A high-scoring game saw South Sydney just hold off a second half Vodafone Warriors comeback to win 32-30 in Sunday's 21st-round Canterbury Cup NSW encounter at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford on Sunday.
When wing Setu Tu scored in the 74th minute there was still time for the Vodafone Warriors to snatch victory but the Rabbitohs held on to protect their lead in the competition.
The visitors had opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a powerful try from prop Sam Lisone as he ran onto the ball just left of the uprights.
South Sydney’s forward pack returned serve with a dominant run from Tom Amone who fractured the defence and landed over the line.
The try inspired the Rabbitohs as they continued to put pressure on the opposition's right edge.
It came to no avail as the Vodafone Warriors extended reinforced their lead after a quick play the ball from Tu created an opportunity loose forward Josh Curran to barrel over the line. Taane Milne's conversion extended the lead to 12-4.
The Vodafone Warriors couldn't maintain pressure after the restart with a poor play-the-ball on their own 20-metre gifting South Sydney standoff Connor Tracy a try five tackles after the scrum. A successful conversion by winger Hiroti saw the Rabbitohs trail just 10-12.
The home side finally saw its first lead with an impressive 60-metre sprint from fullback Leigh Higgins after South Sydney shifted the ball to its left edge. The conversion was unsuccessful but a penalty right on halftime gave Souths a 16-12 lead.
Undisciplined South Sydney defence at the start of the second half saw back-to-back Vodafone Warriors penalties, Milne converting the second of them to narrow the margin to 14-16.
Blake Taaffe, Jayden Su’A and Levi Dodd, combined on the right edge for Dodd to score. It wasn't converted, leaving Souths 18-16 ahead.
Minutes later, Su’A burst into space, combining again with his halfback Taaffe to put the New Zealand side under pressure. Su'a got his hands back on the ball in the next play, putting winger Pio Nakubuwai over.
A fantastic exhibition of footwork took Vodafone Warriors fullback Paul Turner through South Sydney's line for an unconverted try to close the gap between the teams.
Minutes later Turner attacked the line again with an impressive chip and chase, turning the South Sydney defence around as he passed to centre Patrick Herbert to score.
Another relatively easy conversion was missed due to the sea breeze on the Central Coast field keeping the home team ahead by two points with less than fifteen minutes to go.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs refused to let the Vodafone Warriors get the better of them as Amone crossed for his second try of the game, powering through several defenders in the process.
The Vodafone Warriors remained in the game with five minutes left when Tu scored after combining with halfback Blake Ayshford and his edge partner Milne to break a fatiguing South Sydney defence.
A repeat set in the Rabbitohs half gave the Vodafone Warriors the opportunity for an upset win with 30 seconds to go on the clock but they couldn't capitalise on their field position with South Sydney wing Hiroti making an inspired one-on-one tackle to keep his team ahead.
The loss resulted in the Vodafone Warriors slipping back a spot on the ladder to seventh.
At Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
South Sydney Rabbitohs 32 (Tom Amone 2, Connor Tracey, Leigh Higgins, Levi Dodd, Pio Nakubuwai tries; Mawene Hiroti 3 conversions, penalty).
Vodafone Warriors 30 (Sam Lisone, Josh Curran, Paul Turner, Patrick Herbert, Setu Tu tries; Taane Milne 4 conversions, penalty).
Halftime: 16-12 Rabbitohs.
Vodafone Warriors | Paul Turner; Lewis Soosemea, Patrick Herbert, Taane Milne, Setu Tu; Hayze Perham, Blake Ayshford; Sam Lisone, Tyler Slade, Jackson Frei; Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Leivaha Pulu; Josh Curran. Interchange: King Vuniyayawa, Sean Mullany, Preston Riki, Phillip Makatoa.