Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
18 mins ago
South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 v Canterbury Bulldogs 26
at Telstra Stadium
Referees: Russell Smith
The Canterbury Bulldogs have run out 26-18 winners over South Sydney at Telstra Stadium this afternoon in front of a good Easter Monday crowd.
Souths led 18-8 at the break but could not hold out the Dogs after Luke Stuart and Shannon Hegarty were both ruled out for the match with serious knee injuries. Both players look to be facing lengthy stints on the sidelines if early reports are correct about the severity of their injuries.
In the first half, Souths dominated the Dogs with repeat sets of six and commanding field position and made the Dogs pay on several occasions but in the second half the Dogs came home with a wet sail over a tired Souths side who had no imagination in attack. At one stage the Dogs had made 40 more tackles than Souths, such was the flow of possession.
Tries to Nathan Merrit, John Sutton and Joe Gulavao had the Bunnies faithful thinking an upset was on the cards after a very impressive first half display. Sadly, it was not to be.
Souths had three sets of six on the Dogs line with the sustained pressure culminating in a 100 metre try to Luke Patten after he pounced on a misdirected grubber from Souths pivot John Sutton.
For the Dogs, Willie Mason, Luke Patten and Mark O?Meley had strong games while for Souths, Peter Cusack was very strong up front and Todd Polglase had an excellent game at the back.
Mason and O?Meley were very hard to stop with the ball in hand and as the second half wore on, they offloaded at will to create some nice second phase play for the Dogs. Andrew Ryan also made some incisive runs, one of which led to a try and another a lost opportunity as he dropped the ball over the line.
Willie Tonga was the pick of the Bulldogs backs with some strong runs but he is either playing with an injury or has other things on his mind as his work rate was minimal and at times he look disinterested in the play unfolding around him.
Souths can take a lot out of the loss today and hold their heads high while the Bulldogs will be happy to get the two points but still have a lot of work to do before they can be considered contenders in 2006.
Having said that, we are only in round six and with Sonny Bill Williams making a successful return from injury, it would take a brave man to write off the Dogs in 2006.
Souths travel across the Tasman to take on the underachieving Warriors while the Dogs play host to the vastly improved Manly, which should be a very good game of football.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 18
Tries: John Sutton, Nathan Merritt, Joe Galuvao
Goals: Nathan Merritt 3/3, John Sutton 0/1
Canterbury Bulldogs: 26
Tries: Corey Hughes, Luke Patten, Andrew Ryan, Willie Tonga
Goals: Hazem El Masri 5/6
By the Clock:
1 min: NEWS We are underway on a beautiful sunny afternoon at Telstra Stadium with all eyes on Bulldogs youngster Sonny Bill Williams who plays his first NRL game for season 2006.
5 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Bunnies get the opening try with a great flick pass to Nathan Merritt to send him over in the corner.
13 min: PENALTY GOAL Canterbury Bulldogs
El Masri puts the Dogs on the board courtesy of a penalty goal.
17 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Willie Mason offloads close to the line to send Corey Hughes over for the Bulldogs opening try. Russell Smith has been blowing the pea out of the whistle in the opening 15 minutes.
21 min: NEWS Serial boofhead Luke Patten finds himself in the sin-bin for a professional foul that may have cost his team six points with the video ref checking on a possible try to the Bunnies.
22 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
With Luke Patten in the sin bin, Souths take advantage with Joe Gulavao leaving Mark O'Meley in his wake to give the Rabbitohs the lead midway through the first half. Tim Mander, the video ref gave Souths the benefit of the doubt.
24 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs
Souths score again and are really shredding the Dogs defence across the park. John Sutton ran into a gaping hole to scre untouched. Souths are playing simple but effective footy at the moment but we all know with Souths, things can go wring in a hurry.
35 min: NEWS The moment the crowd has been waiting for, SBW takes the field and takes a very good run for his first hit up. The crowd gave a big cheer for their great blue and white hope.
38 min: PENALTY GOAL South Sydney Rabbitohs
Questionable penalty against the Dogs gives Souths a handy ten point buffer two minutes out from half time. SBW was being a little too enthusiastic for the referee's liking.
45 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
The Dogs open the second half scoring with a very easy try to Rugby target Willie Tonga. The Bunnies have lost Luke Stuart and Shannon Hegarty for the remainder of the match with knee injuries.
54 min: NEWS Souths barely holding on with Mark Minichiello not holding a candle to his brother as far as talent goes. He is awful.
55 min: NEWS Andrew Ryan loses the ball over the line to cost the Dogs the opportunity to at least level the match.
57 min: NEWS Souths hoist the bomb and El Masri makes a mess of it with Souths to get another set of six. They don't look like scoring though. Very flat in attack.
59 min: NEWS O'Meley spills the pill on his own 30 to give Souths another shot at extending their lead. Tip to Shaun McRae, do not let Joe Gulavao grubber the ball. He is not a playmaker!
60 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
John Sutton comes up with a stupid grubber right to Patten who runs from his own in-goal to the Souths try line without a finger being laid on him. Souths applied zero pressure to the Bulldogs defensive line with three consecutive sets of six and the Dogs counter attack in one play and level the scores. Shame, Souths, shame!
66 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Andrew Ryan puts the Dogs in the lead with less than fifteen minutes to play. He ran onto an inside all from Willie Mason and was too strong for the Souths defence.
70 min: NEWS Souths need a miracle if they are going to get out of this. They have nothing in attack and it will take something special from the likes of John Sutton to pull this one out of the fire.
76 min: NEWS Todd Polglase sent to the bin for ten minutes for a professional foul to wrap it all up for the Dogs. It has to be said, as bad as Souths were, the Dogs were not much better and have a lot of work to do if they are to compete with the heavyweights this year.
77 min: PENALTY GOAL Canterbury Bulldogs
El Masri kicks the Dogs to victory with two minutes to go. Souths fough bravely but didn't have the cattle in the end to get over the Dogs, who, it has to be said were far from convincing in the win.
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Willie Mason
2 - Peter Cusack
1 - Luke Patten