The Bunnies have turned on another cardiac kid performance, pulling off a heartstopping win at ANZ Stadium tonight, with Rabbitohs custodian Luke Capewell scoring in golden point extra time to give Souths a memorable 34-30 win over the Bulldogs.
In what was initially a forgettable night for the young fullback, who will admit it was probably the worst game of his young life as had to endure the insult of being banished to the wing in the second half after a number of telling errors, before regaining his composure to collect a crucial second half try and ultimately the match-winner.
Capewell was embarrassingly palmed off by rookie Dog Arana Taumata in the Bulldogs first try, had a bomb virtually snatched out out his hands by another rookie in Brent Crisp for the Bulldogs’ second, and committed a host of crucial mistakes as the Bulldogs raced to 24-6 lead early the second half.
But the Bunnies responded, led by an inspired performance from halves Chris Sandow and Craig Wing.
An an amazing attacking display, the Rabbitohs wiped away the 18 point deficit with three tries in the space of nine minutes.
Sandow added a penalty in the 61st minute to give the Rabbitohs the lead for the first time, but the game was far from over.
An error from Nathan Merritt gave the Bulldogs some quality ball, and they stopped the rot through a try to Heka Nanai in the corner, with Hazem El Masri’s sideline conversion giving the Dogs a four-point advantage with just under 15 minutes remaining.
But Souths continued to attack, and tied the scores in the 74th minute when Sutton provided a pin-point grubber to the corner for Fetuli Talanoa to score, but Sandow picked the worst possible time to miss his first conversion of the night, spraying his attempt from the touchline to set up a nail-biting final five minutes.
The Bulldogs had a golden opportunity to wrap the game up when Issac Luke knocked on deep in his own territory, but Ben Roberts inexplicably kicked on the first tackle after the resulting scrum to send the contest into golden point.
A Fred Briggs knock on gave Souths the first opportunity to snatch a win, but Sandow’s field-goal attempt was wide of the mark, and it was another Bulldogs knock-on, this time from Jarrod Hickey on the opening play of the second period of extra time, that set the scene for Capewell’s dramatic match-winner.
The Dogs were put under some intense pressure in defence in the opening stages but were equal to the task, repelling the Bunnies for 3 straight sets, before launching a blistering counter-attack on a stunned South Sydney.
Impressive rookie Taumata took the ball just outside his own 30 and stepped between Sandow and Sutton, before fending off a weak attempted tackle from Capewell on a scintillating 70 metre run to open the scoring.
The normally reliable El Masri was off target with the conversion, leaving the Bulldogs 4-nil in front after 12 minutes, despite having to soak up a lot of early pressure.
The Bulldogs extended shortly after courtesy of another rookie, with fullback Crisp plucking a Roberts bomb virtually out of the hands of Souths’ Capewell to touch down under the posts.
El Masri was on target from directly in front and the Bulldogs lead was into double figures.
A Brad Morrin error provided the Rabbitohs with a chance to hit back, and they gleefully accepted as Wing linked with a rampaging David Fa’alogo who barge his way over from short range and put the cardinal-and-myrtle on the board on the half hour mark.
A stripping penalty on Sandow allowed El Masri to extend the Bulldogs advantage back out to six, and a impressive attacking foray finished off by Andrew Ryan on the stroke of half time resulted in an 18-6 half time advantage for the Bulldogs.
Capewell’s horror run continued after the break , spilling a kick return on his own 20 to present a gift-four pointer for the Bulldogs Tim Winitana, with El Masri kicking the home side out to a 24-6 lead after 47 minutes.
But the Rabbitohs hit back almost immediate as Wing sold a dummy and surged into space, before putting Capewell over to offer the Bunnies a sniff of a fourth straight come from behind victory.
That sniff turned into a stench just two minutes later as Wing again engineered points, this time selling a dummy and crashing over in the corner, with Sandow slotting the extras from the touchline to make it 24-18 with 27 minutes to play.
Sandow tiptoed his way through the Bulldogs line five minutes later to go over next to the posts, then added the extras to tie the game at 24 apiece.
While ecstatic with the result, Souths coach Jason Taylor was highly critical of his side’s mental application in the opening stages.
“It’s mental, there’s no doubt about that because we proved in the second half that we could do it.
“It would be nice to be able to continue to keep doing this but the facts are we won’t be able to and we need to be able to play for 80 minutes.”
Bulldogs mentor Steve Folkes praised his players effort, despite ending up on the wrong side of the scoreline.
“It was probably our best performance for several weeks.
“It’s disappointing, but that’s football I guess.”
SOUTH SYDNEY 34 (L Capewell 2 D Fa’alogo C Sandow F Talanoa C Wing tries C Sandow 4 I Luke goals) bt BULLDOGS 30 (B Crisp H Nanai A Ryan A Taumata T Winitana tries H El Masri 5 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: J Robinson. Crowd: 15,562.