South Sydney fought back in style tonight, winning for the first time in nearly 2 decades at WIN Stadium against the toiling Dragons.
A reshuffled South Sydney Rabbitohs lineup did the job tonight, coach Jason Taylor calling up Jeremy Smith and Joe Williams back into the halves combination in the hope of more attacking football and the change was a crucial one.
Joe Williams is playing for his NRL life and he certainly showed his coach and everyone else again what he can do in the top grade. Williams kicked astutely for most of the night and earned himself several try assists from the boot and hand.
Souths did most of the little things right tonight, looking like a gritty, finals bound NRL side. When the pressure was applied, the Bunnies dug deep and never looked headed. Season 2007 has taught Souths how to win the close games, they’re able to stick solid and grind out the win when needed.
Nathan Merritt again showed his value at fullback, defusing several dangerous situations and pulling off one of the try savers of the year – a ball and all tackle in the final 15 minutes to stop what looked like a certain Dragons try. The ageless Paul Mellor continues to look evergreen; using his height well in attack and apart from some minor poor reads in defence he adds experience and starch to the fringes for the Bunnies.
The Dragons are still on the improve and looked in the game all night; they are certainly playing much better football than earlier in the season. Injuries again hurting their main men at crucial times, Matt Cooper struggling tonight with what looked like shoulder problems and Ben Creagh hurting his knee – a constant problem with the Dragons for what seems like an eternity. When the Dragons scored through Rangi Chase – they looked like they might sneak home in front of the massive local WIN Stadium crowd of 18,300. The Rangi Chase try amazingly awarded by video referee Phil Cooley; how this was a try amazed everyone in the stadium and watching around the country. Chase losing control clearly and fumbling the ball over the line. How video referees continue to come up with left field calls is mind boggling – one week they seem to red light every try – the next week they award tries, that never should have been given. NRL News will take a look at video referees in more depth through the coming week.
Tom Hewitt was a standout for the Dragons, bagging two tries and proving a handful all night – Hewitt is certainly a star on the rise and will surely be a regular in the Saints lineups moving forward. Patience was probably lacking for the Dragons tonight; several times the red and whites went for the killer play rather than just building pressure – they also needed to target Joe Williams on the fringes more; with Gasnier or Cooper rarely getting the little man one on one.
With tonights gritty win; the South Sydney side are well and truly in the hunt for the NRL Top 8 finals. With the Wests Tigers and Parramatta Eels losing this weekend; it surely gives the lower Top 8 hopefuls a boost – showing there are still spots on offer this year.
Souths also look to have good depth, with Shane Rigon and Issac Luke interchanging well and boom juniors Buddy Gordon and John Sutton back in nice form for the Bunnies. Souths are blessed with big bulky outside backs and an iron clad defence – both good ingredients for a real finals challenge.