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Key Takeaways - Melbourne Storm

Never give up attitude 

When captain Cameron Murray was asked about his side’s fanatical fightback post-match, he praised his teammates for their gritty second-half comeback. There’s no denying the Rabbitohs got off to a shaky start in Melbourne, far from the attacking prowess Rabbitohs fans have grown accustomed to in recent seasons, with the side again struggling to get through their sets with just 27 of 44 completions.

Penalties and last play executions weren’t going to plan as the pressure piled on Demetriou’s men in the opening stanza. Despite the scoreline coach Jason Demetriou was looking at the positives, praising his side for conceding no more than 14 points despite an early barrage from the Storm.

“That game could have gone anywhere, but I felt the players at halftime were keen to get back out there and right a few wrongs and I think we did that.”

Two sin bins for the Melbourne Storm in the final 30 minutes set up a second-half to remember for the Rabbitohs. Fans jumped out of their seats in an 11-minute masterclass which saw three quick tries to Alex Johnston, Jaxson Paulo and Campbell Graham. With just two points was the difference, Latrell Mitchell booted a monster field goal to level scores in the final minute and set up one of the game’s most thrilling finishes in recent times.

NRL Press Conference: Storm v Rabbitohs - Round 2, 2022

Ryan Papenhuyzen would make sure the home side were victorious, slotting a field goal in golden point to ice Craig Bellamy’s 500th milestone match. A bitter pill to swallow for South Sydney but a promising test of grit and determination against their fellow competition heavyweights. 

Individual Brilliance

With the game all but hanging in the balance, Rabbitohs fans were searching for their star players to make some magic and in his first game back after seven months, who else would seize the moment but fullback Latrell Mitchell. After missing an uncharacteristic trio of conversions Mitchell appeared as though he might be on the back foot putting boot to ball, but he stood tall when it mattered most, first recording a try assist and then forcing the contest into extra time with an unforgettable 48-metre 2 point field goal. The 24-year-old is showing early snippets of why he’ll remain an integral part of the Rabbitoh's attack in the 2022 season. 

Alex Johnston also played a huge role in the Rabbitoh's second-half resurgence. With 11 minutes to go the experienced winger helped initiate Souths’ comeback when he crossed for his 138th career try. Hailed as one of the best finishers in the game, Johnston is on track to break South Sydney’s all-time try-scoring record. It's currently held by Club legend Nathan Merritt who has 146 tries to his name, a number that doesn't seem too far out of reach for Johnston who currently holds the record for most tries in one season at South Sydney, after crossing the try line 30 times in the 2021 season. He needs just eight more to break the all-time record. The 27-year-old finished the night with five tackle breaks on top of two line breaks. He ran for 134 metres off 12 runs.

Campbell Graham was another who made his presence felt in attack, topping the stats sheet with 176 metres from 19 runs, 31 more than Storm star hooker Harry Grant. With 72 post-contact metres, the Rabbitohs centre never took his foot off the throttle.

Storm fans were silenced when Mitchell sent the ball out to Graham who capitalised to keep the Rabbitoh's hopes alive with three minutes on the clock. He proved a handful for the Storm defence for much of the night, breaking nine tackles.

Dane Gagai’s absence was always going to be felt on a left hand attack that has been deadly in recent seasons. After playing his last 25 NRL games on the wing, Jaxson Paulo was named to start his 2022 season at the left centre, but facing a swarming Melbourne defense and trailing by 14 points midway through the second half, Demetriou decided to change things up.

Taane Milne and Paulo switched positions, and both players capitalised on their opportunities to close out the match. “It was always an option for us to put Taane there and put Jaxson back on the right-wing,” Demetriou said. Milne set up the opener for Alex Johnston before Paulo claimed the second. Milne ran for 129 metres off 14 runs while Paulo made 145 metres off 18 runs, had 65 post-contact metres, a line break and four tackle-breaks.

Davvy Moale showed plenty of promise off the bench. At just 18 years old the prop stands 186 centimetres tall and tips the scales at 112 kilograms. His hulking frame provided immediate impact on the field, and in just his third NRL game Moale ran for 59 metres off five runs, recorded a line break and racked up 20 post-contact metres in his 12-minute stint against a testing Melbourne Storm outfit. 

Coach Demetriou is confident those individual performances will in time turn into a collective effort as his new-look side builds into the 2022 season. “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 concluded.

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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