A brave effort from the South Sydney Rabbitohs wasn't enough to claim victory at Bluebet Stadium, falling 16-10 against the Penrith Panthers in an intense contest.
South Sydney's efforts throughout the match were gallant, with a late fightback with tries to Alex Johnston and Isaiah Tass bringing the side to a converted try in the final minute.
Ill discipline, however, cruelled the Rabbitohs throughout the contest, conceding 7 penalties and making 13 errors in what was a disappointing result for the highly-anticipated contest.
Latrell Mitchell marked his 50th appearance in the famous Red and Green with a hand in both tries, while front rower Thomas Burgess joined legendary second rower Bob McCarthy on 211 first-grade appearances for the Club.
A wayward bounce from a kick chase saved Souths from conceding first points, but the Panthers took their opportunity second time round with Stephen Crichton diving over in the corner in the 3rd minute.
A strong hit from Burgess and Michael Chee-Kam forced an error, however, the Rabbitohs' momentum was halted as a dubious strip by Nathan Cleary was overturned via a Captain's Challenge.
Following a fast and intense first quarter of the match, neither team looked at letting up, but another dubious call from a short line drop out handed Penrith possession on the line, and the weight of possession saw Luke Garner destined to touch down over the line.
That was until a herculean effort from Latrell Mitchell forced the ball free as the second rower got to ground, denying Penrith further points and resulting in one of the plays of the game.
Cleary's attempt at a 40/20 fell short with half-time looming, and following a fifth tackle penalty, the Rabbitohs opted to make a Captain's Challenge of their own, successfully preventing the Panthers from claiming a further two points.
A rampaging run from Mitchell saw the Red and Green in prime position to strike back, however, right on the stroke of half-time Penrith manufactured a miracle with Izack Tago bringing the scoreline to 10-nil.
Not deterred by their recent setback, the Rabbitohs hit the ground running in the second stanza, however, the weight of possession allowed the home side to extend their lead through a penalty goal.
Ill discipline and poor handling cruelled the Rabbitohs with a follow-up penalty giving Penrith more territory as Brian To'o crossed in the corner to give the Panthers a 16-point difference with half an hour remaining.
Continuing to battle through adversity, the men from Redfern needed a spark in the dying stages of the contest, and it was Mitchell and Walker providing on the left side to put Alex Johnston in for his first try of the season.
The duo were at the forefront of the Rabbitohs' next try, with a flurry of passes putting Isaiah Tass over after as the centre kicked ahead for himself to score, with a glimmer of hope still remaining.
Mitchell struck the conversion from the sideline to bring the difference to just six points in the final minute, however, the final bounce of the ball went against the Rabbitohs as Penrith claimed a 16-10 victory.
- Two appearance milestones were reached, with fullback Latrell Mitchell playing his 50th game in the Red and Green, while Thomas Burgess joined Bob McCarthy on 211 first-grade games for the Rabbitohs, where he now sits at equal 4th on the Club’s appearance tally.
- Daniel Suluka-Fifita and Jed Cartwright made their first appearance for the Rabbitohs in 2023, taking over the roles vacated by sidelined duo Junior Tatola and Jai Arrow. Penrith struck first in the 3rd minute, taking advantage of a wayward kick to score in the corner through Stephen Crichton for a 4-nil lead.
- The home side looked to be over soon after through Luke Garner, only for a herculean effort from Latrell Mitchell to deny him over the line.
- The Rabbitohs suffered a dagger blow on the stroke of half-time with Penrith awarded a try to Izack Tago, bringing the scoreline to 10-nil at the break.
- A penalty goal brought the Panthers' lead to 12 after a short line drop out failed to go 10 metres in the 47th minute.
- Brian To'o scored next for the hosts as they attacked off the back of another penalty.
- Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker sparked some life back into the side, combining to put - Alex Johnston in for his first try of the season in the 66th minute.
- Mitchell put Isaiah Tass through from a freakish flick pass with just over a minute remaining, before kicking the sideline conversion to bring the scoreline to six points.
- Ill discipline cruelled the Rabbitohs throughout the contest, making 13 errors and conceding 7 errors.
Play of the Game
With just minutes remaining and the Rabbitohs needing a miracle, it was Latrell Mitchell at his dazzling best to put his side within a converted try of their highly-fancied opponents.
Combining on the left side just minutes earlier to see Alex Johnston touch down, Mitchell bamboozled the opposition with a step, before flicking a well-timed pass back to Isaiah Tass.
The fledgling centre cut through and kicked ahead to score the all-important try, before Mitchell booted the sideline conversion to give his side a glimmer of hope at the death.
Things are set to heat up next Friday night as the Rabbitohs narrow their focus against arch-rivals the Sydney Roosters as they return to Allianz Stadium, in a bid for back-to-back wins against the Tricolours following the dramatic victory in the first week of the 2022 finals series.