The South Sydney Rabbitohs have won through to their first NSW Cup Grand Final in 40 years with a tough 30 points to 24 victory over the North Sydney Bears today (Saturday) at Leichhardt Oval.
The Rabbitohs finished in second place on the NSW Cup ladder but they defeated the minor premiership-winning North Sydney outfit to claim a place in the Grand Final for the first time since 1983.
Both sides scored five tries a-piece, but it was the goal kicking of halfback Dean Hawkins that proved the difference on the scoreboard, coupled by a gutsy performance on the field which was set up in the first 40 minutes.
The Bears were the first to score when winger Allan Fitzgibbon scored in the fifth minute of play.
Five minutes later, Rabbitohs five-eighth Dion Teaupa responded with a try of his own, giving the Rabbitohs a 6-4 lead following Hawkins’ successful conversion.
Centre Izaac Tu’itupou Thompson scored in the 16th minute following a great pass from Teaupa, taking the lead out to 12-4.
Winger Tyrone Munro scored a first half double in the 22nd and 35th minutes respectively, with Hawkins converting both tries to give the Rabbitohs a commanding 24-4 lead at the half time break.
The Bears snatched back the momentum in the second half and they converted their opportunities through tries in the 47th, 52nd and 63rd minutes to Fitzgibbon, Reuben Porter and Fitzgibbon again respectively.
South Sydney shot out to a 12-point lead with 12 minutes left on the clock when renowned try-scoring winger Tom Carr scored an acrobatic try in the north-west corner, Hawkins converting from touch to take the scoreboard out to 30-18 in favour of the good guys.
The Bears applied some pressure late through a try to Regan Hughes in the 73rd minute, Ben Stevanovic kicking only his second conversion for the evening after this try.
The Rabbitohs and Bears both had opportunities to put their opponents on the back foot in the final five minutes, but the Rabbitohs finished the stronger of the two teams to claim the major semi-final win and a berth in the NSW Cup Grand Final.
Rabbitohs NSW Cup Coach, Joe O’Callaghan, said: “If you told me after round ten, when we were running second last, that we’d be in a Grand Final, I would have told you to go buy yourself a lottery ticket!
“All 17 players contributed across the 80 minutes today.
“We found a way to win and I couldn’t be prouder of the boys at the moment.”
The Rabbitohs will take on the winner of next weekend’s preliminary final between the Bears and the Warriors which will be played at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday 16 September.
The NSW Cup Grand Final will be played at CommBank Stadium on Sunday 24 September. Keep an eye on www.rabbitohs.com.au for details about the NSWRL Grand Final day including tickets and kick off times.