2023 NRL Round 8: Rabbitohs 20, Panthers 18

South Sydney caused a minor upset by scoring two late tries to beat Penrith 20-18 in the opening match of the Anzac Day weekend, with Latrell Mitchell starring.


South Sydney Rabbitohs 20
Tries: (4) Latrell Mitchell 56th, 75th; Damien Cook 20th; Isiah Tass 78th
(2) Latrell Mitchell 21st, 76th

Penrith Panthers 18
Tries: (3)
Stephen Crichton 39th, 66th, 71st
Goals: (3) Stephen Crichton 40th, 47th pen, 72nd

Embed from Getty Images


Penrith had a chance to open the scoring with their very first set, but some desperate Rabbitohs defence kept them at bay. The tables were turned five minutes later when the Rabbitohs had consecutive sets on Penrith’s line, but the score remained 0-0 as the opening minutes became quite the arm wrestle.

It took 20 minutes for the game’s first points, and they went to the Rabbitohs when Damien Cook put the finishing touches on a sensational passage of ad-lib attacking play from South Sydney. Latrell Mitchell, who was in the thick of that attacking play, converted to make it 6-0 to the home side.

South Sydney continued to push in attack with great flair but were unable to get the reward in points for the remainder of the first half. Meanwhile, the Panthers relied on their back five for momentum, and a desperate brick wall in defence that kept them in the contest; they took their chance with a minute before half-time when Stephen Crichton’s fancy footwork finished off a backline play to the right. Crichton converted from the sideline to even up the game at 6-6.

The try just before the break seemed to shift the momentum towards the Panthers in the early part of the second half, as they attacked with more intent at the same time errors and penalties crept into the Rabbitohs’ game that weren’t there in the first half. Penrith took the lead 8-6 when they were gifted a penalty in front from a failed short drop-out.

But despite lacking the same zip as the first half, the Rabbitohs took their first big chance of the half from an attacking scrum 10 metres out and Cody Walker put Mitchell into space and the red-hot fullback charged his way through the Panthers’ defence and over the line to score. He missed the conversion which left the score at 10-8 to South Sydney.

Penrith looked to have hit back with 15 minutes to go as a seemingly innocuous grubber kick close to the line bobbled out of the hands of a Souths player into the arms of Izack Tago, but the try was denied by The Bunker due to a knock on as Tago picked up the ball. It didn’t matter though, as Penrith took advantage of another Rabbitohs errors and scored on the other side of the field through Crichton with their very next set. Crichton missed the conversion, and the score was 12-10 with just over 10 minutes to go.

Crichton secured a hat-trick a few minutes later to extend the Panthers’ lead, as he was on the spot from a Nathan Cleary bomb close to the line when Isiah Tass couldn’t take the ball. Crichton converted to score his and his team’s 18th point to lead by eight.

But South Sydney weren’t done and scored with five minutes to go, as similar to Crichton’s try, Mitchell was on hand to benefit from a Lachlan Ilias bomb and converted to make it 18-16.

Then sensation for South Sydney as they stole the win from the Panthers with just two minutes to go, with a long-range try that started in their own half with Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker involved, and Tass finishing off the move down the left. Against the odds, down by eight points late in the second half, and not travelling that well, the Rabbitohs had snatched an unlikely win to join the Panthers on 10 competition points and sit temporarily in third on the ladder.

Penrith did well to weather the Rabbitohs’ first half storm, and the try just before half-time looked crucial for the momentum of the game. Penrith were by far the better side in the second half and will regret not seeing out the match. South Sydney made far too many errors in the second half, but hung in there and took their chances late when they were offered, backing themselves with their attack, which was brilliant at times, especially in the first half. It was another great clash between two great sides.


Embed from Getty Images

3 – Latrell Mitchell (Rabbitohs)
2 – Nathan Cleary (Panthers)
1 – Stephen Crichton (Panthers)

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