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.

Match Snapshot

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.

What’s Next?

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.

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