The South Sydney Rabbitohs have celebrated Junior Appreciation Round with a 20-nil victory over the Wests Tigers at Accor Stadium to rocket up to the top of the NRL Premiership ladder.
The Rabbitohs were forced to work for their sixth consecutive victory in what was a low-scoring yet high-quality match that saw both sides complete over 85% in the first half alone, as they held off the Wests Tigers to nil for the first time.
Following a back-and-forth contest through the middle of the field, the Rabbitohs looked to unorthodox play to trouble the scoreboard as both sides completed at 100% in the first quarter of the match.
Latrell Mitchell's boot earned his side a repeat set, however after Cameron Murray was denied just centimetres from the line, their first venture to the try line failed to yield points.
It was a big hit that forced the first error of the match, handing the visitors possession on halfway, but once again the defensive fortitude of the Rabbitohs held strong with Taane Milne calmly collecting a threatening wayward kick.
Minutes later, the winger was on the other end of the field to plant the ball over the line, scoring the opening try of the match thanks to a slick right-side movement - with Latrell Mitchell converting for a 6-nil lead.
Just as the Tigers looked return serve, it was Mitchell's fingertip touch saving his side as he cleaned up another scrappy kick, before a strong tackle put the Red and Green in position to strike again.
Unfortunately, Michael Chee-Kam was denied over the line, while a penalty on halfway with minutes remaining put the Red and Green under pressure as a last-gasp copybook tackle from Cameron Murray halted John Bateman.
Two line dropouts saw the Rabbitohs defending their line to end the first stanza, doing enough to hold off the Tigers and keep their slender 6-nil lead intact as the sides headed into the sheds.
Both sides returned to the field with plenty of conviction as South Sydney looked to trouble their opponents out wide with Cody Walker at the forefront, however, it was a penalty goal that was the next scoring play after Murray was hit high.
The bounce of the ball went the way of the Tigers from the kick-off, but Mitchell's smarts were on show as he duped Bateman into making an error, with the Tigers wasting a Captain's Challenge in the process.
Alex Johnston and Campbell Graham found themselves in the clear thanks to some superb ball-playing, and while their off-the-cuff kicks threatened the defence, the Rabbitohs continued to search for their second try as the match entered its final quarter.
- The victory marked the Rabbitohs' eighth of the 2023 season and sixth in succession, rocketing them to the top of the table heading into Round 12.
- Thomas Burgess was a late omission for the Rabbitohs after being ruled out in the warm-up, with Blake Taaffe replacing him on the interchange bench.
- The Rabbitohs kept the Wests Tigers to nil for the first time in 23 years of contests.
- Both sides completed at 100% in the opening quarter of the match, with the first error coming in the 21st minute.
- Taane Milne scored the first try of the match in the 24th minute, just moments after the winger diffused a dangerous kick as the Tigers looked to trouble the scoreline.
- The Rabbitohs were forced to defend their line for the final three minutes of the first half, holding off their opponents as they headed to the sheds with a slender 6-nil lead.
- Mitchell extended the lead to eight points ten minutes into the second half following a head-high tackle on Cameron Murray.
- Following a frantic second half that saw a plethora of desperate defensive efforts, Milne scored his second try in the 72nd minute with Campbell Graham and Latrell Mitchell combining in the lead-up.
- Mitchell got on the board just two minutes later to ice the victory as he stretched out to plant the ball over the line.
- Both Jed Cartwright and Jai Arrow were forced from the field for Head Injury Assessments midway through the second half, with Arrow returning to the field.
Play of the Game
With a slender 8-nil lead heading to the final ten minutes of the match, it was two of the Rabbitohs' best combining for the match-winning try.
In a match where every moment mattered, the Red and Green found themselves close to the line but unable to breach the Tigers' defence - that was until a strong charge from Campbell Graham saw the centre freeing his hands for an offload.
Mitchell found the Steeden in his grasp before looping over to Taane Milne, who crossed for his second of the afternoon to tie up the victory and put the Rabbitohs in first place on the Premiership table.
The Rabbitohs return home to Allianz Stadium for a blockbuster against the Parramatta Eels in the NRL's Indigenous Round, with a number of celebrations set to light up next Friday night!