Bunnies bruised but not broken
Rabbitohs 38 Papua New Guinea 12
BOASTING a prop named Loko and a back-rower called Mexico the Papuan New Guinea Residents sounded as though they could be a bunch of tough hombres, and on Saturday the pair played their part to ensure Souths' annual return to Redfern Oval was a bone-rattling occasion.
With their co-owner, the Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, watching proceedings from high in the stand, the Rabbitohs won the encounter 38-12 – but they suffered a few bruises along the way
Mark Mexico nailed Souths forward Dave Tyrrell when he returned the kick-off for the second quarter like a cannonball. The Souths faithful, and there were a few thousand of them, screamed “shoulder charge” to the referee as Tyrrell was presumably asked by his team's trainer what planet he was on.
He rallied a few minutes later when he dragged three defenders across the line to allow the Rabbitohs to level the scores 12-12 after they went into the first quarter a surprising six points behind the visitors.
If any Souths player pulled his boots on thinking the trial against the Papua New Guineans was going to be a walk in a park, they were rudely enlightened by the men from Port Moresby, Lae and the Highlands.
They were subjected to some fierce hits, and it was a collective and committed effort in defence from the resident Kumuls. Time after time in the first half they repelled numerous Rabbitohs raids with scrambling defence.
Their try-saving feats were assisted, to a degree, by the Souths attack, which failed to keep the ball alive out wide when there were tries begging. There were plenty of players trying to make things happen, including halfback Luke Keary, a former Australian rugby union schoolboy representative who starred in last year's Souths under-20 side.
His halves partner, Jason Hunt, played some clever and skilful football and sparked some exciting raids. Hooker Apisai Koroisau, who is behind Isaac Luke and Nathan Peats, was another to make the most of his opportunity in the top team.
The Papua New Guineans were as keen to impress. Enoch Maki unceremoniously up-ended George Burgess; his brother Thomas was given a tough welcome to Souths when, as the fourth member of the Burgess clan from England to play for Souths, he was dragged down by a few defenders while making some mighty runs.
The visitors displayed some flamboyance to complement their toughness and the pick of them was their No.7, Israel Eliab, a 22-year-old with a promising future. He scored two tries in the opening 20 minutes, the most exciting of the pair a 70 metre intercept try.
They didn't get a look in from there. Souths, who played the game in a good spirit, seized control of the game on the back of tries to Jason Clark, who bagged a double, Tyrell, Ben Lowe, Aaron Gray and Bennett Leslie.
Souths 38 (Jason Clark 2, Dave Tyrrell, Ben Lowe, Chris McQueen Aaron Gray, Bennett Leslie tries; Bryson Goodwin 5 goals) beat PNG Residents 12 (Israel Elobi two tries)