It was a nail biting, momentum shifting match as heavy winds blew at Energy Australia Stadium. The Rabbitohs leading early and looking to coast, until the Knights grabbed the initiative and kept it for the next 50 minutes.
Adam McDougall lived up to the hype, having a massive game against his former club. The powerhouse winger sending a post try celebration Russell Crowe’s way with a phone throwing special after he went over early. McDougall setup another try and narrowly missed bagging his second with the video referee correctly awarding a knock-on.
McDougall was aided by the young Knights halves, with Jarrod Mullen and Luke Walsh again putting together some champagne Rugby League. Long cut out balls, then short popped passes leading to tries. It was a full range of tricks from the halves who plyed both sides of the ruck and also together at various stages.
Newcastle will also be happy with the debut by barnstorming winger Cooper Vuna. This guy is an agile big man with speed to burn, putting on a display to burn past David Peachy to score untouched.
But it was to be the Bunnies night. Sean Hampstead nearly handing Newcastle victory with an incorrect call on an alleged Ben Rogers strip. Rogers merely cleared the ruck and McManus spewed the ball out for the Knights. When Hampstead handed the Knights the penalty Luke Walsh waltzed downfield to pot a 20m field goal – seemingly giving the Knights the win.
Souths again injected youngster Issac Luke into dummy half and we will be hearing plenty about this kid. I caught some vision of him last week, and was blown away not only by his dummy half elusive running – but his defence was immaculate. Not only faultless, but he was driving guys back that were twice his size. Issac Luke again showed us his wares, with plenty of work at dummy half and a match breaking scoot between two defenders to setup Roy Asotasi beautifully under the posts to tie the match late.
Man of the match Asotasi is back to career best form. The former Bulldog has said he needs to lift his improving side and not rely on other superstars as he may have done at the Dogs. Asotasi was untouchable most of the night, scoring his first try untouched off a nice Stuart Webb setup play from 5m. But it was every single hitup that the RoyBoy made that was so impressive, he constantly required 3 Knights to bring him down, always poked out of the other side and regularly had the ball carrying arm free – amazing stuff. Asotasi capped off a big night, with a late try off the work of Issac Luke.
Reece Simmonds had an unhappy night after getting a late call up for Nathan Merritt, the lively winger spilling a few balls and looking a little edgy. Simmonds is a class player, but probably got a little nervous after getting his chance tonight. Rounding out the wraps for the Bunnies, halves combination Jeremy Smith and Ben Rogers were well polished tonight. Smith has really become the experienced ship captain these days, driving the team around the park well – knowing when to find touch and rest the forwards and knowing when to spark things up with second phase player and good chatter. Ben Rogers the former Panther has always been someone with plenty of promise. The stocky, crafty pivot is looking the goods this past few weeks. He threw some choice passes, but regularly ran the ball to the line and pierced it too. He has a massive distance kicking game, probably just needs to work on his discipline – although I see him being a mainstay for the Bunnies now.
This win keeps the Rabbitohs in the mix for the Top 8. Sneaking the Souths boys into 8th spot on percentages pending other matches this round.
It makes things tougher for Newcastle however, with the Knights and Brian Smith heading to his old house in Parramatta – Cumberland Oval, or Parramatta Stadium as they call it these days. It’s Hagan v Knights and Smith v Eels – with the homeground being oh so important. We wait with anticipation for the big one next Monday Night – It’s going to be big time Bundy Monday!