A field-goal and a penalty goal in the final five minutes has seen the South Sydney Rabbitohs register an important 25-22 victory over the St George Illawarra Dragons in Wollongong on Sunday.
The Dragons wasted no time stamping their authority on the match racing to a 10-0 lead after crossing for two quick tries in the opening minutes courtesy of wingers Lachlan Maranta and Jonus Pearson, who lasted less than 30 seconds on the interchange bench after a direct swap with Jordan Pereira to make him eligible for the finals series.
After a frustrating period for both sides, South Sydney finally hit back through their winger Mawane Hiroti, who was on the end of a brilliant cut-out ball from backrower Jack Johns, before planting it just inside the corner post, narrowing the deficit to 10-4.
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A mistake from souths interchange forward Brock Gray, who took out Dragons’ Darren Nicholls in the air could have been costly, however the saints dropped the steeden from the tap. Souths weren’t completely off the hook, with a heads up play from Joe Lovodua at the half hour mark were he kicked into the in-goal for a racing Reece Robson who grounded it to extend the hosts lead to 16-4, which it remained at the break.
South Sydney started the second half with better intensity, with a strategic offload from Levi Dodd setting up their second try shortly after the resumption. Dodd’s offload found half Blake Taaffe who raced away before linking up with Leigh Higgins who finished off a spectacular try. Hitori slotted the goal to make it 16-10.
A short while later, a lack of aggression in defence by the Red V allowed Bailey Sironen to stroll over for an easy four pointer, with Hitori’s goal leveling proceedings at 16-all. The Dragons still hadn’t addressed their defensive issues on their own line, conceding another four pointer, with Connor Tracey cutting through to score, giving the Rabbithos the lead for the first time in the contest at 22-16 with just twenty remaining on the clock.
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The hosts responded when Lovodua injected himself into the contest again, jumping out of dummy half before popping a pass to Adam Clune who found some space, racing away downfield before turning the ball back inside to the support runner in Jai Field who planted it underneath the sticks. Tristan Sailor’s kick conversion successful to level the scores at 22-all.
The Bunnies took their first opportunity to take the field goal, after a strong attacking set saw them march up field getting in prime position. Taaffe demanded the ball behind the ruck, and got his demand, slotting the one-pointer heading into the final five minutes. A penalty goal in the dying stages from Hiroti was the nail in the coffin, with Souths stealing a 25-22 victory.