Cody Walker had a day to remember as the South Sydney Rabbitohs overcame a spirited New Zealand Warriors side 28-24.
Fresh off their first loss of the season, the South Sydney Rabbitohs were expected to run away with a decisive victory over New Zealand, but the Warriors made them earn their two points on the Sunshine Coast.
New Zealand were struck a cruel blow moments before kickoff when their veteran halfback Blake Green was ruled out of the match with a groin injury, this saw Peta Hiku move into the halves and Gerard Beale move into the centres.
Despite the late changes, it was the visitors who crossed over for the first points when Roger Tuivasa-Sheck cut the Rabbitohs’ defence to ribbons en route to a dazzling solo try.
The Rabbitohs didn’t wait long to respond when Cody Walker recovered his own grubber to score his first try. Minutes later he crossed for his second as he finished an excellent dummy half run from Damien Cook.
Both sides traded blows with neither side gaining the upper hand until the 29th minute when Jazz Tevaga latched onto a Lachlan Burr offload to score the Warriors’ second try; with Chanel Harris-Tavita’s conversion the scores were level at 12-all and stayed that way through to halftime.
The Warriors started the second half with a bang when Harris-Tavita put Tohu Harris into a nice gap to give the Warriors an 18-12 lead, and some much needed confidence.
The Rabbitohs continued to look threatening, but could not convert their opportunities into points, and were staring down the barrel of a shock upset when Sam Lisone – returning from suspension and only on the field for a few minutes – crashed over the try line to stretch the Warriors’ lead to 24-12.
As the game reached the final quarter the Rabbitohs kicked into gear, Ethan Lowe scored first after the Rabbitohs put together an excellent phase that targeted the Warriors’ weak edge defence. Walker scored his third try of the match in the 72nd minute to level the scores.
The Warriors had one final shot at regaining the lead when Harris-Tavita attempted a field goal, but it sailed to the left of the posts. The Rabbitohs took advantage of their seven tackle set and marched down the field to get Adam Reynolds in position to attempt his own field goal which was charged down by the Warriors.
Although they prevented the kick attempt, they gifted the Rabbitohs another set which they took with both hands as Walker kissed the try line with his fourth and final try of the night.
What a fantastic showing by Walker. It would be an understatement to say that Cody’s performance was the difference in this matchup.
Cody has electrifying pace and an eye for the try line. His combination with Damien Cook looks to be going from strength to strength; if he can continue to perform at this level he would have to be giving Brad Fittler food for thought when State of Origin comes around.
The South Sydney pack is massive and their effort tonight was outstanding.
The Warriors used a lot of second phase football, unleashing plenty of offloads and tried to tire the larger Rabbitohs pack but they show no signs of fatigue.
Lead up front by the Burgess brothers, the Rabbitohs do not struggle to get a roll on, and this momentum converts to points and ultimately victories.
Chanel’s trial by Fire
It would be fair to assume that Warriors’ fans hearts sank when the news of Green’s injury was announced. Losing your key half minutes before kickoff is devastating for any team but when his partner is a one-game rookie, the pressure intensifies.
Chanel rose to the occasion; he took control of New Zealand and didn’t overplay his hand, showing the potential he has if he can continue to build confidence and learn from the veterans around him.
Warriors show Heart
The Warriors were embarrassing in their first two losses of the year, but they can hold their heads up in defeat this round as they showed tremendous heart.
They were written off well before this match started and with Green’s late withdrawal the Warriors could have been on the highway to a hiding, but they fought hard and should return to New Zealand with some newly found confidence.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 28
Tries: Cody Walker (4), Ethan Lowe
Goals: Adam Reynolds 4/5
New Zealand Warriors 24
Tries: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Jazz Tevaga, Tohu Harris, Sam Lisone
Goals: Chanel Harris-Tavita 4/4
Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston, 2. Corey Allan, 3. Kyle Turner, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Campbell Graham, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds, 14. Tevita Tatola, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Thomas Burgess, 11. John Sutton, 12. Sam Burgess, 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 8. George Burgess, 15. Mark Nicholls, 16. Ethan Lowe, 17. Liam Knight
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. David Fusitu’a, 3. Peta Hiku, 4. Solomone Kata, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Chanel Harris-Tavita, 20. Gerard Beale, 8. Agnatius Paasi, 22. Issac Luke, 10. Leeson Ah Mau, 11. Adam Blair, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Lachlan Burr. Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga, 15. Sam Lisone, 16. Bunty Afoa, 17. Isaiah Papali’i