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Merritt Scores Five Tries vs Must-win run of form in 1955

It was a five-star performance by Nathan Merritt who was thrown in at Fullback in the warm up, only to cross for a Club record - Five Tries! That moment matches up against a brilliant, must-win run of form led by the great, Premiership-winning Captain-Coach Jack Rayner! Which Moment will move on? Only you can decide!

Nathan Merritt 5 Tries in a Game Round 22, 2011 vs Eels

Top Moments - Merritt Magic sees him Score Five

Round 22, 2011, ANZ Stadium. Wearing the number two jersey, a last minute re-shuffle of the backline saw Nathan Merritt placed at Fullback.

Parramatta couldn’t contain the speedy Redfern local who dotted over for five tries; equalling the Club record for most tries in a game and sealing a dominant 56-6 victory for South Sydney.

He crossed in the 18th, 22nd, 31st, 69th and 79th minute.

Merritt had always been a player who knew his way to the try line. One to never give up on the play and always pushing up in support, he had a knack for finding himself in the right place at the right time!

Along with his natural football sense; Merritt’s evasiveness, speed and deception to beat a player was the perfect attacking combination.

That season he was the top tryscorer after crossing 21 times. This went a long way in him setting the record three years later for the most tries for the Club; overtaking the great, Benny Wearing.

'Must-Win' Run of Form in 1955

Top Moments - Must-Win Run of Form - 1955

What Souths achieved in 1955 is among the most famous stories in Australian sporting history. After Round 10 of the 1955 premiership Souths were coming last on the ladder and they had to win every game, 11 in-a-row, to win the premiership. It has been called ‘The Miracle of 1955’ – an epic, backs-to-the-wall fight that displayed incredible courage by Clive Churchill when he broke his left wrist in his first tackle against Manly in Round 17 and then played under intense pain for remaining 75 minutes.

His broken wrist was strapped at half-time and a thick sheet of cardboard used as a splint. Les ‘Chicka’ Cowie scored a great try in the last play of the game to tie the scores and give Souths a chance to win the game with the conversion. Churchill was given the honour to convert the try which was scored 3 inches from the sideline. Churchill steadied himself for the kick, adjusted the splint on his broken wrist and approached the ball faultlessly. The ball appeared to be directed outside the eastern goal post but in the last few yards veered inside the post to give Souths a sensational 9-7 win at Redfern Oval.

Their incredible homeward run started in Round 11 against Norths at Redfern Oval, after scores were level 10-all at half-time, and in the second half Souths forwards gained control, led by captain-coach Jack Rayner to win easily 27-12. Their next five matches were also won easily, defeating Balmain 18-10, Canterbury 43-9, Parramatta 37-15, Easts 22-11, and Wests 28-17. The Manly match in Round 17 was close as mentioned above, but in the last round they comfortably defeated St. George 27-17 to finish fourth on the ladder and sneak into the semi-finals, with 22 points.

They had another 2-point win over Manly in the semi-final, then were down 14-9, and 14-11, in the preliminary final against St. George in the dying minutes. A great try by Ian Moir and two pressure goals by Bernie Purcell gave them an 18-14 victory and a shot in the grand final.

Souths snatched the premiership from Newtown in the last six minutes of the grand final, which was played at Sydney Cricket Ground in front of the season’s biggest crowd of 42,466. A converted try in a traditional Rabbitohs do-or-die fashion gave it a 12-11 win to complete the last page of their fairytale. It was one of the best-fought grand finals and one of the most gripping and gruelling games in years. Newtown led 8-4 after a tryless first half.

Souths then scored a brilliant try through left-winger Ian Moir in the 44th minute to bring them closer at 8-7. Newtown responded well with a try of their own to Kevin Considine scoring in the 61st minute as Newtown regained their four point advantage. Only grim, often savage tackling by Newtown kept Souths from scoring. But with six minutes left to play the never-say-die Souths scrambled a try through Col Donohoe, after Jack Rayner had kicked the ball through. The try was scored next to the posts and Bernie Purcell coolly kicked the conversion for 12-11, as wild enthusiasm broke out among Souths’ many supporters at the ground.

Newtown came at them in great determination and with three minutes left Souths’ prop forward Norm Nilson was penalised 45 yards downfield and wide out on the left wing. It was a last chance for Newtown to regain the lead, with fullback Gordon Clifford taking the kick. A wonderful attempt with the wind against him the ball sailed straight, but then it dipped and fell short just in front of the posts. The crowd was in a ferment of excitement as Newtown still battled on, but Souths retained the ball until the full-time bell and won their third successive premiership (16th overall).

Souths’ evergreen captain-coach, Jack Rayner, who at 34 years of age was judged man of the match. He smiled wryly in the dressing-room and said: “Our last 11 games have all been grand finals. A couple of times today I thought we were gone.”

They were the first club to win the premiership from fourth place and The Daily Telegraph journalist George Crawford called the grand final of 1955 “the most memorable occasion of the many years in which I wrote about rugby league football”.

Acknowledgement of Country

South Sydney Rabbitohs respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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