|Souths would have feared a different result when their playmaker left the field but they did enough to take the win.|
Despite losing their halfback after 23 minutes of play, the Rabbitohs were able to put in a cohesive team performance to beat Manly 20-8 at ANZ Stadium in Friday Night Football. The Sea Eagles would have been groaning pre-match with the return of Greg Inglis, Isaac Luke and Glenn Stewart to the South Sydney line-up, but with the loss of Reynolds to a concussion injury they would have considered themselves a chance. South Sydney had other ideas, losing their half did little to slow them down.
While a number of errors dictated the state-of-play for much of the game, in which both teams weren’t able to take advantage of their opportunities, Souths took off at the beginning of the second half when a charging George Burgess run four minutes in had them flying downfield for their second try. Rising winger, Aaron Gray, threw a desperate pass from over the sideline back infield for Bryson Goodwin to finish the rushing play.
Just minutes later, Gray again found space during a Souths’ set-play that involved an early John Sutton kick to the winger who sped over the try line untouched to make it 14-4.
Stand-in kicker, Isaac Luke, was struggling with the boot and Manly were sniffing a comeback when Tim Grant gave away a penalty after 55 minutes in his own team’s half. The Sea Eagles took on Souths and Steve Matai got a free-run down the sideline to creep Manly back within a converted try.
The Sea Eagles had another couple of chances when they earned two repeat sets following touches from South Sydney players on last tackle kicks, but a Matai knock-on would deem the chances worthless.
In the 65th minute, Luke Keary took a pass from Alex Johnston who had caught the five-eighths’ kick and Souths soon led 20-8 with 15 minutes remaining. The game would finish at that score with neither team able to cross the line again.
An athletic Greg Inglis tried to make the highlights reel with an acrobatic attempt to bat the ball back into the in-goal but a stray foot ruled him out of play.
Earlier in the game, Manly showed they were willing play some football, regularly spreading the ball and playing to each side of the field. It was working for them as they made fifty-plus metre sets, finishing with accurate kicks that had the Bunnies working hard to get out of their own half. But the Rabbitohs returned the ball with intensity each time pressing up through the middle with Isaac Luke leading the charge from dummy-half.Dylan Walker was rocked by a classic one-on-one Jorge Taufua tackle after 13 minutes. Taufua planted his feet and picked up the running Souths’ centre, stamping him straight on his back. Not to be outdone, Manly’s hitman for the last decade, Steve Matai, buried South Sydney’s David Tyrell hard into the turf soon after.
If Manly were going to beat the Rabbitohs, they had to have an on-point kicking game and be willing to throw the ball around. They did both in the first half but a number of errors and the quick Souths’ tries after halftime left them with a dim result after last week’s positive win.
Man-of-the-moment, Kieran Foran, produced a mixed bag with some sloppy errors over-riding a quality kicking game and a few striking runs. The Manly half put a deft cross-field kick in that led to Sea Eagles’ first try, with Brett Stewart batting the ball back before it was spread wide for Peta Hiku to slide over virtually untouched in the corner.The win pushes the Rabbitohs back into the top four, while Manly remain on the bottom of the ladder with a long way to climb as less than 100 days remain until the Grand Final.