Elinya Chenery reviews the second semi-final, with Cronulla-Sutherland playing South Sydney …
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 12
Tries: Briton Nikora (41), Ronaldo Mulitalo (55)
Goals: Nicho Hynes 2 (43, 56)
South Sydney Rabbitohs 38
Tries: Taane Milne 2 (29, 66), Mark Nicholls (2), Cameron Murray (39), Lachlan Ilias (45), Cody Walker (61)
Goals: Latrell Mitchell 7 (3, 30, 40, 46, 63, 68, 77 – pen)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
The Rabbitohs got off to a flying start, receiving a penalty and crossing the line within just the first three minutes of play. It was a skilful dart and pass from Damien Cook in dummy half to a rampaging Mark Nicholls that saw the South Sydney side gain the first points of the match.
Despite benefitting from a weight of possession on the Rabbitohs’ try line (following a knock on from the resumption of play), the Sharks were unable to convert their time with the ball in hand into points. Halfback Nicho Hynes was doing his best to create scoring opportunities, but the plays lacked the polish necessary to finish them off with a scoreboard result, with two passes ending up on the deck.
Following a long passage of end-to-end footy riddled with errors from both sides, South Sydney once again broke the Sharks resolve and ran over for their second try of the evening. A vast spread to their far right edge saw Taane Milne secure the four points following touches from Keaon Koloamatangi and the combination of the Rabbitohs spine with Damien Cook, Cameron Murray, Lachlan Ilias and Latrell Mitchell all playing their part to perfection.
On the stroke of half-time, Murray aimed up against some tired and flat-footed Sharks defenders in the middle of the pitch before shaking them off and running away to score what may be one of the easiest tries of his career. Despite possession only being split by 2% and Cronulla winning the completion statistic, the Rabbitohs went into the break leading 18-0.
Not willing to go down without a fight, Cronulla hit back in the first 60 seconds of play in the second half. A beautifully weighted Hynes cross-field kick allowed Ronaldo Mulitalo to contest the ball in the air and tap it back to Briton Nikora to finally grab the Sharks’ first points.
Almost immediately the Rabbitohs got one of their own, once again off the back of a Cook scuttle from dummy half before he linked up with Ilias and Mitchell, who shuffled the ball off to Campbell Graham, who promptly returned it to the fullback. Some quick hands from Milne saw Ilias ending up back with the ball and sliding over the try line.
Not long after having a try disallowed by The Bunker, the Sharks hit back with a Jesse Ramien intercept, batting the ball onto Ronaldo Mulitalo for a length-of-the field sprint. It was ruled – in somewhat confusing fashion – that the originally intercepted pass from Latrell Mitchell was forward, and the tap from Ramien was sent backwards.
Cook, Murray, and Cody Walker soon combined to put the Rabbitohs back ahead comfortably, with the South Sydney five-eighth putting on some fancy footwork to trick the Sharks defenders and grab the Bunnies’ fifth of the evening. It didn’t take long for the Rabbitohs to capitalise on their momentum and once again send Milne over in the corner for his second.
With a late penalty shot going over without problem, Mitchell ended his night at 100% accuracy off the boot, and the Rabbitohs ended the Sharks’ 2022 finals hopes. The Rabbitohs will go on to face the defending premiers in the preliminary final next week, while the Sharks will go back to the drawing board for next year.
PLAYER OF THE FINALS POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Latrell Mitchell (Rabbitohs), 2 pts – Taane Milne (Rabbitohs), 1 pt – Lachlan Ilias (Rabbitohs)
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