Jack Harbidge reviews the Saturday night clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Newcastle Knights at Bankwest Stadium. Here’s how the game went.
|10th||Try Enari Tuala (Newcastle)||Newcastle 4-0|
|11th||Goal Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle)||Newcastle 6-0|
|13th||Try Kurt Mann (Newcastle)||Newcastle 10-0|
|28th||Try Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle)||Newcastle 14-0|
|48th||Try Bradman Best (Newcastle)||Newcastle 18-0|
|52nd||Penalty Goal Kalyn Ponga||Newcastle 20-0|
|65th||Try Mark Nicholls (South Sydney)||Newcastle 20-4|
|66th||Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||Newcastle 20-6|
|67th||Try Damien Cook (South Sydney)||Newcastle 20-10|
|68th||Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||Newcastle 20-12|
|72nd||Try Damien Cook (South Sydney)||Newcastle 20-16|
|73rd||Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||Newcastle 20-18|
Enari Tuala opened the scoring for Newcastle after the Knights found value down their left edge through the early stages of the first half. Bradman Best had a big hand in the opening try, drawing two Rabbitohs edge defenders and providing a slick offload for Tuala to stroll over.
Despite having a small scare under pressure off the back of an electric Gagai run from a 20 metre tap, Newcastle continued to take advantage of their dominance of the South Sydney right edge defence, with Best generating a quick play off the back of a muscular run and the Knights playing off the back of it for Kurt Mann to get over the whitewash. Newcastle kept their foot on the throat of the Rabbitohs and Mitchell Pearce provided a stellar attacking opportunity soon after their second try with a 40/20, but the Knights failed to capitalise on the golden attacking opportunity.
Through the half-way point of the second half Souths looked to turn the arm-wrestle back in their favour, but a James Roberts knock on 10 metres out from his own line killed any momentum the Rabbitohs had built, and gave Newcastle a prime opportunity to extend their lead. The Knights, however, couldn’t capitalise on the error and instead produced one of their own with Tautau Moga forcing a pass out wide, allowing Souths to survive yet more pressure. Off the back of their reprieve, Adam Reynolds provided the Rabbitohs with a golden opportunity from an unstoppable 40/20 to set up shop close to the Knights’ line. Much like their counterparts though, Souths couldn’t capitalise and a knock on from Cam Murray turned the ball over just metres from the Knights’ line.
Newcastle eventually made the Bunnies pay for the lack of clinical finishing with Kalyn Ponga producing an impressive individual try with great footwork and speed off the back of Kurt Mann charging down a kick with just over 10 minutes of the half left. The remainder of the half saw the Rabbitohs pressing and off the back of a number of infringements from Newcastle, three of which within 25 metres of their own line, the Rabbitohs bombed a two-man overlap with just under two minutes of the half left.
Despite a promising defensive set from the Bunnies in the opening exchanges of the second half, Newcastle soon gained the upper hand off the back of some good defence, forcing James Roberts to turn the ball over around halfway, off the back of which the Knights forced a goal line drop out. On the ensuing set, Ponga produced a well-weighted kick for Best to pounce on over the line and extend their lead to 18 points.
Mark Nicholls entered the fray for Souths and proved a handful for the Knights, which went some way to getting the Rabbits back into the game and stunting the Knights’ scoring ability after their initial score in the half. Nicholls continued to produce for Souths up the middle and managed to cross for his second career try in 70 games to spark a comeback for the Bunnies with 15 minutes to go.
The Bunnies received the kick off and continued where they left off, going the length of the pitch to score through Damien Cook and cut the lead to eight points after the conversion. With just nine minutes to go, George Burgess looked to have crossed from short range, but the try was disallowed because of a fumble at the line. Despite the let off, the Rabbitohs continued to pressure and limited the Knights’ metres the following set, eventually capitalising the next set with a great try from Damien Cook off the back of a fifth tackle grubber from Jaxson Paulo.
With the gap closed to two points and South Sydney in the ascendancy with just over six minutes to play, George Burgess produced a poor error off the kick off, but the tiring Knights couldn’t find any points to put the game to bed. Souths then pressured the Knights and looked like scoring a number of times, only to be held out by the Knights and denied a late Hail Mary attempt on the buzzer from a scrum by referee Grant Atkins.
Considering the pressure put on Kalyn Ponga over the past few weeks, it was great to see him playing freely and being rewarded with a try and an assist. While there were some exquisite team tries from the Rabbitohs down the stretch against a tiring Newcastle defence, Ponga’s try towards the back end of the first half was a great display of his individual skill and footwork that makes him such a game breaker.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston, 2. Jaxson Paulo, 3. James Roberts, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Corey Allan, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Tevita Tatola, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Thomas Burgess, 11. Jaydn Su’A, 12. Ethan Lowe, 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 14. Mark Nicholls, 15. Hame Sele, 16. Bayley Sironen, 17. Patrick Mago.
Newcastle Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Enari Tuala, 3. Tautau Moga, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Jacob Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Herman Ese’ese. Interchange: 14. Connor Watson, 15. Mitchell Barnett, 16. Pasami Saulo, 17. Sione Mata’utia.