The South Sydney Rabbitohs have put a major dent in St George Illawarra Dragon's finals aspirations tonight, stealing the game from the jaws of defeat with two tries in the final five minutes to record a 26-24 victory in front of a poor crowd at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Despite a poor start from the Dragons, they managed to conjure up first points of the night when five-eighth Gareth Widdop floated a cut-out pass over the top for winger Jason Nightingale to cross in the corner.
The skipper proceeded to slot the sideline conversion giving his team a six point lead after ten minutes.
The momentum soon swung the way of the Rabbitohs when the speed of fullback Alex Johnston chiming into a deep back-line proved too much for Dragons defenders to handle. Halfback Adam Reynolds made no mistake to level the scores at six apiece in the 15th minute.
The Rabbitohs went on to hit the lead for the first time of the night when hooker Damien Cook out-muscled three lackluster defenders to plant the ball down after hitting an inside ball from Johnston. Reynolds again converted from the left of the posts to send the lead out to six.
After some poor ball control for most of the half, the Dragons managed to gain control late in the half when back-rower Joel Thompson leaped spectacularly above the pack to take a cross-field kick from halfback Josh McCrone to score in the 34th minute with Widdop's conversion leveling the contest.
Another goal from Widdop gave his team the lead after Souths' Captain Sam Burgess was sin-binned for taking Tyson Frizell down without the ball in the 38th minute.
The Dragons took advantage in the ensuing set of six racking up big metres down the left before McCrone again found his mark with a kick for Nene MacDonald. The Dragons winger found Kurt Mann in support who had earlier came on for an injured Josh Dugan to score in the corner and send his team into the sheds with an 18-12 lead.
Apart from a penalty goal to Reynolds in the 46th minute, the second half was a mostly lackluster affair until the contest exploded into action in the final ten minutes.
It all started on the back of a strong charge and quick play the ball from Frizell. Quick hands from rookie fullback Matt Dufty and Kurt Mann sent MacDonald over in the corner and Widdop's sideline conversion gave his team what looked a comfortable 24-14 lead heading into the final part of the game.
Perhaps buoyed by the ghosts of legends past at the iconic SCG ground, Souths refused to give in though and setup a grandstand finish when John Sutton crossed under the posts after sending Cook into space before wrapping around in support to reduce the deficit to four with as many minutes remaining.
From the ensuing set of six and the jaws of defeat, the Rabbitohs made it back to back tries after going through the hands of Sutton and Johnston who both played their part in squaring the defence up just enough for winger Bryson Goodwin to sneak over in the left corner and setup an opportunity for Reynolds to win the game with a sideline conversion.
They say goal-kickers live for such occasions and Reynolds never looked like missing, curling the ball from the right post straight over the black dot.
The loss for the Dragons was their second to an out of contention team in as many weeks and leaves their season on life support. They could well be out of the top eight by the end of the weekend and would face an uphill battle to earn their spot back.
Next Week, they will at least return home to face the Gold Coast Titans at Jubilee Oval on Saturday afternoon in what shapes as a must-win game.
The Rabbitohs meanwhile will lock horns with the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium next Thursday night.