The South Sydney Rabbitohs have claimed their first win of 2019 against the Combined Riverina All Stars 52-10 in the Club’s first trial match of the year, at Albury Sports Ground.
Front rowers Junior Tatola and Tom Amone were particularly impressive, proving hard to handle in both attack and defence, while fullback Corey Allan and Connor Tracey formed a strong combination together, controlling the tempo of the match.
On a sweltering Saturday afternoon, which saw the match split into quarters, the Rabbitohs got on the front-foot early as Tatola steamrolled over the line thanks to some creativity from hooker Billy Brittain after just three minutes. Mawene Hiroti converted the try to give a 6-nil lead to the Red and Greens.
The Rabbitohs continued their early dominance, pinning down the All Stars in their own territory thanks to committed defence, and a few sets later it was new signing Allan slicing through to score on the right-hand side after a slick backline shift. Hiroti added the extras from the sideline to give his side a 12-nil advantage after just ten minutes.
An error in the Riverina own half gave the Cardinal and Myrtle prime territory to pile on more points, and after a Tracey grubber pinned the Riverina side behind the in-goal, the rewards were reaped as he scored a try of his own in the shadows of the first quarter. Hiroti converted to give his side an 18-nil lead at the first break.
After a well-deserved drinks break, the momentum of the young Rabbitohs continued as big prop Tom Amone was injected into the contest from the bench, making bullocking runs through the middle to trouble the Riverina side.
The extra space allowed 20-year-old half Dean Hawkins put in a clever kick, forcing a line drop-out and another shift on the left saw another newcomer, this time winger Cory Denniss, touch down in the 23rd minute.
Tatola and Amone continued to wreak havok up the middle, which allowed Brittain to dart over the line from dummy half to edge his side out to a 26-nil lead.
Despite the early dominance, the Rabbitohs still had a few cobwebs to blow out, with a dropped ball and a penalty allowing their opponents to strike back, going close only for the ball to be thrown over the sideline.
The Red and Greens began to play more confidently and daring, throwing offloads and making last-tackle runs, with Tatola and Gagan nearly crossing before Campbell Graham went over untouched on the right-hand side. Hiroti’s kick was waved away as the scores remained with five minutes to go in the half.
Despite the main break coming up, the Rabbitohs weren’t looking to slow down any time soon, with Denniss nearly going over for a double only to be tackled into touch.
Riverina had the perfect chance to get on the board a minute from half-time after earning a penalty for an accidental off-side, but Hiroti saved the day after an attacking grubber kick in the in-goal nearly saw their opponents touch down to leave the half-time score as 32-nil.
Souths kicked-off the second half into the setting sun, with a crunching tackle by interchange forward Ky Rodwell setting the tone early on, forcing an error in the tackle, and then backing up to crash over the line for a well-deserved try. The young prop converted his own four-pointer to extend the lead to 38-nil.
A penalty from the ensuing kick-off saw Souths back in position, only for an obstruction call to be made. But with everything going the way of the Rabbitoh, the kick for touch went out, and on the ensuing set, Campbell Graham went over for his second, backing up a Bayley Sironen break to put the ball down.
The one-way traffic continued as Hiroti crossed the line for his first try of the match thanks to a well-timed offload from Graham off the scrum to send the scores to 46-nil, but was unable to convert.
A number of positional changes were made for the final quarter, with halves Dean Hawkins and Connor Tracey earning a well-deserved break as Jack Johns and Billy Brittain took their places as the playmakers for the Rabbitohs.
Riverina got over the line in the 65th minute after recovering an attacking bomb to score their first try, but the Rabbitohs would get the half-century as Jack Johns took advantage of some strong running from his middle forwards, running straight through the defence on last tackle and converting his own try.
An adventurous kick from a scrum saw Riverina regather the ball and score again, this time under the posts, but it was too late as the Rabbitohs completed a 52-10 rout.
The Red and Greens will now look forward to the John Sutton Testimonial match at the Metricon High-Performance Centre at Redfern Oval this Saturday 23 February.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 52 (Junior Tatola, Corey Allan, Connor Tracey, Cory Denniss, Billy Brittain, Campbell Graham 2, Ky Rodwell, Mawene Hiroti, Jack Johns tries; Mawene Hiroti 4, Ky Rodwell, Jack Johns goals)
Riverina Combined All Stars 10