Parramatta Eels rookie sensation Bevan French may have scored a double but the talking point was the last minute solo try by Semi Radradra, one of the form wingers of the competition.
Semi’s solo try saw him intercept a Souths pass and run 90m to score as he weaved in and out of defenders, leaving them clutching at thin air before a conversion from Michael Gordon sealed a 30-12 win.
The try moves Semi ever closer to the top try-scorer’s tally, a mantle he reached last year.
With several Origin stars out for the Bunnies, it prompted a re-shuffle, as Cody Walker moved back into the halves. Souths also welcomed back veteran John Sutton, who provided some much needed starch and experience in the back-row.
Souths started the stronger of the two sides as some lackadaisical Eels defence on their own goal-line allowed Alex Johnston to slice through and score.
The game ebbed and flowed after that point for some time as the Eels hit back with some nifty play on the flank, before Nathan Brown scored a rare try to keep the Bunnies momentum flowing.
The second half was all the Eels, though, as they dominated possession and territory. When Souths did have chances to score, they failed to capitalise and it ultimately cost them.
The ever reliable boot of Michael ‘Flash’ Gordon from all over the park proved the ultimate difference, as he got the Eels out to an eight-point lead. That was before the Semi magic.
Semi, who has enjoyed a recent rich vein of form showed why he is regarded as an elite winger, with a solo try that had Eels fans jumping for joy and cheering.
The sour note for the Eels was dynamic hooker Kaysa Pritchard leaving the field with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
Siosifa Talakai also departed late in the game, hobbling off with the help of a Souths trainer.
There was praise all-round for Semi and his late try, with fellow winger Bevan French lauding his efforts.
“I’ll just leave that up to Semi I think. I’ll get the easy tries from five metres out and I’ll leave the 100-metre tries to Semi,” he said.
“I was just out there bludging on the wing looking for air. I saw him starting to run so I thought I better start running as well. He’s just a freak, there’s no other way to explain it.”
Those sentiments were then echoed by coach Brad Arthur.
“Semi’s a freak,” he said.
“There’s nothing you can do coaching-wise with Semi. He’s gifted and we’re lucky.”
French also drew praise from Arthur but he was also critical of the areas he can improve in.
“We brought him in to finish movements for usâ€¦ he’s a finisher,” Arthur said.
“He’s still got a lot to learn and he needs to learn where to put himself in the game. He’s only going to grow and get better.”
A return for John Sutton had Souths fans worried to begin with but he performed strongly and was highlighted as a key player in the game for Souths.
“I’m very proud of John,” Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said after the match.
“He came back a little early and he came back and performed quite well â€“ actually very well for the team.
“His presence in the team was definitely showing out there. We’ve just got to make sure that everyone else is lifting their game the same as what John was able to find today.”
Player of the Game:
3. Semi Radradra
2. Michael Gordon
1. Danny Wicks
Eels 30 (Bevan French 2, Clint Gutherson, Semi Radradra tries; Michael Gordon 7 goals) defeated Rabbitohs 12 (Alex Johnston, Nathan Brown tries; Cody Walker 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: 14-12 Eels. Injury: Kaysa Pritchard (shoulder/neck).