With plenty to play for and finals spots up for grabs, the South Sydney Rabbitohs held on to defeat the Wests Tigers for a nail-biting 26-24 win.
The previous eight meetings between the two sides were split at four a piece.
The first ten minutes of the match was a good quality contest with Wests Tigers being put under a great deal of pressure from the South Sydney attack.
It would not take long, however, before the Tigers defence cracked.
A Tigers error and a set-restart saw the returning Dane Gagai score his eighth try in his past eight games.
A Damien Cook long ball found Cody Walker who was able to catch and pass under pressure to find a flying Gagai to score in the corner.
Adam Reynolds kicked the conversion from out wide for the Rabbitohs to lead 6-nil.
The Rabbitohs dominated possession and the Tigers continued to make the errors, gifting the Rabbitohs good field position.
After a penalty for an illegal steal, Reynolds kicked the easy penalty goal to extend the Rabbitohs lead out to eight points.
The next three minutes were chaos for the Tigers conceding two quick tries without even touching the ball.
Corey Allan, filling in for the injured Latrell Mitchell, scored a clever try from good support play.
The Rabbitohs worked the ball downfield from the kick off and got the ball into the Tigers attacking zone.
Cook darted out of dummy half to find open space. He found Walker in support who off-loaded to Allan.
He raced through to score and the score blew out to 14-0 with after Reynolds converted.
Not to be outdone, Campbell Graham wanted to join in the fun only three minutes later.
A shift down the left saw Allan find Alex Johnston unmarked on the outside.
Johnston sped downfield and off-loaded to Campbell Graham who was there in support to run a short distance to score his tenth try of the season.
Reynolds kept his perfect record intact for the night to put the Rabbitohs up 20-0.
The Tigers needed to score before half-time to bring some respectability back to the scoreboard.
The Tigers would get their opening try, opting to run it on the last, with Luke Garner powering over.
A nice pass out of dummy-half by Harry Grant this put Garner into a nice hole and he forced his way over.
Adam Doueihi kicked the conversion to bridge the gap to 20-6 in favour of the South Sydney side.
The Tigers were on a roll and they again made the scoreboard attendant work for his money only four minutes from the break.
A Benji Marshall cut out ball saw Tommy Talau get his name on the score-sheet.
Doueihi again kicked his team’s conversion for the Tigers to only trail by eight points at the half-time.
It was a frantic start to the second half but for all the wrong reasons.
Alex Twal was sent to the bin for ten minutes for holding the Rabbitohs player.
Before you could blink, Luke Brooks and Gagai were joining Twal in the dressing sheds due to punching.
Gagai threw the ball at Brooks which resulted in the players coming together and trading blows.
Soon after, Graham would score his second try of the match.
Deep in the Tigers attacking zone, the great combination of Adam Reynolds and Walker delivered again.
A Walker double pump created plenty of space for Graham on the outside to score.
The Tigers needed to score next to stay in the game and the finals race.
Brooks redeemed himself by scoring a clever team try for the Tigers 18 minutes from full-time.
A left side play that started with a Marshall flick pass to David Nofoaluma followed by a kick infield.
The bounce went Brooks’ way and he gathered the bouncing ball to score adjacent to the uprights.
Doueihi kicked the easy conversion to have the Tigers back in the game only trailing by eight points.
The Tigers were no yet satisfied and not giving in just yet.
From the ensuing play, Marshall again showed his magic by finding the speedster Asu Kepaoa unmarked on the flank to score in the corner.
The Tigers were only trailing by two points after Doueihi kicked a superb conversion from the sideline with 15 minutes left.
The Tigers threw everything at the Rabbitohs for the remainder of the match but they just came up short.
The nail-biting loss has all but ended the final hopes for the Tigers and they will have to wait at least another year to make it past the regular competition matches.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire praised his side’s toughness and determination despite the loss.
“We gave away too much possession at the start but the effort, I was really proud of the way the boys looked after each other out there,” he said.
“You could really see the determination that’s been building in the team throughout the season.
“It came alive in the second half and the boys were really determined to get that win.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3 – Cody Walker
2 – Benji Marshall
1 – Harry Grant