Friday, August 31st, 2012: It was truly a night of redemption for the South Sydney Rabbitohs as we beat the Newcastle Knights in Newcastle on their Old Boys day to avenge their 2011 victory in the same round.
Exactly twelve months earlier we had travelled up the M1 to face the Newcastle Knights on their turf on Old Boys Day. We had to win that night to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and the Knights needed a victory to solidify their place in the eight.
While the fight was there, the execution wasn't, and the Knights ran past us 40-24, with Akuila Uate equalling a club-record of four tries in the match. It was a demoralising loss that broke the Rabbitohs hearts, and buoyed Newcastle's rowdy home crowd to throw taunts at the Red and Green faithful that made the journey north.
Fast forward to Round 26, 2012, and we were flying high.
Earlier that year we had disposed of the Knights easily at ANZ Stadium in Round 18; winning 34-14. This match, fittingly, had similar stakes to the last time we were in Newcastle.
Despite the Knights being ruled out of finals contention they were always going to be hard to beat on their traditional Old Boys Day.
We got on the front foot early with Roy Asotasi making a bust up the middle and scoring an awkward try.
GI then burrows over from dummy half to double the scores.
The Knights hit back with a controversial Darius Boyd try. Despite the howls for a double-movement Boyd's effort gets the green light.
At halftime we'd go into the sheds of the Newcastle International Sports Centre with a 12-6 lead.
Early in the second half Akuila Uate would make a bust on the right edge and look certain to pull the Knights back to parity on the scoreboard. With Greg Inglis as our last line of defence, hearts were in mouths as the two competitors came together. It would be an incredible moment that would see the 'Goanna' strip Uate of the ball and tap it back into the field of play for Nathan Merritt to regather.
"That might be a match-winning tackle," commented Phil Gould.
John Sutton seals our place in our first top four finish since 1989 with a try from dummy half to bring the scores to 18-6. The Knights make a late surge but can't find a way back into the game.
It was the South Sydney Rabbitohs day and poetic justice for the result 12 months earlier against the Newcastle Knights.
Match report supplied by Michael Curin.
Superstar Greg Inglis came up with the tackle of the year last night as South Sydney produced an outstanding playoffs dress rehearsal in Newcastle. The Rabbitohs cemented a top-four berth on the back of an inspired second-half defensive effort highlighted by Inglis' try- saver on Akuila Uate four minutes into the second half.
With his side ahead just 12-6 and running into a gale, Inglis' heroics proved the turning point in a tense game.
Uate would have scored against just about any other team in the NRL. But coming across in cover, Inglis monstered the Knights winger right on the tryline, preventing what appeared a certain try and securing the ball for his team in the process.
"It was probably one of the most unbelievable tackles I've ever seen," Souths coach Michael Maguire said after the win.
Souths skipper Mick Crocker labelled it "amazing".
"Some of the stuff he does. To stop Aku like that - not many people could have done that," Crocker said.
The Rabbitohs will almost certainly finish third and face a clash with Melbourne in Melbourne in the first weekend of the playoffs. Maguire wasn't looking that far ahead but admitted last night's game will have his side well prepared for what lies ahead.
"I was really pleased the way the players fought for each other out there," he said.
"It was actually a great game for us leading into what we are about to face. Newcastle threw a hell of a lot at us."
Knights skipper Danny Buderus believes Souths are capable of doing some damage in the big games.
"Absolutely," he said.
"There'll be a team who jumps out of the ground and it could be Souths."
Knights coach Wayne Bennett believes the Bunnies are well positioned.
"They'll make it difficult for everyone," he said.
Souths had the advantage of a gale at their backs in the first half and dominated possession but that dominance wasn't reflected on the half-time scoreline. Souths playmaker John Sutton looked long before throwing a short ball for prop Roy Asotasi to spear through an opening and reach out to score after eight minutes for a 6-0 advantage.
Ten minutes later, Inglis got himself into dummy-half near the Knights line and pinched an easy try to extend the advantage to 12-0.
The Knights, who had spent most of the opening 25 minutes seemingly defending their own tryline, found themselves in unfamiliar territory 13 minutes out from the break with six tackles down Souths' end. The home side didn't waste the opportunity.
Fullback Darius Boyd, one of his side's best, took the ball on a second man play out wide, dummied and went for the tryline. He appeared to be brought down just short before dragging the ball onto the chalk and claiming the try. Video referee Steve Clark took forever to come up with a benefit-of-the-doubt ruling in favour of the home side despite more than a hint of a double movement.
South Sydney 18 (R.Asotasi, G.Inglis, J.Sutton tries; A.Reynolds 3 goals)
Newcastle 6 (D.Boyd try; T.Roberts goal) at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle, Friday night, August 31, 2012 (7.35pm).
Crowd: 24,127. Referees: Matt Cecchin, Chris James. Sideline Officials: Paul Holland, Luke Potter. Video Referee: Stephen Clark. Halftime: Souths 12‐6. Scrums: Souths 8‐5. Penalties: Newcastle 4‐3. Goalkickers: Reynolds (Souths) 3/3, Roberts (Newcastle) 1/1. Weather: Windy. Ground: Patchy.
SOUTHS: Greg Inglis; Nathan Merritt, Matt King, Dylan Farrell, Andrew Everingham; John Sutton, Adam Reynolds; Sam Burgess, Nathan Peats, Roy Asotasi, Eddy Pettybourne, David Taylor, Michael Crocker (c). Interchange: Jason Clark, Luke Burgess, Chris McQueen, Issac Luke. Coach: Michael Maguire.
NEWCASTLE: Darius Boyd; James McManus, Dane Gagai, Timana Tahu, Akuila Uate; Jarrod Mullen, Tyrone Roberts; Kade Snowden, Danny Buderus (c), Willie Mason, Chris Houston, Robbie Rochow, Neville Costigan. Interchange: Alex McKinnon, Zeb Taia, Adam Cuthbertson, Zane Tetevano. Coach: Wayne Bennett.
Dally M points: 3 ‐ Sutton (Souths), 2 ‐ Inglis (Souths), 1 ‐ Buderus (Newcastle).
8 min: South Sydney 6‐0 (Asotasi try; Reynolds goal)
18 min: South Sydney 12‐0 (Inglis try; Reynolds goal)
27 min: South Sydney 12‐6 (Boyd try; Roberts goal)
60 min: South Sydney 18‐6 (Sutton try; Reynolds goal)