posts. Reynolds added the extras to make it 25-12.
North Queensland weren't done yet though, with the home side applying plenty of pressure on the visitors. But after showing immense steel defensively to keep the Thurston led Cowboys out, the men in red and green grabbed more points off the back of a brilliant dummy-half run from Luke, who in turn passed on to Johnston, who then went to Walker who scored under the posts.
Reynolds continued his perfect night with the boot to take the score to 31-12.
Morgan grabbed a consolation try for the Cowboys with three minutes remaining, but it was a case of too little too late, the Rabbitohs coming away with a 31-18 victory.
Rabbitohs 31 (Greg Inglis, Thomas Burgess, Jason Clark, Alex Johnston, Dylan Walker, tries; Adam Reynolds 5 goals, 1 field goal)
Cowboys 18 (Justin O'Neil, Lachlan Coote, Michael Morgan, tries; Johnathan Thurston 3 goals)