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The South Sydney Rabbitohs have made history, recording a third straight victory to open this season, the first time they've done so since the 1970's. The Rabbitohs defeated the Cronulla Sharks by 26-16 at Toyota Park.
It was a contest the Sharks were never in as the Bunnies dominated possession and points early, taking a 16-0 lead in the early stages before slowing things down to take a 20-4 halftime lead.
The visitors opened the contest in the seventh minute with a lucky Video Referee decision going in fullback and League Unlimited Man of the Match David Peachey's favour. With a sensational Joe Williams touchline conversion, the Rabbitohs were ahead 6-0 and looking strong.
Nathan Merritt was next to cross for Souths as a gigantic overlap formed on his wing, allowing him to go in untouched in the corner. No such luck for Williams from the opposite sideline and a ten point lead had opened up. From the ensuing kickoff return, Peter Cusack split some soft Cronulla defence right up the middle, allowing Peachey to then link up with Daniel Irvine to beat the scrambling Cronulla defence. The hooker scored under the posts, and Williams' conversion saw the Bunnies on top 16-0 after just 20 minutes of play.
The Sharks didn't lie down, a lucky try to a leaping Luke Covell putting the home side on the board a few minutes from the halftime break. He failed to convert and the gap of 12 points soon became 16 again, with Merritt managing another long range try for Souths. The halftime score with Williams missing the conversion was 20-4 and Cronulla looked worse for wear.
The second half provided short relief for Cronulla, thirteen minutes in Isaac De Gois scrambling over after a reasonable deliberation from the Video Referee and was awarded a try. Covell's conversion closed the gap to ten points, but South Sydney never looked threatened, with David Kidwell returning serve with a powerful try in the 59th minute.
The visitors from Redfern held the 16-point lead until the dying minutes, when a consolation try was given to Cronulla winger Fraser Anderson, a try converted by Covell, giving us the final scoreline of 26-16.
David Peachey and Nathan Merritt both played outstanding games at the back for the winning side, while Brett Kearney didn't disappoint for Cronulla. The Bunnies will take a few lessons from tonight as they move on to face the shaky Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium on Friday, while Cronulla will be hoping to capitalise on St George-Illawarra's poor form when they are home to them next Monday night at Toyota Park.
Round 3 - Full Time :: March 31st, 2007 07:30 PM Venue: Toyota Park Crowd: 17,866 Referee: Paul Simpkins
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 16 Tries: Luke Covell, Isaac De Gois, Fraser Anderson Goals: Luke Covell (2/3) South Sydney Rabbitohs 26 Tries: David Peachey, Nathan Merritt (2), Daniel Irvine, David Kidwell Goals: Joe Williams (3/5)
League Unlimited Live Commentary:
Toyota Park the venue for our second and last match this Saturday night between the rejuvenated South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Cronulla Sharks, who just fell short against the Gold Coast Titans last week.
Lineups to be confirmed shortly, kickoff just after 7:30pm. Stay tuned!
South Sydney as per program, several changes for the Sharks including Kearney moving to the halves in place of Dykes, David Simmons going to fullback, Dustin Cooper filling in the centres, Stapleton to start with Douglas relegated to the bench, Selmes dropped, and Phil Leuluai coming in as a fresh reserve. The injured players left out are Ben Pomeroy and Adam Dykes.
Teams on field now, despite a small injury scare to Souths' interchange forward Dean Widders, the game will get underway shortly.
0 min: We're underway!
5 min: A very physical opening few minutes at Toyota, South Sydney currently looking slightly stronger, and deep on the attack after a penalty.
6 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible South Sydney try. Decision pending... TRY!
7 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Peachey gets a very lucky try right in the corner for Souths against his old teammates... the goal from Williams sensational. The Bunnies lead by six. South Sydney Rabbitohs 6-0
12 min: Souths doing well, absorbing a set on the Cronulla line after a sensational Craig Stapleton line break. Merritt takes a Kimmorley bomb and the pressure valve is released.
14 min: The Rabbitohs starting to mount the pressure on Cronulla now with back to back sets on their line.
15 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs A sensational overlap gives Merritt a try in the corner as 2006's top tryscorer aims to go back to back. The Bunnies are now up by 10 after just 15 minutes, with the Conversion attempt by Joe Williams successful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 10-0
19 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs A brilliant try from the kick return set, some weak defence from Cronulla allowing a number of players to link up down the park, with Irvine the man crossing under the sticks. Conversion successful from Williams and the Bunnies are on fire! South Sydney Rabbitohs 16-0
31 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Sharks try. Decision pending... TRY! Covell is in.
32 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks Covell is awarded a try with benefit of the doubt from the Video Referee to get Cronulla on the board. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell unsuccessful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 16-4
36 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs The Bunnies respond quickly sending Merritt in for a double from 80 metres back. Conversion attempt by Joe Williams unsuccessful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 20-4
HALFTIME: South Sydney Rabbitohs 20 Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 4 The Bunnies are commanding this game, slicing the Cronulla defence in two on numerous occasions, twice scoring long-range tries. The visitors also have the edge in possession and are converting it into points, while Cronulla are struggling to find the line - their only try a benefit of the doubt decision to winger Luke Covell minutes before the break. If the Bunnies hold their form into the second 40, they'll be hard to reel in for the Sharkies.
Second half returns soon, stay tuned.
41 min: And we're back on at Toyota Park!
44 min: A poor error from Souths gives Cronulla sensational field position to break the Bunnies' line, Luke Douglas going closest (held up) but no points for the Sharks. Souths coming away from their own line now.
48 min: Cronulla still putting the pressure on Souths but the defence of the visitors simply won't allow for it.
53 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks Isaac de Gois crosses for the Sharks and the gap closes. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 20-10
59 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Kidwell crashes over, making a Sharks comeback that much harder given the circumstances. Conversion attempt by Joe Williams successful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 26-10
63 min: Sharks denied a try by the video referee, it remains a sixteen-point ball game at Toyota with 15 minutes to play.
74 min: The Bunnies looking to wrap up their record third victory of the season - a feat not achieved by the club in decades. A solid performance to keep Cronulla at bay tonight.
78 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks A consolation try all too late for the hosts Cronulla - an overlap on the right puts Fraser Anderson in out wide. Conversion attempt by Luke Covell successful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 26-16
FULLTIME: South Sydney Rabbitohs 26 Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 16 A flattering scoreline for Cronulla in the end, who never truly threatened a professional and hardened Souths outfit. An historic victory for the Bunnies considering they only won three games all season in 2006, and have now equalled that record in the first three games of this season. The visitors stole the show early, leading 16-0 after just 20 minutes, and kept the lead at least 10 points wide at all times. They will go on to face the Bulldogs in a Good Friday blockbuster at Telstra Stadium, while the Sharks host the Dragons in the local derby on Easter Monday.
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: David Peachey (Rabbitohs) 2 Points: Nathan Merritt (Rabbitohs) 1 Point: Brett Kearney (Sharks)