Magic round – where the game isn’t over until the full time siren goes. The siren that saved the Rabbitohs from defeat after the Warriors ran in 24 points to make it a 2 point game in the final moments on Saturday afternoon at a soggy Suncorp Stadium.
The fixture marked the return of Warrior Tohu Harris, playing his first game since overcoming an ACL injury he suffered in round 18 last year. The recently appointed Warriors captain made 24 tackles and ran for 38 metres, but he also found himself put on report for late contact on Damien Cook less than 3 minutes after running onto the field.
There were also some new yet familiar faces for both sides, with Freddy Lussick making his debut for the Warriors after joining the club earlier in the week, and ex-Warrior Kodi Nikorima was named to face his old team mates after he too made a mid-season change earlier in the week.
Both sides had solid starts, but it only took 6 minutes for the Rabbitohs to find the line through Taane Milne. Milne then went on to score his second try in the 13th minute after the Warriors defenders were outnumbered.
Rabbitohs supporters only had to wait 3 minutes before Alex Johnston extended their lead, scoring his 9th try in 8 games. The Rabbitohs were on their way to a comfortable lead, while the Warriors started to appear flat and unable to execute their game plan.
Blake Taaffe then found himself over the line in the 23rd minute, followed by Damien Cook in the 30th, looking to go into half time with a 26 point lead. Warrior Marcelo Montoya who was returning from a lengthy suspension scored right on half time, getting the Redcliffe-based side on the score board before heading into the sheds.
The second half saw the Warriors come out fighting with big hits, big runs and many points. Bunty Afoa made a great 40+ metre run up the field off a pass from Harris, and it looked set to pay off through Eliesa Katoa as he went over the line, but he lost possession in the soggy conditions.
Rabbitohs halfback Lachlan Ilias extended the lead in the 49th minute after a wrestle in the in-goal area with Jazz Tevaga. Ilias managed to get the ball to the ground before the referee called held, and Taaffe added the extras.
The Warriors were down, but not out. In the 63rd minute, centre Adam Pompey went over after a cross field kick from Reece Walsh was caught by Marcelo Montoya and passed back into the field of play. Walsh went on to add the extras, and the comeback began.
Jazz Tevaga scored in the 68th minute after charging at the line, and Walsh wasn’t bothered by the wet conditions, successfully converting yet again.
Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook found himself sent to the sin bin in the 73rd minute after a professional foul, and the Warriors took advantage with Daejarn Asi scoring a minute later through the gap in defence that would have been covered by Cook. With 5 to go, the Warriors found themselves only 8 points behind, 32-24.
Marcelo Montoya went over for his 2nd try of the game in the 78th minute and Walsh again converted, but they were still down by 2 points and had less than a minute to get over again. Shaun Johnson attempted a 2 point field goal, but the ball was charged down and the opportunity to take the game into golden point went with it.
Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou said the flu had gone through the club, and they had been “a bit busted” as a result. “I knew fatigue was going to be an issue late.” “Our middles were under the pump, but in saying that, we didn’t respect the ball with some fourth and fifth tackle offloads”
Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson was happy with the effort in the second half, but disappointed that they couldn’t get the win. “I’m glad we could fight back but our starts, you just can’t give sides that sort of lead and make it hard.”
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS 30 TRIES: M. Montoya 2, A. Pompey, J. Tevaga, D. Asi CONVERSIONS: R. Walsh 5/5
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 32 TRIES: T. Milne 2, A. Johnston, B. Taaffe, D. Cook, L. Ilias CONVERSIONS: B. Taaffe 4/6
JUDICIARY: T. Harris (WAR) – Late contact, T. Tatola (RAB) – Dangerous tackle
SIN BIN: D. Cook (RAB) – Professional foul
LOZ’S STAND OUT PLAYERS: R. Walsh (WAR), A. Fonua-Blake (WAR), B. Afoa (WAR), T. Milne (RAB), A. Johnston (RAB), T. Tatola (RAB)