The South Sydney Rabbitohs Pathways Squads (UNE Harold Matthews 16s, UNE SG Ball 18s and Jersey Flegg 20s) have completed a historical set of matches against the Penrith Panthers at The John Sutton Testimonial Match at the Metricon High Performance Centre at Redfern Oval.
On an overcast day at the Rabbitohs’ spiritual home ground, the UNE Harold Matthews (16s) side kicked-off the match-day celebrations with a big 30-18 win against the Penrith Panthers, who were sitting above the Red and Green in second position on points difference before the match.
Penalties and errors marred the contest in the early stages, with both sides giving up possession and territory due to ill-discipline.
Prop forward Izayah Tuigamala was busy both with the ball in hand and in defence, laying the platform for his side and forcing a number of errors, but it seemed like the bounce of the ball was going against the Rabbitohs, with a number of attacking opportunities gone begging.
But the young men in Cardinal and Myrtle continued to ask questions of their opponents, but again it was the lack of handling from both sides which was the biggest talking point of the first half. The drought of points ended as Penrith kicked a penalty goal in the fifteenth minute through five-eighth Jake Hay.
The downpour continued as the Panthers earned a penalty from the ensuing kick-off, which then saw Hay stroll through the line to score next to the points, despite an unconvincing put-down.
But the bounce of the ball would finally go the way of the Rabbitohs as possession went back the way of the Red and Green from the kick-off, and five-eighth Emmanuel Di Bartolo earning a line-drop out from a grubber-kick.
It wasn’t pretty, but the team got on the board through prop Davvy Moale who dived over from dummy-half, with the conversion unsuccessful.
Strong defence saw another forced error right on the Panthers’ line, which then allowed another front-rower, this time Hennessy Ofria-Hunt, barge through the line from a tap-kick, giving the side the lead with two minutes left in the half. A lazy penalty on the stroke of half-time undid the strong work, allowing the Panthers to lock up the scores at the break.
Another slew of penalties opened up the second half, with the Panthers again kicking a penalty to open the scoring through Hay.
After settling their nerves, the young Rabbitohs clicked into gear with uncompromising defence, and although Ofria-Hunt was put on report for dangerous contact, the enthusiasm and rallying from his teammates saw winger Luca Ace-Nasteski and halfback Joseph Nohra both score tries in a matter of minutes to give the side a handy lead heading into the last quarter of the match.
Defence was the theme for the final stages of the game, with Penrith receiving numerous penalties and scoring opportunities only for the Red and Green to deny them any chances through a committed display.
Soon after hooker Ratu Vesikula caught the Panthers defence napping, scoring a trademark try as the side continued to probe the Panthers’ defence, but despite a sin-binning, Penrith took advantage of an intercept to see centre Jesse Buchan score a late try.
But the Rabbitohs snatched the victory as Moale scored his second, this time following his fellow front rowers in barging over under the posts.
It lead to the third-straight win for the Harold Matthews side, who will now take on the Central Coast Roosters at Morry Breen Oval next week.
South Sydney Rabbitohs UNE Harold Matthews 30 (Davvy Moale 2, Hennessy Ofria-Hunt, Luca Ace-Nasteski, Joseph Nohra, Ratu Vesikula tries; Joseph Nohra 3 goals)
Penrith Panthers UNE Harold Matthews 18 (Jake Hay, Jesse Buchan tries; Jake Hay 5 goals)
It was a heartbreaking finish to a match filled with plenty of memorable moments for the UNE SG Ball (18s) side, falling short by four points against the Penrith Panthers in a grinding contest.
The side looked to make inroads with some early shifts of the ball as the field began to dry up, with the match looking to go back and forth.
Both sides went penalty for penalty in the opening quarter, with the Rabbitohs heading down field and scoring the first try of the match as captain Peter Mamouzelos dived over from dummy-half in the thirteenth minute, with the conversion unsuccessful.
As the heavens opened a slew of penalties against the Cardinal and Myrtle gave the mountain men a chance to score, but the defensive pressure from the home side prevented any tries from getting in.
Similarly, the young Rabbitohs failed to get over the line through a number of lost opportunities despite being given chances to roam upfield through penalties. That was until the Red and Green finally saw a chance to scores again with Mamouzelos diving over for his double with just less than ten to go in the half. Halfback Bradley Zampech added the extras to give his side a 10-nil lead.
An error twenty metres from the line saw the Panthers strike with less than two minutes left in the half, with bench forward Reece Alderton going down next to the posts, and with the try converted it was a two-point game into the break.
The second half saw the Rabbitohs start strongly, with their first set gaining 80 metres, and then forcing an error from the Panthers just short of the try-line.
Strong on-line defence shut down any chance of Penrith from scoring in the middle of the half, but the pressure mounted by the Panthers eventually saw them crash over next to the posts through Braiden Magele with the conversion successful giving them the lead.
And Penrith struck again immediately as a penalty from the kick-off allowed Alderton to get his double through a number of offloads, taking an eight-point lead into the last twenty minutes. Just as the Panthers were looking to gain even more ascendency, the Rabbitohs hit back through back rower John Dodds, with Zampech adding the extras to close the gap to two points.
An enthusiastic set from the kick-off, which saw a number of half-breaks, offloads and kicks resulted in a line-drop out, but just as the Red and Green were seemingly coming back, an obstruction call to go against the side.
With the rain providing extra drama to the contest, an error 20 metres from the Rabbitohs’ try line gave the side a whiff of a comeback, only for the ball to be placed down, with a late penalty goal to the Panthers only adding salt to the wounds.
Penrith Panthers UNE SG Ball 20 (Reece Alderton 2, Braiden Magele tries; Bailey Hughes 4 goals)
South Sydney Rabbitohs UNE SG Ball 16 (Peter Mamouzelos 2, John Dodds tries; Brad Zampech 2 goals)
Running out in their new-look kits, the Jersey Flegg side put in a strong defensive performance in their trial match against the Penrith Panthers, but it was their opponents who would score first with prop forward Spencer Leniu crashing over in the ninth minute.
While the Red and Greens had a number of chances to hit back, strong defence from the Panthers prevented a counter-attack, with penalties and errors halting momentum from either side in the opening quarter.
The contest continued to go back and forth, with the Rabbitohs continually probing but unable to get through the Panthers’ defence, until five-eighth Lachlan Ilias sidestepped through to score under the posts after a group of sets on the Penrith line.
Penrith struck again just minutes from the break as fullback Dane Laurie swept on an offload to score. Rabbitoh Nick Mougios nearly got a try himself through an acrobatic effort but was deemed to be out of the field of play as the Red and Green went into the sheds down by one try.
But Penrith would extend their lead with bench player Glen McGrady going over for a quick-fire double after a highly contested opening ten minutes of the second stanza.
The points continued for the Panthers as winger Tom Farr scored in the corner from a drop-out, with the Rabbitohs seeming to be luckless throughout the match, unable to bring in any momentum.
The dour affair seemed to continue with the Panthers laying on another two tries in the dying stages of the match.
Despite the unrelenting effort from the new-look men in Red and Green, they eventually were bested by a Penrith outfit with plenty of experience, and will be looking to bounce back in their next match.
Penrith Panthers Jersey Flegg 28 (Glen McGrady 3, Spencer Leniu, Daine Laurie, Tom Farr, Hayden Bonnnano tries)
South Sydney Rabbitohs Jersey Flegg 4 (Lachlan Ilias tries)