Shannon Meyer reviews a good night on the Gold Coast for the Rabbitohs as Adam Reynolds became South Sydney’s all p-time leading scorer.
Tries: Maika Sivo (55), Waqa Blake (63).
Goals: Clint Gutherson (57, 64).
Tries: Josh Mansour (17, 25), Dane Gagai (43), Jaxson Paulo (48, 77) Cameron Murray (51).
Goals: Adam Reynolds (19, 26, 38 – pen, 45, 49, 52, 73 – pen, 78).
Player of the Year Points
3 pts – Latrell Mitchell (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
2 pts – Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
1 pt – Cameron Murray (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
The second game of the Gold Coast double header on Friday night was a big game for the two top four sides involved. Souths had the chance to temporarily overtake the Panthers into second ahead of their game on Saturday. Parramatta needed to win to claw back the six-point gap to the third-placed Rabbitohs and hold off the Roosters, who were on equal points.
The Eels’ task was made that little bit harder when prop Oregon Kaufusi left the field for a HIA within 20 seconds of the game starting: he wasn’t to return.
It was an even contest through the first 15 minutes of the game, with neither giving up much nor showing anything too exciting and fluent in attack. A arm wrestle some would call it. A Tom Opacic falcon chasing a bomb was an early highlight. As was working out who the new fullback for the Eels was, until realising it was Clint Gutherson with a haircut.
South Sydney did eventually score and take the lead, with Cody Walker involved yet again. The Rabbitohs’ five-eighth switched play from the centre back to the left wing where he found Dane Gagai: he drew and passed to Josh Mansour, who did the job from five metres out. Adam Reynolds showed he had his good kicking boots on with a sideline conversion to make it 6-0 around the 20 minute mark.
Parramatta had their best chance of the half so far a few minutes later with a set inside Souths’ 20 metre zone for the first time, and if it wasn’t for a desperate try-saving tackle on Waqa Blake by Jai Arrow the scores would have been level. On the next set Ryan Matterson matched that try-saving feat on a flying Gagai as he charged down the sideline.
Josh Mansour and the Rabbitohs doubled their try tally on the 25th minute as the left-side attack shone again for the Rabbitohs. Walker found Latrell Mitchell, who threw a beautiful cut out to Mansour whose Superman dive got him over the line just inside the corner post. Two from two sideline conversions from Reynolds edged the lead to 12-0.
Souths were now looking much sharper in attack, but had a mistake or three in them, but the Eels weren’t able to take advantage.
Souths were gifted another two points with two minutes before half time as the Eels gave away an offside penalty in attack. The successful kick got Reynolds within one point of the all-time South Sydney scoring record of Eric Simms.
Amazingly Souths received another penalty right on the half-time siren, and Reynolds attempted to break the scoring record from nearly 50 metres out and near the sideline. It fell short and we’d have to wait for the second half to potentially see the record broken, and hopefully the Eels troubling the scorers and making this a closer contest.
HALF-TIME: Parramatta Eels 0 South Sydney Rabbitohs 14
South Sydney marched further ahead just four minutes into the second half as Walker was involved once again. His last play grubber kick ended up perfectly for a charging Gagai, who used his ‘Go-Go-Gagai’ arm to stretch out and score despite the attentions of Gutherson.
The conversion was more significant than usual as Reynolds’ two points saw him become the record point scorer for South Sydney. It was now 20-0 to the Rabbitohs.
Parramatta looked done five minutes later as the Rabbitohs poured on some great rugby league to score their fourth try for the evening. Souths attacked down the right this time, with Mitchell involved: he found Taane Milne, whose strong offload found Reynolds supporting. The Rabbitohs halfback provided an even better offload mid-tackle to find Jaxson Paulo in support, who slid in to score.
Another conversion made it 26-0 and Souths were just two converted tries away from making it 38 points scored against Parramatta in four consecutive games.
Not long after they had broken 30 points with another try. On the back of a penalty 20 metres from the Eels’ line, Souths ran the ball and were rewarded with Cameron Murray scoring after setting up the try himself standing at first receiver and finding Keaon Koloamatangi and as on-the-spot when the Rabbitohs forward offered the perfect offload close to the line: 32-0 and plenty more to come it looked like.
Parramatta finally opened their point-scoring account just before the 60 minute mark. Maika Sivo was the eventual scorer of the try in the left corner for the Eels, but the groundwork was laid with a great offload from Nathan Brown close to the line and Bryce Cartwright was on hand to keep the play going. Gutherson also nailed the sideline conversion to make it 32-6.
With 15 minutes to go and after earning a repeat set, Parramatta threatened to make a game of it with a second try through Waqa Blake. Mitchell Moses set up the try, surprising the Souths defence with a run and big right step, then delivered the perfect grubber on the run for the Eels centre to score. The Eels had added some respectability but a comeback still seemed very unlikely.
A few errors started creeping into the game and the back-and-forth was broken when Souths were gifted two points for a penalty close to the points that Reynolds accepted gladly: 34-12 the score with six minutes to go.
The only question remained whether the Rabbitohs could make it 38 points for a fourth game in a row. That penalty goal was potentially a fly in the ointment.
That question was answered with two minutes to go as Benji Marshall kicked straight from a 20 metre scrum for the Rabbitohs and it was weighted perfectly for Paulo, who gathered and scored. As for the conversion, Reynolds spoiled the 38-point party for everyone with yet another fine effort from wide out.
For South Sydney, it was another great win: their ninth in a row and a temporary hold of second spot on the ladder. But the question remains if they can do it against the top two sides from the last two seasons – Melbourne and Penrith. The Rabbitohs are in fine form right now though, and have scored 60, 50, and 40 points in their last three games while reducing the points against each week.
Talking of top two, Parramatta haven’t looked further from the summit of the NRL ladder and may struggle to make the top four in their current form and with a resurgent Manly and Roosters as competitors. Reed Mahoney went off injured late in the game, and the emotion from the hooker after leaving the field makes it look like it won’t be a short-term absence. That certainly won’t help.
FULL-TIME: Parramatta Eels 12 South Sydney Rabbitohs 40
Reed Mahoney (Eels) – shoulder
Oregon Kaufusi (Eels) – failed HIA
Match Review Committee
Taane Milne (Rabbitohs) – Grade 1 High Tackle Careless – Early Guilty Plea $1,700 fine, Guilty at Judiciary $2,250 fine.