A South Sydney side depleted by first-grade call ups has been defeated by the Wests Magpies on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the Metricon High Performance Centre at Redfern Oval in the first leg of the Kelly-Sattler Cup.
It was an error-riddled performance from Souths, with ill-discipline featuring prominently, with the side ultimately unable to take advantage of their many opportunities, going down 30 points to 18.
The Rabbitohs drew first blood in the 5th minute, however, with Dean Hawkins sending back-rower Jack Johns through a yawning gap with a beautiful short ball. Johns still had plenty of work to do off the back the Hawkins pass, and beat Wests fullback Watson Heleta with a beautiful right foot step to score under the posts.
The Magpies would hit back quickly in the 11th minute through right winger Harrison O’Toole who crashed over in the corner, followed by another try eight minutes later to halfback Kauri Aupouri-Puketapu for a 12-6 lead.
Luke Garner would then add to the Rabbitohs’ woes, barging over on the left edge after some enterprising play by Aupouri-Puketapu and hooker Braden Robson in the middle left the Souths’ defence stretched on the edge.
However, the Rabbitohs would manage to hit back just four minutes from half-time through five-eighth Bayley Sironen. His halves partner Dean Hawkins converted, leaving the halftime scores at 18-12.
The Magpies began the second half with a bang, scoring in the 42nd minute through Mahe Fonua who crashed over. A Bilal Maarbani break on the left put the South Sydney defence on the back foot, with Fonua scoring on the right just two plays later, pushing his case for a return to first grade and pushing the lead out to 22-12.
Things went from bad to worse for the Rabbitohs with the ensuing kick-off going out on the full. However, they were able to keep the Magpies out with some gutsy goal-line defence, pushing O’Toole into touch on the last tackle.
A Wests fumble on halfway gifted the Rabbitohs a chance to attack as they set up camp on the Magpies’ line for three sets. They took full advantage of the opportunity, spreading the ball through the hands all the way to the right wing for Leigh Higgins to score in the corner. Dean Hawkins converted, getting his side within four points of the Magpies.
Wests extended their lead to ten points in the 61st minute through a typical front-rower’s try to Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu, who carried three defenders with him over the line as he grounded the ball under the posts.
A string of errors and penalties from Souths saw Wests dominate possession for the remainder of the game. A penalty for accidental offside in front of the posts gave Wests a 12-point lead in the 70th minute, and that’s how the scores would remain, with Souths left to lick their wounds as the Magpies swooped on a big victory.
Wests Magpies 30 (Harrison O’Toole, Kauri Aupouri-Puketapu, Mahe Fonua, Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu tries; Kauri Aupouri-Puketapu 5 goals)
South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 (Jack Johns, Bayley Sironen, Leigh Higgins tries; Dean Hawkins 3 goals)