The South Sydney Rabbitohs have started the 2023 season in promising fashion despite trailing by 2 points at full time, with a young outfit impressing in a high-scoring thriller against the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in the first round of the Preseason Challenge at Industree Group Stadium.
Second rower Jacob Host enjoyed a strong return to the field in his first match since mid-May, leading the side out as Captain, while Assistant John Morris took over coaching duties from Jason Demetriou for the match which saw the Rabbitohs narrowly bested, 30-28.
Young five-eighth Dion Teaupa - still eligible for the Jersey Flegg side - had a blockbuster opening 20 minutes, scoring two tries and setting up another, while Blake Taaffe was busy with the ball in hand, moving between fullback and the halves throughout and scoring a try.
On a dry track in balmy conditions, the Rabbitohs enjoyed a strong start through the softening-up period, scoring just six minutes in off the back of a dynamic bust from Taaffe, with winger Tom Carr swooping on a deft kick from Teaupa.
While Manly struck back with a try of their own, Teaupa impressed once again to extend the scores as he regathered a well-weighted kick, which bounced perfectly into his arms after coming off the goalposts in a brilliant individual effort.
Desperate scramble defence led by Host denied their opponents over the line, while Taaffe‘s work with the ball in hand led to Carr repaying his five-eighth, who dived over to score his second and extend the lead to 18-4 after 21 minutes.
The winger was denied a second four-pointer from a forward pass soon after, and ill-discipline on both sides of the ball saw the Sea Eagles take the lead at the break, with the young Rabbitohs trailing 20-18 and needing to recapture their form ahead of the second half.
A dubious obstruction penalty denied Davvy Moale from regaining the lead for the Red and Green, but Richie Kennar and Blake Taaffe combined soon after, leading to the Central Coast local scoring off his own kick and converting to make the scores 24-20.
While the Rabbitohs took control to force multiple line drop outs, Manly hit back to level once again, setting up a thrilling final quarter of the match with fatigue creeping into both camps.
Desperation in defence from the Cardinal and Myrtle denied their opponents time and time again on the line, and the Rabbitohs needed to go up another level after a dangerous tackle
Despite their mismatch in numbers, the Rabbitohs continued their charge to level the scores, and a scheming run from halfback Jarrett Subloo sliced through to score with less than eight minutes remaining, now trailing by two.
- The youthful Rabbitohs outfit had just a touch over 300 games worth of NRL experience combined, featuring a host of youngsters looking to impress the coaching staff ahead of the season proper.
- Second rower Jacob Host marked his return from injury as Captain of the side, while Assistant John Morris took charge as the side’s Head Coach in place of Jason Demetriou.
- A late addition to the starting side in the no.20 jersey, winger Tom Carr scored the first try of the match, touching down in the corner from a grubber kick in the 6th minute.
- After setting up the first try, five-eighth Dion Teaupa scored the side’s second in the 14th minute, kicking ahead for himself before regathering next to the posts.
- Carr repaid Teaupa soon after as a left-side shift put the winger through before an over-the-head pass gave the fledgling five-eighth his second for the night.
- Ill discipline cruelled the side in the final ten minutes of the first half, which saw them trail by two points at the break.
- A towering bomb was batted back from winger Richie Kennar, with Blake Taaffe regathering from his own kick to give the lead once again in the 37th minute.
- With the scores at 24-all, the Rabbitohs played ten of the last twelve minutes down a man, before Manly hit back to take a six-point lead.
- The Rabbitohs failed to give up, however, as halfback Jarrett Subloo sliced through to give his side a glimmer of hope with minutes remaining.
- Teaupa finished the match with two tries and an assist, as well as a forced drop out in an impressive first outing at first-grade level.
- Taaffe brought his kicking boots to the Central Coast, kicking four goals and forcing a drop out while touching down for a four-pointer.
- Headgear-clad lock Tallis Duncan - the only player in the starting forward pack without NRL experience - impressed, running 127 metres and making 23 tackles.
- Three out of the four tries scored by the Rabbitohs came from kicks.
- Despite humid conditions, impressively South Sydney only made 8 errors in the match, with a 75% completion rate.
Play of the Game
After setting up the first try of the match with a clever grubber, five-eighth Dion Teaupa went one better just minutes later. The clever no.6 punched in another well-weighted kick for the line, but instead of finding a teammate, it bounced perfectly off the goalpost padding for him to touch down and extend the Rabbitohs’ lead in a brilliant individual effort.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs will head to Mudgee next Saturday to face traditional rivals St George Illawarra for the 40th edition of the Charity Shield, which will also act as the second round of the 2023 Pre-Season Challenge.