Another blistering performance from star Cody Walker was not enough to lift a depleted Rabbitohs over the line against the Canberra Raiders, falling 33-26 at Accor Stadium.
Missing three players with State of Origin commitments and with the late withdrawal of Campbell Graham, South Sydney knew they had to come out firing against an in-form opponent in the Raiders.
They did just that, striking in the seventh minute to open the scoring with a brilliant piece of individual play from Walker.
He took possession on a nice shape, squaring up the defensive line and putting Jed Cartwright into a gaping hole, leaving the fill-in centre an easy passage to the line, scoring his first NRL try.
Their lead soon evaporated however, with a Blake Taaffe try-saver on Joseph Tapine followed up the very next play with a try to Corey Horsburgh to put Canberra in front 6-4 after 14 minutes.
When Alex Johnston was unable to get back into the field of play from a kick on the next set, the Raiders struck again through Albert Hopoate in the corner to extend their advantage.
Some tired defence in the middle of the field allowed the Raiders to make easy metres, capitalising again through Hopoate out wide to take an imposing 16-4 lead.
Order was restored and the Rabbitohs hit the scoreboard once again in the 30th minute, as quick hands from Walker allowed them to take advantage of the overlap after the defence rushed up, putting Johnston over to cut the margin back to eight.
A contentious call of a strip on Keaon Koloamatangi close to the line gifted the Raiders an easy shot at a penalty goal, giving them an 18-8 they would take to the break.
South Sydney had the perfect start to the second half, with Walker again in the thick of things.
After a few repeat sets, the classy five-eighth took it to the line and drew defenders in once again, this time putting Isaiah Tass over the line untouched. A Lachlan Ilias kick was charged down in the 51st minute with a regather from Michael Chee Kam proving crucial.
Just a few plays later, early ball to Tass had the Raiders in two minds, as he drew and passed to Johnston for his second of the night and Souths’ first lead since the early stages of the contest at 20-18.
Just as the Rabbitohs started to look comfortable, Canberra hit back with 21 minutes to play, as a cut-out from Jack Wighton led to a swift backline movement that resulted in Tom Starling crossing the stripe.
Like clockwork, with the game in the balance coming into the final period, Walker’s brilliance shone through once again, getting to dummy half and putting in a grubber close to the line, with a flying Damien Cook touching down first to take the lead at 26-24 with 10 minutes remaining.
That wasn’t to be the final say, as Wighton showed his own skills soon after, getting through the line to help Hopate to his treble and the Raiders to a four-point lead inside the final five.
- A sublime pass from Cody Walker in the seventh minute saw Jed Cartwright open the scoring for the night.
- Blake Taaffe’s try saving tackle on Joseph Tapine went unrewarded as Corey Horsburgh scores on the next play to put Canberra in front.
- Albert Hopoate allowed the Raiders to go back-to-back, stretching their lead to 10-4 through 19 minutes.
- The Canberra winger had his second in five minutes to give them a two-try lead.
- Quick hands from Walker allows Alex Johnston an easy passage to the line for another AJ try.
- Walker comes up with his second try assist of the night, gifting a lovely pass for Isaiah Tass to reduce the deficit to four.
- The Raiders hit back through a nice play from Jack Wighton, resulting in Tom Starling giving his side the lead once again.
- Walker’s third try assist was perhaps his most brilliant, putting in a grubber at the line for Damien Cook to swoop.
- Wighton slices through the defence to help Hopoate to a hat-trick and a late lead for Canberra.
Play of the Game
Cody Walker’s second try assist of the game was just as silky as his first. Shortly after half-time he put Isaiah Tass into a huge gap to post first points of the second half, giving the Rabbitohs momentum to take for the rest of the contest.
Attention now turns to a crucial round 14 clash on the Gold Coast against the Titans, as the Rabbitohs prepare for a vital two-game stretch before receiving their first bye of the season in round 16 ahead of State of Origin game two.