With the scoreboard reading 14-nil at halftime and the South Sydney Rabbitoh's attack struggling to gel, most Souths fans had real cause for concern that the match could have ended in a blowout.
Yet from the 65-minute mark, the Storm couldn’t hold off a fast-finishing South Sydney as they conceded three back to back tries to flip the script of the match entirely. Then, with 60 seconds remaining, Latrell Mitchell gave his fans more reason to cheer with an enormous 48-metre field goal that sent the match into golden point.
Despite the result in the end, with the Storm denying Souths their first win of the season when Ryan Papenhuyzen drilled a field goal in golden point, Rabbitohs head coach was encouraged by the character of his team to stay in the fight.
NRL Press Conference: Storm v Rabbitohs - Round 2, 2022
“Pretty proud of them, that game could have gone anywhere, to go to golden point that was disappointing but proud of their effort, we grew in confidence,” South's head coach Jason Demetriou said.
“I fully believe in the team that’s in that changing room but we can’t back off, we’ve got to keep believing in ourselves and it’ll come, no doubt,” Demetriou added.
Ultimately patience in attack and a lack of power in defence was the difference for the Rabbitohs as they gave themselves little chance of matching Melbourne in the opening half with 11 errors, a 50 per cent completion rate and a 14 point deficit. But Captain Cameron Murray echoed his coach's comments in a thrilling second-half comeback.
“I was proud of the boys and how we defended our errors, we obviously had a few and didn’t make it easy on ourselves… we could have dropped our heads and lost the game there badly but we had that never give up attitude,” Murray said.
Mitchell may have missed three conversions in his lengthy hiatus from suspension but Demetriou was pleased to see his fullback return to the field and play a leading hand in some big moment, including a 48-metre 2-point field goal in the dying seconds to tie the match.
“It was a great strike, it was a big play we needed it… I thought he was pretty good considering the time he’s had out of the game, I thought he handled it pretty well and he’s only going to get better,” Demetriou said.
Jaxson Paulo started the match in the left centre position but finished on the right wing, finishing on the end of a play in the 74th-minute crossing for a crucial try. Captain Cam Murray backed the youngster as he finds his form in the centres.
“He knows that he has the support of everyone, we believe in him, at the end of the day it’s round two we’re not going to execute everything, it’s more about defending our errors until we get it right,” Murray said.
While new halves pairing Lachlan Ilias and Cody Walker showed glimpses of brilliance, Demetriou says the young halfback is showing promising signs of progression.
Match Highlights: Storm v Rabbitohs
“Even though the game was behind he could have easily drifted out of the game and I don’t think he did that, he started organising, he got better in the second half, he come up with some good plays, dug in the line really well, overall he kicked really well… it’s a work in progress, he’s here long term, he’ll be the future of the club no doubt about it,” Demetriou said.
Three second-half tries will no doubt send South Sydney home with confidence ahead of next week’s clash against the Roosters.