Rugby League

Warriors 44 Rabbitohs 22

Momentum shift spells end of Bunnies' run

AUCKLAND: Like most things in life, success in rugby league is all about momentum, or rather how you cope when you don't have it.


For the Rabbitohs, momentum was a ghost they chased the width and length of Mt Smart Stadium yesterday, grasping at it only briefly in their eight-try demolition by the Warriors.

In the categories that matter - possession (54 per cent to 46 per cent), completion rates (71 per cent to 69 per cent), line breaks (5 to 2), and runs made (139 to 119) - the Warriors proved the better of the two combatants. Errors too (12) proved costly.

Rabbitohs co-captain John Sutton summed up things for his side. ''It started well, but we didn't play for the full 80 minutes today,'' he said. ''The Warriors pulled our pants down.''

The two sides came into the match from differing corners: the Warriors off a two-match Australian sojourn in which they played their worst 160 minutes of the season; the Bunnies with two wins on the bounce and looking red hot after a dominant victory over the Bulldogs last week.


And when new Kangaroo Dave Taylor crossed the chalk off a neat Adam Reynolds grubber four minutes in, it looked like the visitors would continue their winning ways in front of 15,378 fans in Auckland.

The dancing feet and composure of Shaun Johnson and Origin prospect James Maloney meant otherwise. Through tries to Lewis Brown, Jerome Ropati, Bill Tupou and Simon Mannering, all set up by the kicking games of the Warriors pivots, the home side piled on 16 points in 13 minutes, and looked like building a healthy half-time lead.

Yet the Rabbitohs struck back, enjoying their only real phase of dominance in the match; the last 10 minutes of the first half, and first 10 of the second.

They made hay in both patches, with tries to red-hot winger Andrew Everingham and a second to Taylor, who was proving an absolute handful for the Warriors defence any time he got his big mitts on the pill.

His try after 51 minutes drew the Rabbitohs within four, providing them with a hint of salvation, if only they could hold onto the ball. The Warriors, vastly improved in defence and strong in the middle of the park, ensured they wouldn't.

Mannering's second try, after 57 minutes, and Ben Henry's three minutes later, off a sublime cross-field kick by Johnson, meant the match would be wrapped up before the clock struck 80.

A mercurial offload by Taylor set up Everingham's second with 15 minutes to go, but it was a consolation, with Ukuma Ta'ai and Krisnan Inu both snaring four-pointers late.

Henry's impressive tackle on Greg Inglis with about 15 minutes to go provided the real metaphor of the game. It was a match-up completely dominated by the Warriors.

For Warriors coach Brian McClennan, it was a result that seemed likely. ''Even when we were down 6-0, I could see from the way the boys were playing we were going to be hard to beat,'' he said. ''Today's the first time we've finished the game this year where we've had more possession. The scoreboard pretty well reflects that.''

Souths coach Michael Maguire rued the lack of ball and the constant defending his team had to do. ''At some stage, that's going to wear on your team,'' he said. ''As much as you can fight and fight, as our players were out there trying to do, they opened us up at the back end. If you do have an error, all of a sudden you get burnt very quickly.''

The Warriors will head to Melbourne to play the table-topping Storm after Friday's Test. ''I think it's timely to go to Melbourne,'' McClennan said. ''I know we'll have to improve a lot on today to match Melbourne. I watched the Dogs play them last night, and I thought that was a really good quality match. It will be good for us to step up to that.''

WARRIORS 44 (S Mannering 2, L Brown, B Henry, K Inu, J Ropati, U Ta'ai, B Tupou tries; J Maloney 6 goals) bt SOUTH SYDNEY 22 (A Everingham 2, D Taylor 2 tries; A Reynolds 3 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referees: Shayne Hayne, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 15,378