An understrength South Sydney almost snatched a late victory against the St George Illawarra Dragons, before going down 36-30 at Kogarah in a thriller.

Trailing by 22 points with less than five minutes to play, three late tries got them back to within a converted try inside the final minute, before falling just short.

In front of a packed hill in the winter sun, both sides came up with early errors, before the Rabbitohs earned the second penalty of the game.

They used it to full effect, marching down field in the ninth minute, with a nice combo between Damien Cook and Lachlan Ilias creating the overlap, before dishing it off to Campbell Graham, with a simple catch and pass putting Richie Kennar over the line.

Kennar opens the scoring

Both teams had chances soon after, with a darting Cook creating space down the sideline before putting too much on his kick infield, and the Rabbitohs left-side defence defusing the Dragons’ first real chance of the afternoon. Some brilliance from the home side saw them post first points through Ben Hunt, with the conversion giving the Dragons a 6-4 lead after 18 minutes.

A piggyback penalty from the kick-off gave St George Illawarra good field position to start their next set, with Mikaele Ravalawa giving them back-to-back tries.

The next passages of play were completely dominated in the possession stakes by the Dragons, who were camped deep in Rabbitohs territory, before some Cook desperation saw him dive on a loose ball to relieve pressure with 10 minutes to play in the half.

Cook making an early statement

A poor kick saw the Dragons march down the field again, earning a penalty from in front that saw them push ahead 12-4.

Despite having no ball, the Rabbitohs scored a crucial try in the shadows of half-time, with a Dean Hawkins bomb batted back by Isaiah Tass and straight into the hands of Keaon Koloamatangi who strolled his way over to cut the deficit back to four.

Koloamatangi finds the line

The 12-8 scoreline would remain at the break, with South Sydney enjoying just 39% of possession and having to make 40 more tackles.

The second half started like the first, with both teams looking dangerous early on, with the Dragons taking advantage of a dropped bomb from Blake Taaffe, as Jacob Liddle scored to extend the margin to 10

Taaffe turns defence into attack

South Sydney quickly hit back on the brilliance from Cook, who ran from dummy half and made big metres. From the very next play the ball was spread to the left, going through multiple sets of hands and ending with Tass crossing the line.

Cook makes a big bust
Tass finishes off some sublime Souths attack

A miscommunication between Rabbitohs defenders on the line proved costly inside the final 20 minutes, as Jaydn Su'a was able to hit a gap from close range to again help his side lead by 10.

It was the goal-line defence that was lacking once again in what proved the fatal blow, as Hunt gave the ball to a rampaging Michael Molo just metres out to crash his way under the posts and take the score to 30-14 with just over 10 minutes to play.

The icing on the cake for the home side came eight minutes from time with a clean break finished off by Jaiyden Hunt.

With time winding down, a late offload from Siliva Havili saw a shift out to Jacob Host, who added some respectability to the score.

Host claws one back for Souths

Spreading the ball three plays after the kick-off, Campbell Graham broke through the line to put Ilias over untouched and cut the deficit back to 10 with two minutes to play.

It was Graham again who was in the thick of things, getting on the back of some strong play to score and give the Rabbitohs an unlikely chance at victory with a minute remaining.

Souths comeback is on
Graham brings the Rabbitohs within a try

Match Snapshot

Rabbitohs comeback continues

Play of the Game

Damien Cook scoots from dummy half in his own half and makes a huge break, racing down the field before being tackled just metres out from the line. The very next play the ball goes through the hands and ends with an Isaiah Tass try getting Souths back to within four points of the Dragons.

Cook makes a big bust

What's Next?

The Rabbitohs enjoy their first bye of the season with State of Origin game two set to take place on Wednesday week, with several South Sydney players in the frame for selection. Their next game takes place in round 17 against the North Queensland Cowboys on June 25.

Subscribe to Receive The Latest News, Offers & Member Exclusives.