It was back to the country for the Rabbitohs to a field that South Sydney know all too well as they chased a 10th straight Charity Shield victory, but it was the Dragons who came away with the pre-season victory downing the Rabbitohs 16 points to 10.
The Rabbitohs were backed by their faithful fans in Mudgee as the two sides exchanged penalties early on. The Dragons were first to celebrate as they notched two quick tries on their left edge.
It may be just a trial game on the NRL calendar but it means more than just that for these two sides, and it was evident emotions were running high as former Rabbitoh Jaydn Su’A and Cody Walker exchanged words with some push and shove but it was back to business as the Dragons held possession.
The Dragons looked in line for another four pointer but weren’t able to get past Alex Johnston who put his body on the line to lockup the ball and shut down any chance of a Dragons score.
Lachlan Ilias had some nice touches early and backed up Johnston’s effort with a momentum shifting 20/40, and the Rabbitohs made it count in the following set finding the hands of winger Jaxson Paulo who open the account for the Rabbitohs. Blake Taaffe made no mistake in front of goal to make it a two point difference.
The Rabbitohs continued to threaten the Dragons as George Burgess made his way onto the field, opposing his brother Tom who appeared to be back to his barraging best. The match up was cut short though when Thomas was sent to the bin for a professional foul.
The Rabbitohs worked hard at defending their line but some fancy footwork from Zac Lomax saw Mikaele Ravalawa cross and give the Dragons a six point lead.
Errors haunted both sides in the following five minutes until Campbell Graham put Cody Walker into some space with the Rabbitohs captain darting toward the Dragons line. Jaiyden Hunt was sent to the bin for a late tackle as the Rabbitohs reset. South Sydney were dominating possession in the final few minutes as they took advantage of a repeat set.
Keaon Koloamatangi forced his way through the Dragons defence before a quick play the ball saw Cody Walker charge over out of dummy half to see South Sydney trail by just two points at half time.
The Rabbitohs had a point to prove in the second half and it was evident early as they quickly made their way down the field to find themselves 10 metres out in the first set before falling just shy of the line.
A penalty and a six again call was enough for Mathew Feagai to bulldoze over as the Dragons claimed their fourth try to keep the Rabbitohs on their toes.
Ben Hunt challenged Ilias with some more kicking prowess - this time the Dragons gained possession as Sloan forged his way forward only for Taaffe to take control and force a reset.
The Rabbitohs continued their defensive display and it was rewarded when the Dragons lost the ball. A superb pass from Ilias set up Mark Nicholls but a lack of control handed the men in red and white more possession.
Taaffe’s confidence shone through as he continued making metres. South Sydney juggled with the ball before Damien Cook danced his way across the Dragons defence on the final tackle.
Both sides went blow for blow attacking each other’s line as the Rabbitohs displayed their chemistry. Dean Hawkins was given the green light and immediately proved his kicking game is a valuable asset.
The Rabbitohs slowed the pace and shut down the Dragons at every chance. A cool, calm Taaffe weaved his way out of Ravalawa’s firing line before Jaxson Paulo contained the Dragons to force a turn over.
Mitch Kennar immersed himself into the game with a few big hits in his return from a three year stint in Brisbane. St George were unsuccessful in their challenge of a lost ball as the Rabbitohs regained possession 10 metres from the try line.
The Rabbitohs ramped up their workload to hold out the Dragons in the final five minutes as Josiah Karapani got back in the mix. The Dragons hunted down the Rabbitohs in the dying minutes to ensure their lead wouldn’t be broken as they claimed the 16-10 win in their first Charity Shield victory in seven years.