In a game that produced big hits frequently – including a potential hit of the season by Manly Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai – it was the South Sydney Rabbitohs who came away with a 20-8 win over Manly.
Forced to play much of the game without key play-maker Adam Reynolds who left the field due to concussion, it was Luke Keary and Aaron Gray that led from the front, guiding Souths to victory.
Manly tried persistently to score against the sturdy Souths defence but were their own enemy at times, as the Souths defence held firm. Eventually, Manly did score, opening the scoring in the 26th minute through Peta Hiku.
The Bunnies bounced back through Aaron Gray, who scored the first of his two tries, before a penalty goal put Souths up 6-4 at half-time.
With the game billed as one that would see the Burgess brothers (George and Tom for Souths) and (Luke Burgess for Manly), go head-to-head – bragging rights went home with the Souths duo.
Despite Manly’s best efforts to stay in the game, they were overpowered by Souths, with youngster Aaron Gray playing his best game of the season to continue his already quality form.
The poor mistakes and execution cost Manly, as coach Geoff Toovey was quick to point out the superior play of the Souths side.
“I thought we dominated large portions of the first half but I thought Souths came out a bit more enthusiastic than us and when you do that things tend to go that way,” Toovey said.
“It was just one of those things, South Sydney are a quality side and obviously when a team like that gets momentum they’re hard to stop.”
Gray’s performance drew raucous praise from Souths coach Michael Maguire, who is pleased to see the youngster fitting in so well.
“Off the back of a really hard working forward pack and the halves Aaron has learned how to finish really well there so I’m really pleased with his progress,” Maguire said.
“To see Aaron run around with some of his best mates in Dylan Walker and Alex Johnston, it’s good to be a part of watching these kids grow.”
Player of the Game:
3. Aaron Gray
2. George Burgess
1. John Sutton
South Sydney Rabbitohs 20 (Aaron Gray 2, Bryson Goodwin, Luke Keary Tries; Issac Luke 2 Goals) defeated Manly-Waringah Sea Eagles 8 (Peta Hiku, Steve Matai Tries) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 14, 236. Half-time: Rabbitohs 6-4.