The South Sydney Rabbitohs produced their best performance of the season with an impressive 24-10 victory over the first-placed St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Rabbitohs got off to a perfect start as they took advantage of a Nene McDonald error in the Dragons first touch of the ball and Hymel Hunt went over in the opening minute. Angus Crichton barged over the line in the 6th minute as they raced out to a 10-0 lead. The Dragons fought their way back into the match and had plenty of attacking opportunities but the Rabbitohs were able to repel every set. An Adam Reynolds penalty goal in the 32nd minute meant the Rabbitohs went into the break with a 12-0 lead.
The score remained the same for almost 20 minutes into the second half before another Reynolds penalty goal took the Rabbitohs lead to 14. The deadlock was broken when Tyson Frizell snapped up a loose pass and ran 90 metres to score in the 68th minute. The Rabbitohs were in again just four minutes later, after Reynolds put a grubber through for his winger Campbell Graham. Frizell scored his second with five minutes left to keep the Dragons’ hopes alive but Greg Inglis sealed the match with a try on full-time.
RABBITOHS ANNOUNCE THEMSELVES AS GENUINE TITLE CONTENDERS
The Rabbitohs have been one of the form teams in the competition over the last month but should be considered title contenders after this victory over the Dragons. Their attack has been well documented this season but it was their defence that won them the game today.
The Rabbitohs had to defend their line on multiple occasions in the first half but the Dragons never looked particularly likely. It’s something that will please coach Anthony Seibold as their defence has been suspect at times this season. If they can keep this form up, they can definitely make a deep run in the finals.
STILL NO FRONT RUNNER FOR BLUES 9 JERSEY
Many people thought this game could decide who will be wearing the no. 9 for the Blues in State of Origin this year. Damien Cook and Cameron McInnes are the two hookers battling it out for that all-important jersey, but it’s still not clear who is the favourite to win it.
Cook again starred for his team, gaining 79 metres off five runs, looking dangerous every time he had the ball in his hands. He also put the kick through that lead to Greg Inglis’ try in the final minutes. McInnes was one of his team’s best in a disappointing performance for the Dragons. He was busy all day, ending the game with a try assist and a linebreak assist, as well as an impressive 47 tackles. The next couple of games will be extremely important for both players in determining who will be running out for New South Wales in Game One.
DRAGONS LUCK WITH INJURIES RUNS OUT
The Dragons have so far been lucky and avoided any injuries but it appears their luck might be running out. Kurt Mann had to leave the field with a concussion and failed his HIA test, while Jack de Belin exited the game early with a rib complaint. Ben Hunt also looked uncomfortable all game, producing his worst performance of the season as he dealt with an apparent leg and chest injury all game.
The Dragons will be sweating particularly on the fitness of de Belin as he is a vital part of their forward pack. The Dragons lock appeared destined for a Blues debut in 2018 so coach Brad Fittler will no doiubt be hoping it’s nothing serious.
PENALTY GOALS ARE HERE TO STAY
This season we have seen a sharp increase in the amount of penalty goals being taken, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. This was just the second game all year the Dragons haven’t attempted a penalty goal, the other being their loss to the Warriors.
It was the Rabbitohs turn today as Reynolds kicked two goals from three attempts. The one he missed rebounded off the post straight back into his arms and Graham scored off the ensuing set. Whether you’re a fan of the increase in penalty shots or not, it looks like they’re here to stay.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 24
Tries: Hymel Hunt, Angus Crichton, Campbell Graham, Greg Inglis
Goals: Adam Reynolds 4/7
Drop Goals: n/a
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 10
Tries: Tyson Frizell 2
Goals: Gareth Widdop 1/2
Drop Goals: n/a
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Greg Inglis, 4 Dane Gagai, 19 Hymel Hunt, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Thomas Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess Interchange: 14 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Tevita Tatola, 18 Adam Doueihi
St George Illawarra Dragons: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Nene McDonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack de Belin Interchange: 14 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Zac Lomax