St George Illawarra 18 South Sydney 19
Adam Reynolds kicks the field goal that won the game for Souths in extra-time. Photo: Steve Christo
This time last year Jamie Soward was preparing to make his State of Origin debut for NSW, while Adam Reynolds was wondering if he would ever get the chance to play NRL after undergoing a knee reconstruction.
Adam Reynolds is embraced by Matt King after winning the game. Photo: Steve Christo
Yet you could have been excused at Jubilee Oval yesterday for thinking it was the other way around as 21-year-old Reynolds emerged the hero for South Sydney with a match-winning field goal.
In contrast, Soward, who admitted afterwards that he did not deserve to retain the Blues No.6 jersey he wore in all three matches of last year's Origin series, botched three attempts to secure victory for St George Illawarra.
It was the second time in just 10 NRL matches that Reynolds has come up trumps for the Rabbitohs after landing a sideline conversion to send the round five match against Wests Tigers into extra time.
Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs come out on top
Fans at Jubilee Oval. Photo: Steve Christo
The right boot of Greg Inglis secured the win for Souths on that occasion but in the Origin star's absence yesterday Reynolds stepped up to the mark and kicked a 35 metre field goal just 103 seconds into the golden-point period.
Reynolds's heroics capped a man-of-the-match performance by the Rabbitohs junior who had been vying with Chris Sandow to be the club's long-term halfback before suffering a season-ending knee injury in last year's pre-season.
Besides his field goal and the 60th minute Andrew Everingham try he laid on with a grubber, Reynolds's kicking game was superb and his perfectly weighted kick-off into St George Illawarra's in-goal at the start of extra time helped set up the win.
Forced to begin the set near their own line, the Dragons needed Soward to kick them out of trouble but he was unable to and the Rabbitohs gained possession in position to be able to get close enough for Reynolds to kick the field goal.
It was the second time in six days St George Illawarra had lost to a field goal in extra time.
Asked if there was a way to play during golden point, Soward said: ''There is, we just didn't play it today. That set coming off our line was probably our worst set for the game. We probably made just 15 or 20 metres and I had to kick off the back foot.''
But the Dragons should never have been in that position after racing to a 12-0 lead through early tries to winger Jason Nightingale and Soward.
Tries to Sam Burgess and Reynolds enabled the Rabbitohs to draw level at the break before Matt Cooper put the home side back in front when he crossed in the 49th minute.
Everingham's 60th-minute try again levelled the scores at 18-all and Soward had the chance to regain the lead for his side when he attempted a 40-metre penalty goal, but the ball swung wide and was fielded by Souths fullback Nathan Merritt.
Soward also missed two shots at a field goal, while halfback and captain Ben Hornby failed with an attempt.
''We had a few chances to win both those games in normal time and we just haven't been able to do it,'' Hornby said.
St George Illawarra coach Steve Price said he had a theory about why the team had fallen away at the end of each half, but praised Soward.
''I thought that display he dished up today was the best game he has played for the Dragons this year,'' Price said. ''I thought his decision making defensively was outstanding, I thought his kicking game especially in the first half was great and I thought him and Ben worked together well during the game.''
Yet afterwards Soward was left to answer questions about his Origin axing, while excited Rabbitohs fans were pushing Reynolds claims as a future NSW halfback on Twitter.
SOUTH SYDNEY 19 (S Burgess A Everingham A Reynolds tries A Reynolds 3 goals A Reynolds field goal) bt ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 18 (M Cooper J Nightingale J Soward tries J Soward 3 goals) in golden-point extra time at WIN Jubilee Oval. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Brett Suttor. Crowd: 14,894.