South Sydney went on a 28-point second half scoring spree to beat the Vodafone Warriors 34-18 in Saturday night’s 13th-round NRL encounter at nibStadium in Perth.
The Vodafone Warriors had a 14-6 lead early in the second half but the brave Rabbitohs, despite being battered and bruised, finished off the contest impressively, denying the ‘away’ side a first win in Perth in six attempts.
The nature of the game was similar to last year’s match-up at the same ground when the Vodafone Warriors led 13-6 at halftime but conceded 24 points in the second half to lose 13-30.
This time they scored first in the second half and also had the last say with a classic Konrad Hurrell try in the last minute but found themselves in a hole as the Rabbitohs came at them with five tries and 28 points in the 20-minute period from the 56th minute to the 76th minute.
Earlier in front of a crowd of 20,267 weighted in their favour, the Vodafone Warriors made an utterly electric start.
Coming off his milestone celebrations captain Simon Mannering played a key hand twice, first with a shift out the back with slick hands – especially from Sam Tomkins – freeing Konrad Hurrell to draw the defence and give rookie winger David Fusitu’a a shot at the right corner.
With John Sutton coming at him in cover, Fusitu’a launched himself into a spectacular dive to get the ball down a fraction of a second in time; it was a truly wondrous finish in just the fourth minute.
While Shaun Johnson’s conversion missed the Vodafone Warriors were at South Sydney again immediately, pulling off another smart play in the sixth minute.
Mannering again sparked it with a nice pass out the back to Chad Townsend, Suaia Matagi running off him and bursting through a hole to find Johnson on his right shoulder for another fabulous try. Johnson converted from in front and an explosive start had the away side leading 10-0.
The Rabbitohs kept their composure, though, and worked their way into the battle. With a rash of penalties helping them they wound the pressure up, forcing the Vodafone Warriors to defend multiple sets. They stood up to the challenge splendidly but ultimately had their line breached by Dylan Walker, Adam Reynolds converting to make it 10-6 after 24 minutes.
There was so much to like about this as a spectacle, the Vodafone Warriors giving the occasion so much spice with the level of aggression and energy in all they were doing.
It took its toll on the Rabbitohs, too, with the lethal Greg Inglis forced to leave the field just before halftime with a serious ankle injury. It was confirmed he wouldn’t return and was almost certainly out of the second State of Origin match in Sydney.
South Sydney prop George Burgess was also forced off the field after a heavy head clash with Sebastine Ikahihifo but was cleared to return at halftime.
More injury strife came South Sydney’s way when Bryson Goodwin reeled out of a tackle on Manu Vatuvei with an elbow injury. Other South Sydney players were feeling the effects of the exchanges, too.
With the grind becoming a war of attrition the Vodafone Warriors won another set after Tomkins was held back trying to support a Townsend break (he would surely have scored but for being illegally checked by Chris McQueen).
From the repeat set, the Vodafone Warriors were all poise hitting the left for ‘Captain Fantastic’ Simon Mannering to score his third try in two weeks. Johnson couldn’t guide the conversion attempt between the posts leaving the Vodafone Warriors only 14-6 ahead when their performance to that point was worth more.
The concern for the Vodafone Warriors was letting the Rabbitohs back into the battle. Sadly they did.
First Walker’s clever footwork carried him to a second try in the 56th minute and all too soon South Sydney was in front when second rower Kyle Turner, patching up his side’s centres, scored wide out. Reynolds missed the conversion but his side had a 16-14 lead against the odds.
The two quick strikes sparked a remarkable onslaught, all the more remarkable because the Rabbitohs’ playing resources were so depleted. The Vodafone Warriors had been hammering them physically yet South Sydney had the wherewithal to absorb it and then regain the momentum.
Prop Dave Tyrell had a rare try through the middle in the 66th minute, winger Joel Reddy plucked a bomb for another touchdown in the 72nd minute and Tyrell was put in again in the 76th minute.
There was time for Hurrell’s long-range special, his 30th career try, as he ploughed through Walker to score. It was small consolation, though, on a night when the Vodafone Warriors had offered so much in the first 50 minutes.
Their defence has been their strength over the last two months. Going into this match they had conceded an average of just 16 points a game in their previous seven outings; they couldn’t sustain it in the end against a South Sydney side which unleashed on them for 20 minutes.
The Vodafone Warriors now go into their first bye of the season before they prepare for their last 11 games of the regular season, seven of them at Mount Smart Stadium.
Match details | nibStadium, Perth
South Sydney Rabbitohs 34 (Dylan Walker 2, Dave Tyrell 2, Kyle Turner, Joel Reddy tries; Adam Reynolds 5 conversions).
Vodafone Warriors 18 (David Fusitu’a, Shaun Johnson, Simon Mannering, Konrad Hurrell tries; Shaun Johnson conversion).
Halftime: 10-6 Vodafone Warriors.
Referees: Jared Maxwell and Dave Munro.
Vodafone Warriors: Sam Tomkins; David Fusitu’a, Konrad Hurrell, Ngani Laumape, Manu Vatuvei; Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson; Jacob Lillyman, Siliva Havili, Suaia Matagi; Jayson Bukuya, Ben Matulino; Simon Mannering (c). Interchange: Nathan Friend, Sam Rapira, Feleti Mateo, Sebastine Ikahihifo.