Shannon Meyer reviews another loss in Melbourne for the Rabbitohs, as the Storm get back to their winning ways.
|7th||Try – Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm)||Melbourne 4-0|
|16th||Try – Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs)||Scores Level 4-4|
|17th||Goal – Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs)||Souths 6-4|
|33rd||Try – Suliasi Vunivalu (Storm)||Melbourne 8-6|
|50th||Penalty goal – Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs)||Scores Level 8-8|
|57th||Penalty goal – Cameron Smith (Storm)||Melbourne 10-8|
|65th||Try – Josh Addo-Carr (Storm)||Melbourne 14-8|
|67th||Goal – Cameron Smith (Storm)||Melbourne 16-8|
|77th||Try – Justin Olam||Melbourne 20-8|
|78th||Goal – Cameron Smith (Storm)||Melbourne 22-8|
A good start was needed for the Rabbitohs given their dreadful record in Melbourne. It was a lively enough opening few minutes that saw both sides looking up for the contest; there was even time for a mini scuffle, which featured Cameron Munster in the middle.
But it didn’t take long for Melbourne to get on the scoreboard, and with ease, as a simple passage of quick hands from Cameron Smith to Jahrome Hughes to Brenko Lee to Suliasi Vunivalu on the right saw the Fijian winger avoid the Souths defender down the flank for 50m, who then found Ryan Papenhuyzen backing up on the inside.
Souths didn’t drop their heads following the try, and some good pressure in attack and defence led to a Jahrome Hughes mistake. Deep into their set, Souths spun it left and a magic Latrell Mitchell cut out pass found Alex Johnston who did the now standard NRL winger Superman dive to stay in the field of play and score just inside the corner post. Adam Reynolds made the sideline conversion look too easy.
Both sides blew good chances in the middle of the second half; coincidentally it was the Covid campers Josh Addo-Carr for Melbourne and Mitchell for Souths in consecutive near misses. Souths still remained up to the Storm’s challenge, forcing Melbourne into the same uncharacteristic mistakes they made last weekend against Canberra.
The Rabbitohs managed to pull off a rare successful Captain’s Challenge in the 26th minute, but with a full set and just 10 metres out the from the Storm’s line, the Rabbitohs’ Mark Nicholls dropped the ball on the first tackle. It was becoming clear that it wasn’t going to be a classic, high-scoring game.
A moment of brilliance lit up the game in the 33rd minute, when Cameron Munster tore through the middle of the field for 40 metres; he jinked back to find Hughes steaming past on the right, who then provided the perfect grubber kick with an A Grade bounce for Vunivalu to have the ball fall into his arms as he fell in the right corner to score.
Despite the Storm having good territory to extend the lead, the score remained 8-6 at half time.
The classic rugby league term ‘cardinal sin’ was wheeled out early in the second half as Souths wasted a penalty kick for the sideline, which actually might not show enough respect for the outstanding piece of athleticism from Papenhuyzen that demands a rewatch. Souths were doubly punished when they conceded a penalty of their own in the next set to give away territory, which the Storm took advantage of for several minutes.
But despite Souths continually – and generously – handing the ball over, Melbourne weren’t clinical enough to take advantage, although a try for Hughes was denied by the video referee for an obstruction, which was generous in itself for the Rabbitohs.
Having weathered the storm (pardon the pun), Souths got some rare territory and followed it up with a repeat set, which led to a score-levelling penalty to the Rabbitohs courtesy of Reynolds. The score was 8-8 with just under 30 minutes to play. A silly off-the-ball tackle from the Rabbitohs’ Tevita Tatola gave the Storm back the lead in the 57th minute, as Smith slotted his first goal of the night to make the score 10-8. The fake crowd were particularly excited by that two pointer for some reason as the Storm retook the lead.
Souths’ intention to give Melbourne as much ball as possible finally succeeded as the Storm scored their third try of the night in the 65th minute, when a perfectly weighted cross-field kick found the chest of Addo-Carr who literally only had to fall down to score in the left corner. The crucial sideline kick from Cameron Smith extended the lead to 16-8 with 13 minutes to play. Given Souths’ error rate to that point, two tries seemed unlikely.
Dane Gagai looked set to trim the deficit a few minutes later, but was somehow stopped by the Storm defence over the try line, featuring a covering Cameron Smith. Despite the missed opportunity they continued to press the Melbourne line with repeat sets, and did cross in the 72nd minute, but was denied by the video referee for an obstruction that was a little more clear than the one that denied the Storm a try in the first half.
Following the second half script, Souths gave up possession through an error, and were punished again. This time a trip down the left flank instigated by Cameron Smith found Addo-Carr who had the flying Justin Olam backing on the inside to score the final try of the evening. It was a just reward for Olam, who was great throughout, and headed into the game under a little bit of pressure.
Melbourne were better than last week: still not at the top of their game like the Eels or Roosters, but certainly good enough to beat a South Sydney side that tried, but gave up too much ball. Perhaps they were unlucky that the Victorian borders weren’t closed for the NRL season, as their record in Melbourne is now 0-16.
The Cameron Munster-inspired Suliasi Vunivalu try was a glimpse of the attacking gold that Melbourne can display from time to time. A shame it is usually camouflaged by dreary defensive arm wrestles, but it was the attacking move of the night. And Munster in particular looked sharp. At least there’s one good news story for Queensland rugby league for the weekend.
Twenty-seven-year-old Chris Lewis making his debut for the Storm late in the game is a good story; given just how well a late start worked for the Rabbitohs’ Cody Walker, we hope he can prove that age is no barrier similarly. Or, at a minimum, he got one more game than a lot of second-tier players ever get.
Time for the Latrell Mitchell watch. Despite what Wayne Bennett thinks, Mitchell’s performances are being watched closely, given his big money, big news transfer in the off-season. Tonight was his best game thus far, but a good cut out pass that led to the Johnston try was balanced by a few poor mistakes in attack. He has always been a bit hot and cold at the best of times, but it is fair to say that he isn’t quite living up to his own hype. More of a lukewarm and cold season so far in 2020.
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Justin Olam, 18. Brenko Lee, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith, 14. Brandon Smith, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenny Bromwich, 13. Dale Finucane. Interchange: 10. Christian Welch 15. Tino Faasuamaleaui, 17. Max King 21. Chris Lewis.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
1. Latrell Mitchell, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Campbell Graham, 4. Braidon Burns, 5. Alex Johnston, 6. Troy Dargan, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Tevita Tatola, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Thomas Burgess, 11. Jaydn Su’A, 12. Cameron Murray, 15. Ethan Lowe. Interchange: 13. Liam Knight, 14. Mark Nicholls, 19. Tom Amone, 21. Keaon Koloamatangi.