Roosters 22 Rabbitohs 24
Great escape ... Adam Reynolds scores the match-winning try. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Revenge is a dish best served, well, any time these two teams play. In round one, the Roosters scored two tries in the final three minutes to topple their rivals. Last night, stunningly, Souths bettered that.
The Rabbitohs, with two tries in the final two minutes, beat the Roosters and secured a top-four spot. The first came from winger Nathan Merritt, then, as the seconds ticked down, halfback Adam Reynolds scored from a play which originated from the ensuing kick off. It was remarkable.
Rabbitohs get the hop on the Roosters
The Rabbitohs get the hop on the Roosters, 24-22. The Rabbitohs, with two tries in the final two minutes, beat the Roosters and secured a top-four spot. Photos by Brendan Esposito. Selected images available from www.fairfaxsyndication.com Photo: Brendan Esposito
Up until then, the Roosters supporters had been singing. When halfback Mitchell Pearce scored with four minutes remaining, they had led 22-12. Doubts were surfacing in the Rabbitohs' ability to win on big occasions, knowing they could claw into the top-four with a win last night. In a flash, the Rabbitohs had responded, and the Roosters, who had scrapped and fought so hard, were left in disbelief.
The Rabbitohs had some issues to deal with too. Hooker Issac Luke was placed on report for a lifting tackle on his New Zealand teammate Shaun Kenny-Dowall. Luke can be a superb attacking weapon out of dummy half, but he needs to curb his aggression occasionally.
On top of that, the Rabbitohs suffered some injuries to key players. While both fullback Greg Inglis finished the match, he was certainly troubled by a knee injury suffered three minutes before half-time.
Reynolds, too, suffered a nasty injury and, while he managed to play on, the Rabbitohs will no doubt be sweating on his fitness over the next few days. Reynolds's left ankle was caught awkwardly underneath the weight of centre Mitchell Aubusson, and he finished the match with the joint heavily strapped.
Second-rower Dave Taylor also suffered a dislocated finger.
When Souths wanted to play they were difficult to stop. They showed that from the opening. Inglis was too quick to get past halfback Mitchell Pearce, not quick enough to get around fullback Anthony Minichiello, but good enough to throw a netball pass to Nathan Merritt for the try.
But then the Rabbitohs got a little comfortable. They weren't doing the things that came in the build-up to the try, like bending their back in attack. They did so in defence, which deprived the Roosters of points for a time, but the Rabbitohs kept turning the ball back to their opponents, with a pushed pass or one thrown forward.
They were always going to break and they finally did after 23 minutes. Skipper Braith Anasta's kick was contested by both Inglis and Roosters centre Tautau Moga. Neither of them came down with the ball; that was left to second-rower Boyd Cordner, who scored.
That sparked the Rabbitohs into action again. Their response was swift, Dave Taylor's flick finding centre Dylan Farrell, who put his winger Andrew Everingham over.
But then the Roosters piled on the pressure. It almost paid off, when Joseph Leilua cheekily grubbered for himself, only to pick the ball up with his right foot out of play.
The Rabbitohs copped the tip from their coach in the second half. They were more disciplined with the football and spent the early stages of the half dominating proceedings.
But the Roosters caught the Rabbitohs, well, on the hop. Souths interchange player Jason Clark tried a miracle flick with his side deep in attack, before Mitchell Pearce's ball put Moga into clear air, and the winger showed some toe to score.
Somehow, Leilua was denied another try by the video referee, Russell Smith, midway through the second half. The winger appeared to have done enough to convince the officials that he had grounded the ball in the corner, but Smith, somewhat mystifyingly, did not agree. But six minutes later, Leilua would not be denied, scoring in the same spot. Pearce finished off a movement full of flair with four minutes remaining.
They thought they were home. That can never be assumed.
SOUTH SYDNEY 24 (N Merritt 2 A Everingham A Reynolds tries A Reynolds 4 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 22 (B Cordner J Leilua T Moga M Pearce tries B Anasta 3 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 19,934.