The South Sydney Rabbitohs have been unable to overcome arch-rivals the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium in Round 3 in a two-point contest.
In an entertaining match that saw the ball continually go from end-to-end, the Rabbitohs shot out to a 10-point lead but were unable to capitalise on their early momentum with errors cruelling them throughout.
Launching an audacious comeback in the final ten minutes, the Rabbitohs scored a try through Izaac Tu'itupou Thompson before an attempted two-point field goal by Latrell Mitchell fell agonisingly short.
Front rower Thomas Burgess created history with his 212th match in the famous Red and Green, leapfrogging legendary second rower Bob McCarthy into fourth place on the Club's-all time appearance record.
The Rabbitohs were dealt a cruel blow in the first minute of the match as the returning Hame Sele was taken from the field for a Head Injury Assessment, but were far from deterred as they gained early momentum through a Cody Walker drop out.
It wasn't long before halves partner Lachlan Ilias announced himself into the match, showing some silky skills to send Keaon Kolamatangi over for the first try just seven minutes in.
The defensive resolve shone as Isaiah Tass and Walker combined to force the ball from Joseph Manu over the line, and on the other end of the field Latrell Mitchell sent Alex Johnston through just moments later with a beautifully timed cut-out pass for a 10-nil lead.
Campbell Graham rocked fellow Egan Butcher to force the ball free, while the Rabbitohs came close to scoring once more after Cameron Murray burst through the backfield before a dropped ball invited their opponents back into the contest.
Another kick from Walker troubled the Roosters again as Johnston went inches from touching once more, while a failed Captain's Challenge saw the Roosters back with possession after a short drop out resulted in an error from Souths.
The Roosters struck back in quick succession following the decision, first scoring in the 33rd minute through Brandon Smith, before a chip over the top sent Daniel Tupou over to level the scores at the back end of the first half.
But Rabbitohs didn't go down die wondering, however, with a clever one-on-one strip from Cameron Murray regaining possession from the kick-off before Mitchell calmly slotted a penalty goal on the stroke of half-time for a 12-10 lead.
Souths shot out of the blocks once again on the right, with a clever flick pass from Koloamatangi sending Campbell Graham through, but the Rabbitohs were unable to capitalise on their early advantage.
Mitchell tiptoed the line to prevent a 40/20 kick, but it was the case of another error and another try for the Roosters, with Jaxson Paulo reaching out to score as the Rabbitohs trailed by four after 48 minutes.
Ill-discipline continued to cruel the side but after holding up James Tedesco over the line on last tackle, the Cardinal and Myrtle got back to work through the middle third, with Jed Cartwright entering the fray with a huge hit on Smith.
Both combatants traded errors as fatigue crept in, with neither quite able to gain momentum in the final quarter of the contest as tension flared when Fletcher Baker's shoulder made contact with Campbell Graham's head.
Another chance went begging as Mitchell sent Johnston through again, and with metres between Tass and the line, a stray arm forced the ball free in another blow to the Red and Green.
Easts struck through Paulo once again for an 8-point lead, but Souths continued to trouble their opponents out wide, with tempers flaring in the final few minutes as both Joseph Manu and Michael Chee-Kam were sent to the sin bin.
Taking a chance to bring the difference to a converted try, a penalty goal from Mitchell swung wide, and a daring play on the sideline saw Izaac Tu'itupou Thompson fly over to score in the corner and give his side a glimmer of hope.
A calmly-slotted sideline conversion offered the Rabbitohs a chance to kick a two-point field goal to tie the scores in the final set of play, only for the fullback's attempt to fall agonisingly short, with the final scoreboard reading 20-18.
Thomas Burgess became the fourth-most capped Rabbitoh of all time, now sitting behind Nathan Merritt (218), Adam Reynolds (231), and John Sutton (336).
The NRL celebrated Multicultural Round, with the Rabbitohs featuring 9 players in the starting 17 who played for their heritage in the recent Rugby League World Cup.
With 14 errors, the Rabbitohs struggled to gain momentum after their second try, failing to capitalise on a number of opportunities.
Forward Hame Sele was taken from the field in the first minute with a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) in an early blow to the Rabbitohs' forward rotation.
The Rabbitohs survived an early onslaught on their own line before Lachlan Ilias put Keaon Koloamatangi over for the first try in the 7th minute.
Isaiah Tass and Cody Walker combined to force an error from Joseph Manu over the try line soon after before Latrell Mitchell put Alex Johnston over in the 12th minute.
Despite threatening the line on multiple occasions, the Rabbitohs were unable to convert their next few chances, with Brandon Smith scoring in the 33rd minute to bridge the gap to a converted try.
The Roosters struck again through Daniel Tupou just minutes later to level the scores, but the Rabbitohs took the lead into the break through a Latrell Mitchell penalty goal.
Souths shot out of the blocks in the second half through a long-range break from Campbell Graham, but it was the Roosters who took the lead through Jaxson Paulo in the 45th minute.
The Rabbitohs came oh-so-close once again before Manu slapped the ball out of Isaiah Tass' hands metres from the line.
Back-to-back penalties handed the Roosters a chance to extend their lead, with Paulo touching down in the 66th minute.
Following a high tackle on Tass, Manu was sin-binned for a head-high shot, with Michael Chee-Kam joining him following a scuffle between the sides.
An ensuing penalty goal to Mitchell swung wide, but the Rabbitohs still had a glimmer of hope with Izaac Tu'itupou Thompson flying over to score in the corner.
Attempting a 2-point field goal in the final seconds to level the scores, Mitchell's attempt fell agonisingly short to bring the final scoreline to 20-18.
Play of the Game
There's a reason why they call it Trellianz Stadium.
After scoring on the right side through Keaon Koloamatangi, the Rabbitohs swung it left and into the hands of fullback Latrell Mitchell who had ball in hand and in command.
With three defenders to beat, Mitchell shot the Steeden across to a flying Alex Johnston, who beat his opposite Jaxson Paulo to dot down in the corner, giving the Rabbitohs a handy 10-all lead after just 12 minutes.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs return to Accor Stadium for the first time in 2023 when they face off against cross-town rivals the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in what is set to be a Saturday night blockbuster.