South Sydney have walked away with their heads high after only narrowly being beaten by the Leeds Rhinos in the Florida, USA historic clash. The final score favoured the Rhinos; scraping home 26-24 after originally leading 26-0 at halftime.
Souths assignment was slightly tougher than their UK counterparts – the Rabbitohs fielding virtually a second string NRL side and starting what was their first pre-season hitout. The Premiership winning Leeds Rhinos side had several trial games under their belt and fielded a side littered with UK Super League talent.
In the end, both coaches would have been happy with the experiment. As the Rhinos raced away to a safe lead, coach Brian McLennan rested several stars in the second term – probably playing a part in allowing the spirited Souths side to creep back into the game.
For the Bunnies, solid showings from Ben Rogers, Issac Luke and Eddie Paea will put them in good stead for jerseys come NRL time and the result certainly shows that South Sydney now have some serious depth in their growing squad. After plugging the gaps in 2007 with some stars, the knock-on effect is happening – juniors are coming through and the foundations laid by the new owners is certainly baring fruit.
The only unfortunate result was the poor weather in the USA, some rain and overcast conditions put a slight dampener on the event – in total approximately 12,000 spectators turned out including celebrities recruited by Crowe and his PR team. Pre-season entertainment included Orange County Choppers and their famous crew performing in front of the vocal crowd. Reports from the South Sydney club have suggested their entire merchandise stand sold out during the match and officials claim they have adding a swag of new supporters on the other side of the world.
Â A worthy pre-season event that has not only helped the two sides taking part – but has given both clubs and both the NRL and Super League great exposure in the massive American market.
Leeds Rhinos 26 (Matt Diskin, Brent Webb, Rob Burrow, Keith Senior, Scott Donald tries; Kevin Sinfield 3 goals)
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 (Ben Rogers, Issac Luke, Eddie Paea, George Ndaira tries; Issac Luke 2, Eddie Paea, George Ndaira goals)