The South Sydney Rabbitohs Jersey Flegg and ISP sides hit the ground running with victories at Ringrose Park in their first trial of the season.
Despite the flashiness of their opponents, the Rabbitohs Jersey Flegg side put in a convincing defensive effort to secure a four-tries-to-one victory, with no conversions being taken.
Typical of the first hit-out of the year, the early parts of the match were error-riddled, with neither side able to mount any momentum.
Our defence was really good, our goal-line defence especially. We showed a lot of resilience and showed what The Rabbitoh Way is all aboutBen Rogers Jersey Flegg Head Coach
It was a back and forth for the first quarter, before fullback Lachlan McDonald took charge - streaking 45 metres downfield after cleaning up an attacking grubber kick.
On the next play, the ball was spread across, with an overlap on the right seeing second rower Josh Fepuleai break through and score the first points of the match two minutes from the first break.
A more determined and confident outfit came out for the second stanza, hunting down the Eels in defence and playing with more fluidity with the ball in hand.
A bruising hit off the scrum forced an error, and after a break through the middle of the ruck, a wayward pass saw the Eels make a 60-metre intercept. But again, it was the defence forcing the Eels into making errors, preventing a try with the cover defence and forcing a pass to go out on the full.
The Rabbitohs caught the Eels napping five-eighth Marc Zauruni sliced through the defence with a dummy and sidestep to score under the posts, which saw the Rabbitohs go up 8-nil at half-time.
In the second half, the young Rabbitohs continued to ask questions of the Eels’ tiring defence, which was most evident when hulking winger Cameron Akauola fell over the line to score on the first play from a scrum.
While the Eels finally got on the board three minutes from the second break, the Red and Greens forced an error from the kick-off which led to front-rower Augustine Stowers crashing next to the posts to bring the lead back to twelve.
Despite no tries in the final quarter, the Rabbitohs continued to drive the Eels back in defence and punch holes through in attacking, finishing off a fine defensive display.
Jersey Flegg head coach Ben Rogers was particularly impressed with his sides' effort in defence.
“It was really positive," he said.
"Our defence was really good, our goal-line defence especially. We showed a lot of resilience and showed what The Rabbitoh Way is all about.
“Parramatta came out firing, and I just told the boys at half-time to relax and enjoy themselves. They were a bit nervous as it was the first time a lot of guys had pulled on the Red and Green.
"It was a physical contest.”
South Sydney Rabbitohs 16 (Fepuleai, Zaurini, Akauola, Stowers tries)
Parramatta Eels 4
It was the first time in over a decade Members and supporters could see their ISP side in Red and Green, and they made quick work of impressing as they scored the first try of the match after just two minutes.
After earning a penalty on the first set the match, winger Dylan O’Connor leapt in the corner to score the opening try from a slick backline move. Halfback Dean Hawkins converting the try from the sideline to give the Red and Green an early 6-nil lead.
The Rabbitohs were nearly on the scoresheet again on their next set, with a break on the left-hand side seeing the ball ricocheting off an Eels player, then going to ground on the next play.
The match continued to go to and fro through the first quarter, with Souths shutting down multiple attacking raids and gradually easing back into the contest in attack after a handful of errors close to the line, with neither team able to score again in the first quarter.
The Eels got off to a good start in the second quarter with a 40/20 kick in their first set, and swung the ball left on the next set to score, but the Rabbitohs held on with the lead as the conversion was missed.
But a counter-attack was on shortly after, as a well-timed short ball from five-eigihth Connor Tracey close to the line sent backrower Tarquinn Alatipi-Butler flying through to score. Although Hawkins couldn’t convert, the side still had a valuable six-point advantage.
The Eels looked to mount a late comeback, but a perfectly timed strip from new recruit Tom Amone gave the Rabbitohs back possession in attacking territory.
Amone continued to add impact with strong running, and with the Rabbitohs back on the attack, a swift set of hands saw O’Connor again score into the corner. Hawkins added the extras for a twelve-point lead.
From my end as a coach I’m very proud of their effort and it was a great start.Shane Millard ISP Head Coach
A quick-fire set saw O’Connor’s centre partner Jacob Gagan touch down for a well-deserved try, with the Rabbitohs taking a sixteen-point lead into half-time.
In the second half, the blue and gold was replaced with black and white as the Wentworthville Magpies took the field and similarly, a new-look side was fielded for the Rabbitohs, with a majority of the starting side replaced.
With two fresh sides on the field, the match turned into a grind as neither team could get over the other - with the only points coming from a Wentworthville try late in the third quarter.
Despite fatigue creeping in, the effort and eagerness of the Rabbitohs continued to grow, with a right-hand shift nearly resulting in a try, only for the ball to be taken to ground after the final pass. Similarly, the Magpies began to make inroads only for the final pass to be thrown out.
Fullback Lachlan Walmsley continued to poke his head through the line, looking to create opportunities against the tiring defence, but the scores remained with the Rabbitohs taking the victory.
ISP head coach Shane Millard was pleased with the victory.
“I thought it was a really good first hit-out," he said.
“Parra put out a strong side with a number of NRL players, but our boys managed to keep them to six points.
“Fitness-wise we were good, effort-wise we were good. Everything we wanted to be good at, we were.
“At times when we lost the ascendency we hung in there and scored some great tries, and although there was some execution we can probably be better at from my end as a coach I’m very proud of their effort and it was a great start.”
South Sydney Rabbitohs 20 (O’Connor 2, Alatipi-Butler, Gagan tries, Hawkins 2 goals)