South Sydney extracted revenge for a one-point loss 13 weeks ago at Lottoland to return the favour and beat Manly on Rabbitohs home turf 21-20 at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
The winning point came five minutes from full-time through an Adam Reynolds field goal, whereas Daly Cherry-Evans had snaffled his field goal in extra-time in round four.
The difference on point construction didn’t matter. It did mean Cherry-Evans ended up on the losing team at ANZ Stadium for the second time in three days after Queensland’s defeat in Origin III.
Coach Wayne Bennett said his players just needed to stop beating themselves to taste success again, which is exactly what they did over the Sea Eagles.
The Rabbitohs completed at 89 percent, won the penalty count 8-2 and made just six errors all game.
Match: Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
Round 17 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Both teams had very different missions before kick-off. Manly was after a fourth win in a row, which would get them into the top four, while South Sydney was trying to end a string of losses at four.
Of course the Rabbitohs' run at the start of 2019 (10 wins from 11 games) was halted by the Sea Eagles in that golden point win 13-12.
Manly centre Moses Suli got his name into the headlines in round 17 with two knock-backs eventually leading to tries but controversy surrounded both. Well, the South Sydney fans at least were convinced the ball went forward on both occasions by the volume of their howls in protest. The officials thought otherwise.
Rabbitohs fullback Adam Doueihi was denied his first try of the year, when the bunker confirmed an obstruction on Manly’s Brendan Elliott in the 15th minute.
Reynolds floats a pass to Gagai
The angst for Souths fans continued when Cade Cust scored in the north-eastern corner 50 seconds later, after it appeared Suli had knocked on in the lead-up. Referee Grant Atkins didn’t consult the bunker this time and pointed to the spot for a try.
Doueihi’s afternoon didn’t seem to be getting any better when Sea Eagles winger Jorge Taufua hit him with a bell-ringer of a tackle not long after.
The visitors were ahead 6-2 but not for long. Another stand-in player – this time for Sam Burgess (shoulder) – came in the form of back-rower Dean Britt, who scored his first NRL try followed by an Adam Reynolds conversion.
That made it 8-6 in the Rabbitohs favour and the score had changed three times in 25 minutes.
The Rabbitohs then got their skates on for the final minutes of the first half scoring two more tries – to Dane Gagai (36th) in the right corner and Campbell Brown (39th) in the left. Suddenly the scoreboard read 18-6 and Manly walked to the sheds with their heads down.
The first half did bring at least one bright spot for Manly. Forward Curtis Sironen got to play against younger brother Bayley, when he came on in the 30th minute for just his second NRL game for Souths – his fourth overall after two with the Wests Tigers.
Suli cleans up a loose pass from Cook and sprints away
It was the older brother that got things moving for Manly after the break, with a sublime Daly Cherry-Evans pass for Curtis Sironen to bust over out wide. Then Suli knocked the ball backwards for a second time – on this occasion trying to gather up a wayward Damien Cook pass – and raced 75 metres to score.
Now a 12-point half-time lead was reduced to just four, 18-14, and there was still 30 minutes left on the clock.
A Reynolds penalty gave a little more buffer but Manly thought they had caught up when Cust crossed five metres to the left of the uprights in the 60th minute. Referee Grant Atkins labelled it a ‘try’ but the bunker over-ruled when replays showed the ball dislodged by Dane Gagai starting to slip down Cust’s forearm. The score remained 20-14.
Manly’s cause wasn’t helped losing hooker Manase Fainu with severe cramp with 13 minutes to go. Cust followed him seven minutes later after a head knock.
But out of crisis came cheers from the small group of Manly fans when Joel Thompson crossed nine minutes from time off a Sironen bust. Garrick converted and it was all locked up 20-20.
Reynolds ended it with his 75th minute field goal.