South Sydney Rabbitohs 32 v Penrith Panthers 26
at Telstra Stadium
Referee: Ben Cummins
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have recorded their third victory of the season with a spirited 32-26 victory over the Penrith Panthers at Telstra Stadium today.
In an entertaining contest, Souths fought twice to eventually overcome a committed but weary Penrith team who were in the match up to their necks.
The visitors opened up 10-nil lead early through tries to five-eighth Preston Campbell and captain Tony Puletua. At that stage things were looking ominous for the Bunnies but to their credit they pulled together and mounted a disciplined fightback.
Three tries in the final ten minutes of the first half to winger Nathan Merritt, who grabbed two, and young centre Germaine Paulson exposed the Panthers just before the break to lead 16-10 after Williams added two goals.
The second half resumed with Penrith looking much better and levelling the scores in the 47th minute via halfback Craig Gower.
Both teams then traded blows with Souths hitting back in sensational style in the 51st minute when the NRL?s leading try-scorer Nathan Merritt completed his hat-trick. His haul now stands at 20 for the season which is an incredible effort considering the Rabbitoh?s position on the ladder.
Penrith responded five minutes later with powerful winger Michael Gordon crossing the stripe but he couldn?t convert, allowing Souths to keep ahead at 22-20.
The game became an edge-of-you-seat spectacle with Williams scoring for Souths in the 69th minute before some individual brilliance from Campbell kept the visitors in touch with just over five minutes to go.
But pressuring the Panthers line, Souths forced a goal-line drop out in the final stages with Gower attempting a short restart only to have the ball snapped up by Mark Minichello and he put the icing on the cake for the Bunnies.
It?s a character building effort from Souths who have disappointed all season yet they seem to be putting in towards the back end of the year and at least enjoying their footy again. They have the bye next week.
For Penrith, it throws their top 8 aspirations into a tailspin, and they need to rebound next week against the Roosters.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 32
Tries: Mark Minichello, Germaine Paulson, Joe Williams, Nathan Merritt(3)
Goals: Joe Williams 4/6
Penrith Panthers: 26
Tries: Preston Campbell(2), Craig Gower, Tony Puletua, Michael Gordon
Goals: Michael Gordon 3/5
By the Clock:
A glorious day at Telstra Stadium where Penrith look to continue their solid recent form and press the top 8. The Bunnies will be boosted by last week's victory over Canberra and are searching for their third win of the season.
For Penrith Luke Swain to the bench with Shane Rodney starting.
Souths as per the program.
1 min: NEWS And we're underway in the first half.
7 min: NEWS The forwards are warming to the contest here as both teams have turned up ready to play and playing well.
13 min: NEWS Still no score but both teams are grinding away with a couple of good line-breaks but mostly just solid defence.
23 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
The Panthers get on the board through zippy five-eighth Preston Campbell. He scored after a good break by Michael Gordon, but failed to kick the goal.
27 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
The Penrith captain Tony Puletua crashes over the line to extend their lead. Gordon converts and the Panthers are looking good.
31 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
Souths hit back through try-scoring machine Nathan Merrit following a good cross-field kick by Joe Williams. Both sides are playing top shelf footy. Williams converts and the Panthers cling to a four-point lead.
36 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Bunnies are in again through young centre Paulson, who broke the line and scored a good try. Williams can't convert but the game is on an even keel.
39 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Bunnies are in again after a great try to Merritt, after some fabulous lead-up work from Galuvao and Williams sees the NRL's leading try-scorer scoot in just prior to the break. Williams converts and the Bunnies are ahead just before the break.
40 min: NEWS Halftime: The Rabbitohs and Panthers are putting in a great effort here with the Bunnies just nudging ahead at the break. They could prove to be a real nuisance here for the Panthers today as the boys from the west try to push into the top 8. Souths are searching for their third win of the year and so far they're doing all the right things.
41 min: NEWS And we're underway in the second half.
47 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
The Panthers get back into the game with a try to halfback Craig Gower. They look more committed in the second half now, as Gordon adds the extras to tie-up the score.
51 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
Merritt gets a hat-trick as the Bunnies storm across the line again. Geez he can score a try this kid. Williams converts and the home team open up a small lead again.
56 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
The Panthers get back on the board with a try to strong winger Michael Gordon after a bad miss by John Sutton. Gordon can't convert his try and the Rabbitohs keep their noses in front
69 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
Souths push further ahead through halfback Joe Williams who scores a good individual try. He's come back into a rich vein of form in recent weeks and converts his own try to take a handy 8-point lead.
74 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
Penrith are coming home strongly with another try, this time through Campbell who collects a neat grubber to bag his second for the day. Gordon converts and it's setup for a thrilling finish.
79 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
After a short drop-out by the Panthers, Mark Minichello pinches the ball after Rooney tried to bat the ball back and he streaks across the line to seal Souths' third victory of the year. Williams can't convert but the Bunnies are home.
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Nathan Merritt
2 - Joe Williams
1 - Preston Campbell
Bunnies boil Panthers
out at Homebush