Winning with 17 men is a challenge let alone with 15 but the South Sydney Rabbitohs had to dig deep to defeat the Cronulla Sharks, as they opened their account with a win.
The Rabbitohs lost Tevita Tatola (HIA/concussion) and Arrow (hamstring) early, resulting in other forwards stepping up when it mattered.
Despite this, the Rabbitohs would hit the lead after ten minutes when good lead-up work from Cam Murray saw Lachlan Ilias stumble but regain his feet to score the opening try.
The next five minutes were then the Braydon Trindall show as he stepped in for the injured Nicho Hynes.
First, Trindall kicked a 40/20 to put the Sharks on the front foot.
This was followed a few minutes later by a try of his own as he grubbered the ball off the ground several times before diving on the loose ball.
The Rabbitohs would get what they thought was the final laugh before half-time, however, when Ilias turned provider to put back-rower Keaon Koloamatangi over.
The Sharks had other ideas, however, as a quick shift to the right saw Sione Katoa finish a backline play off after he was denied an earlier try for a forward pass.
The Rabbitohs started the second half the stronger of the two sides and it was Ilias again involved, this time laying off a lovely pass at the line for Campbell Graham to score his first.
After a penalty 30m out, Latrell Mitchell stepped up and made no mistake, as the Rabbitohs began to assert their dominance on the game.
Graham grabbed his second try, one not too dissimilar from his first, only this time Mitchell was the provider.
The Sharks would then see Wade Graham sent to the sin bin and put on report for a high tackle, as he joined Braden Hamlin-Uele on the report card.
Digging deep, though, the Sharks would score despite being a man down when Teig Wilton won the race to Matt Moylan’s grubber ahead of Ilias.
Mitchell would then ice the game with a field goal and that would be all she wrote.
Mitchell said he was pleased with the way his side stuck to their gameplan and he singled out Ilias especially for praise.
“We stuck to our processes … I am very proud of our boys,” said Mitchell.
“Credit to Lachlan Ilias… I am very proud of him.”
Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon admits that his opponents were the better side in the fixture.
“It was looking like a great tussle, a bit of stop-start hurt us and we hurt ourselves every time we were looking like we could assert pressure, we didn’t’ do that and they did that better than us tonight,” said Fitzgibbon.
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Lachlan Ilias (SOU)
2. Cameron Murray (SOU)
1. Braydon Trindall (CRO)