The South Sydney Rabbitohs have opened their 2019 Canterbury Cup NSW campaign with a gutsy 18-14 win over the North Sydney Bears at Metricon High Performance Centre on Sunday.
HIGHLIGHTS | South Sydney v North Sydney - Round 1
It was a fittingly hard-fought contest as both foundation clubs went toe-to-toe in their first match of the season, with the heavy downpour of rain ensuring a brutally-absorbing affair.
But while the Bears proved defiant in defence for a majority of the second-half, a Connor Tracey try in the 70th minute salvaged a gritty victory for Shane Millard’s men.
Captain Billy Brittain starred for South Sydney with an early try in the 20th minute before laying on the decisive four-pointer for Tracey late in the match.
Brittain credited the Rabbitohs fans for turning up in dismal Sydney conditions before praising the strong defensive effort of his side after they held the Bears scoreless in the second-half.
“100% (happy with the defensive effort). The conditions didn’t really favour any side but we’re pretty happy to start the year off with a win,” Brittain told NSWRL.com.au.
“We were pretty confident coming out [in the second-half] and knew if we didn’t give away cheap ball we could hold them to zero points.
“It’s also been a while since Souths have had a Canterbury Cup (NSW) side so we wanted to give back to the fans, particularly the ones who came out today.”
While Tracey’s effort late in the contest was the only try of the second-half, neither side were afraid of playing an attacking brand of footy as the Bears held onto 14-12 lead at half-time.
The Rabbitohs were first to score after Kyle Turner crashed his way over from close-range in the seventh minute, with Mawene Hiroti converting to take a 6-0 lead.
But the Bears hit-back when Lam made a swirling run through the middle to give his side valuable field position before placing a deft grubber in-goal for a Sitili Tupouniua try just a few tackles later.
Although an error on the ensuing set of six gifted the Rabbitohs a golden chance to snatch back the lead, a 90m intercept from Apu Kepoa gave the Bears a 10-6 advantage.
South Sydney dominated field position in the period following and eventually got their reward when Billy Brittain raced out of dummy-half for their second try in the 20th minute.
A crunching tackle from Max Bailey proved a momentum-changer with a short-side raid shortly after helped Bernard Lewis dive over with an athletic finish in the left-hand corner.
The Bears were able to build pressure early in the second-half on the back of two forced line drop-outs from Brock Lamb but were unable to take advantage as the Rabbitohs’ defence held strong.
Bailey Sironen came close to scoring when he poked his way through 10m out from the line in the 55th minute, only for his late offload landing in the arms of Bears centre Matt Ikuvalu.
North Sydney were formidable with their goal-line defence as the Rabbitohs continued to threaten with countless attacking raids, but they eventually cracked in the 70th minute when Tracey stormed onto a Brittain short-ball for the match-winning try.
Words courtesy of Andre Cupid - NSWRL