The Rabbitohs Jersey Flegg side kicked their season off in an absolute thriller, drawing with the St. George Illawarra Dragons 28-all at the Metricon High Performance Centre at Redfern Oval in their first match of the season.
And they started the match in great fashion, with halfback Blake Taaffe picking up a loose ball from the Dragons to streak 70 metres downfield just getting caught just before the line.
But it was second rower Maila Aluni-Chanfoon who took the first points, barging over the line to put his side in front after just five minutes. Taaffe added the extras with a great strike just inside the sideline to make it 6-nil.
A strong returning set with plenty of expansive play and offloading was nullified as a penalty allowed the Dragons to return serve, with second rower Luke Gale pouncing on a deft grubber kick minutes later. Gale converted his own try to level the scores after ten minutes.
A kicking duel then ensued, with the Dragons pinning the Red and Green back with hooker Jayden Griffin nearly executing a 40/20, only for the Dragons to lose the ball on the next set, with a number of errors and penalties from each side giving the other another chance to strike.
But it was the Dragons who would get on the board next, with a long-range break down the sideline setting up centre Shaun Sauni-Esau to score on the next set, despite the Rabbitohs’ best attempts to halt the raid.
A forced error on the next set saw the Cardinal and Myrtle back on the attack, and after a penalty for accidental offside, it was five-eighth Marc Zaurrini who sliced through the defence to score. Taaffe added the extras to give the side the lead with just less than ten to go.
The back end of the half was all Red and Green, with Taaffee again taking control, making a break through the middle and giving the side ascendency. And it all paid off just on halftime, as bench player Volkan Er crashed over after a number of wayward passes lent him the ball to score, much to the delight of the Redfern faithful.
The momentum continued into the second half which began with a huge hit from Rabbitohs second rower Matt French, who launched himself to dislodge the ball. Soon after it was centre Tallis Angianga forcing an error, which was swooped on by Zaurrini, who again split the defence to bag his double.
The Red and Green continued to question the defence, throwing offloads and passes at will, but the enthusiasm got the better of the young side as a forced offload gave the Dragons an opportunity to strike back, with the ball going to the left and seeing Sauni-Esau get his second of the day.
Fatigue began to settle in for the home side as an enthusiastic chip and chase was diffused, leading to another break by the Dragons and another try to Sauni-Esau to complete his hat-trick, with the conversion levelling the scores.
Luck wasn’t on the Rabbitohs side as an error from a kick gave their opponents another opportunity, and although an intercept by Kane Allan nearly saw the speedster streak away, and an offside penalty gave the Dragons the perfect chance to strike again.
Ill-discipline continued to cruel the Rabbitohs, but an error from the Dragons showed the determination from the side was still alive, with further composure lending them a chance to hit back.
And it was yet another forced error which gave the Rabbitohs a whiff of scoring, with prop Aiden Manowski barging over to level the scores with less than five to go.
A thrilling final few minutes, with nerves from both sides leading to errors. With seconds to go, the Rabbitohs opted for a grubber to trap the Dragons behind the in-goal, but with the drop-out going sixty metres, the match finished level to end an entertaining contest.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 28 (Marc Zaurrini 2, Maila Aluni-Chanfoon, Volkan Er, Aiden Manowski tries; Blake Taaffe 3, James Tautaiolefua goals)
St. George Illawarra Dragons 28 (Shaun Sauni-Esau 3, Luke Gale, Eddie Blacker tries; Luke Gale 4 goals)