South Sydney out lasted their long time rivals the Dragons by 13-12, in a ‘do-or-die clash’ in front of a crowd of over 48,000 people at ANZ Stadium, Homebush.
Two of the game’s most famous sides in the Rabbitohs and Dragons faced off in a finals game for the first time since 1984. With two of the biggest and proudest supporter bases in the game this was always going to be a special night.
Both sides started with plenty of aggression and whilst the game lacked any real spark in attack the ferocious defence from both sides laid the platform for a tight first half. After both sides exchanged penalty goals it looked like we might go to half time without a try, before the much maligned Dragons’ halfback Ben Hunt stepped up and took on the line to score a brilliant solo try, 8-2 in favour of the Dragons at the break.
The second half started much like the first with both sides struggling for cohesion in attack, but being brutal in defence. The Dragons extended their lead through another penalty goal to 18-year-old centre Zac Lomax to give them a 10-2 lead. But that’s when the Rabbitohs finally kicked into gear and started looking more dangerous, and their turn of form resulted in points after Adam Reynolds scored after a break from Angus Crichton.
The Rabbitohs then got a chance to level the scores through a Reynolds penalty goal and he didn’t miss his chance, now with the game locked up and going into the final 10 minutes it was now field goal time and whilst Hunt missed on his first attempt, Reynolds had no problems with his first shot to give the Bunnies a one point lead.
But this game still had a few more twists and turns before full-time, the Dragons had kicked the ball down field when Tyson Frizell stripped the ball off youngster Campbell Graham to give the Dragons back possession in an attacking position. The Dragons got a penalty and once again young Lomax stood up and showed mental steel well beyond his years to slot the penalty and give the Dragons back the lead.
But with less than four minutes to go and their season on the line the Rabbitohs again turned to their little No.7 and Reynolds again calmly slotted his second field goal to once again level the scores at 12-12. The game looked to be heading to extra time, but with less than a minute to go the Dragons surprisingly ran the ball on the last tackle and turned the ball over to Souths in good field position, gifting Reynolds yet another chance to kick a field goal.
This time it would be the winning field goal after Reynolds evaded three chasing defenders to slot his third field goal of the night to give the Rabbitohs a 13-12 victory. In a match up that let our minds drift down memory lane to all the famous finals games between these two famous clubs, it was fitting they produced an ‘old school match’ just the two tries, plenty of big defence and of course three Reynolds field goals would have brought back memories for Souths’ fans of the great Eric Simms knocking them over for fun at Redfern Oval.
Looking back on this game it would be hard to separate the two sides as the scoreline suggests with the difference being just the one point, and the one point belonged to Souths’ halfback Adam Reynolds. In fact all thirteen points belonged to Reynolds as he scored all of Souths’ points, but it was his ability to kick not one, not two but three field goals from as many attempts, all under extreme pressure that ended up being the difference between the sides.
The Strip is back
You don’t often see players attempt to strip the ball off their opponent in a one on one tackle these days, but we saw two successful attempts last night at crucial moments in the game. As mentioned above the Tyson Frizell strip gave St. George-Illawarra field position and a penalty to give them the lead with just four minutes to go, but Souths bench forward Cameron Murray returned the favour in the next set stripping Leeson Ah Mau of possession that led to Reynolds’ second field goal that evened up the match again.
Dragons Brain Explosion
With the scores tied and going into the last-minute the Dragons were getting towards the final play of their set, the Red V were clearly the more exhausted of the two sides and Souths were finishing strong. St. George-Illawarra hadn’t made many metres in their final set and found themselves only 35 metres out from their own line on their final play, being well out of field goal range the smart move would have been to kick deep, defend and go into extra time where the side could regroup. But for some strange reason the Dragons decided to run the ball and turned it over on their 40 metre line, gifting the Rabbitohs possession and field position for one last shot at a match winning field goal.
Souths put tough week behind them
After suffering that heart breaking defeat to Melbourne last week Souths had to put it all behind them, regroup and have a positive week leading into this knockout clash against the Dragons. But things didn’t go smoothly for the famous Red and Green side as reports of a complaint from a young lady about certain images being sent to her via social media from a couple of Souths’ players emerged. Coach Anthony Seibold would have tried to keep his side focused on the task ahead, but with situations like this you can never be sure about how the side will react, luckily for Seibold and Souths’ fans the players were able to block it out and put in a winning performance.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 13
Goals: Reynolds 2/2
Drop Goals: Reynolds 3
St. George-Illawarra Dragons 12
Goals: Lomax 4/4
Drop Goals: N/A
1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Greg Inglis, 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Tom Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess, 14 Hymel Hunt, 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Dean Britt
1 Matt Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Zac Lomax, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jordan Pereira, 6 Kurt Mann, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Leeson Ah Mau, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack de Belin, 14 Jeremy Latimore, 16 Blake Lawrie, 17 Luciano Leilua, 19 Jai Field