South Sydney conceded a try before they touched the ball, lost their halfback and gave the Bulldogs a chance at an eight-point try - it just wasn't meant to be South Sydney's night. They fought for the right to play in the club's first grand final in 41 years, and while they battled courageously, there was nothing they could do to halt the Bulldogs juggernaut. The Rabbitohs fans were daring to dream of the club's 21st premiership, but Des Hasler's side gatecrashed the party and now have the chance to add the premiership crown to their minor premiership. In front of 70,354 at ANZ Stadium, the Bulldogs sent out a warning to their Melbourne rivals with yet another complete performance. They'll have a few walking wounded, including five-eighth Josh Reynolds (shoulder), but they managed to get through this match relatively unscathed.
The Bulldogs' first set of the match was picture perfect. They went 100 metres, won a penalty and registered points before South Sydney even touched the ball. The Rabbitohs dominated the next 35 minutes to take an 8-4 lead heading into half-time, and even without Adam Reynolds, who left the field with a hamstring injury, they looked in total control. But tries to Sam Perrett and Jonathan Wright in the space of three minutes turned the game on its head. The Rabbitohs returned from the sheds trailing 16-8. It was always going to be a tough ask to pull back the deficit against such a good defensive Bulldogs side, who scored another three second-half tries to claim a comfortable 32-8 win.
WHAT THEY SAID
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler was characteristically circumspect at the post-match press conference: ''We kept our composure and completed much better in the second half. It's a great result for this young side.''
Souths coach Michael Maguire: ''Reyno has probably done a thousand kick-chases like that. It was a great play from him - he is renowned for those plays. It is just unfortunate that it happened tonight.
WHAT THE GAME MEANS FOR THE BULLDOGS
It caps off an incredible year for the blue and whites, who have now set up a grand-final showdown with Melbourne. It'll be No.1 versus No.2 in the competition. While their attack has received plenty of credit, it's their defence that will be the focus this week if they are to contain the Storm.
WHAT THE GAME MEANS FOR THE RABBITOHS
They may be out, but by no means was last night the end. Their breakthrough season is just the start of a long and successful reign under rookie coach Michael Maguire. They overachieved this year but the club's 21st premiership isn't out of their reach next season. Gold Coast-bound Dave Taylor played his last game for the club.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Let the fun and games begin. For the players, this will be a week to remember. But between the formalities and media commitments, there actually isn't a lot of time for football. Des Hasler and Craig Bellamy will both know how to handle it. The Bulldogs will share the spotlight with the Sydney Swans, but that won't mean they'll go into the premiership decider under the radar.