Match Summary The South Sydney Rabbitohs have moved into top eight contention following a solid 24-14 victory over the St George Illawarra Dragons tonight.
For the Dragons, Mad Monday celebrations will come three rounds early with any slim hope for a finals berth now gone.
The match was marked with some controversy when Dragons halfback Jamie Soward was sin binned in the 61st minute following a professional foul, reducing the Dragons to 12 men. After chasing down and stopping a Rabbitohs bust downfield, Soward appeared to have little choice but slow play down as his teammates were struggling to get back onside. The Rabbitohs ran in two tries while Soward was off the field to regain the lead and put the match out of the Dragons reach.
Played in front of packed house at WIN Stadium, the home crowd arrived with some expectation given the Dragons dominance over South Sydney in recent years - the visitors not having defeated the Dragons in their 10 previous encounters.
But the night belonged to Souths, with pivot Joe Williams relishing the opportunity of being back in first grade. With the South Sydney forwards putting in some gutsy goal line defence and go forward around the ruck, Wiliams was able to put together a classy game with the boot, setting up three tries and kicking four goals from five attempts.
The Rabbitohs were first to score after just three minutes when the number seven Jeremy Smith blocked a Soward kick 20 metres on his own side of half way. Smith was able to regather and race away to score next to the posts.
Souths got their second try in the 25th minute when winger Paul Mellor leapt high to pull down a Williams kick.
Saints struck back soon after, scoring two tries in the space of three minutes with winger Tom Hewitt getting a double out wide.
At half time, the Rabbitohs were hanging onto a 10-8 lead.
Saints took the lead following a controversial benefit of the doubt try to Rangi Chase, the bench hooker running from dummy half, kicking for himself and diving on the loose ball. Chase's grounding came under scrutiny before the try was awarded.
The Dragons appeared to be gaining momentum before an errant pass saw Jeremy Smith intercept and race away with Dean Widders in support. Soward, for the second time in the match, showed plenty of pace in cover defence. But Soward holding Widders down, referee Steve Clark had little hesitation in sin binning the halfback.
A few minutes later Mellor scored his second try, running onto a grubber and then improving his position to make for an easy conversion.
A try to centre Yileen Gordon in the 71st minute and penalty goal to Williams in the 74th minute put the match beyond doubt.
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Joe Williams (Rabbitohs) 2 Points: Jeremy Smith (Rabbitohs) 1 Point: Dean Widders (Rabbitohs)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Packed house in Wollongong tonight. Teams close to those named and changes made earlier in the week. Dragons forward Ashton Sims played Premier League, his place in first grade has been taken by Lagi Setu. A must win match for both sides. Kick off soon.... KICK OFF! Dragons with first use of the football.
3 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Halfback Jeremy Smith anticipating a kick from his opposite in Jamie Soward, catching the ball on his boot and sending in 20m downfield, regathering and running 40m to score next to the posts. Conversion attempt by Joe Williams successful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 6-0
7 min: Souths defend well on their line, repelling repeat sets from Saints.
12 min: Souths on the attack following a bust from 40m out by hooker Shane Rigon. Try saving tackle from Soward.
15 min: Dragons hold Souths out but centre Matt Cooper looks to be struggling to run.
20 min: Still 6-0 to the Rabbitohs. A few handling errors as both sides are at times battling to complete their sets.
25 min: Possible TRY to Souths... video ref checking for off-side.
25 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Winger Paul Mellor scores 10m in from touch, leaping high to a cross-field kick from Joe Williams. Conversion attempt by Joe Williams unsuccessful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 10-0
29 min: Possible TRY to Dragons... video ref looking for knock-on.
30 min: Possible TRY to Dragons... video ref looking at corner post.
30 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Winger Tom Hewitt gets the nod, scoring in the corner. Follows a handling error from Rabbitohs forward Luke Stuart. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful, just across the face of goal. South Sydney Rabbitohs 10-4
33 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Hewitt gets a double, scoring in the same corner. Dragons with a roll on and Jamie Soward puts the kick through with Hewitt diving on the ball. Video Ref checks for the grounding but its all good. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful, again just pushing across the face of goal. South Sydney Rabbitohs 10-8
37 min: Souths getting repeat sets at the Saints goal line just before the break. Dragons manage to hold them out.
39 min: Possible TRY to Dragons - looks like a double movement.
39 min: NO TRY Double movement. Dragons denied after backrower Beau Scott just couldn't resist the urge to have a second go. An easy one for the video ref. Referee Steve Clark for some reason asking for another look after he seemed to have a perfect view.
Half time: Rabbitohs 10-8 An exciting match being played at both ends of the field. Field position dominated early by Saints before Souths gained the ascendancy with two tries and looked to be building pressure. But Saints then came back with two tries of their own. Both sides seemingly on equal footing after 40 minutes.
Second half underway...
41 min: Rabbitohs start the second half on fire, going the length of the field in their set following a bust from Dean Widders.
50 min: Dragons now getting repeat sets at the Souths goal line, but unable to bust through.
51 Possible TRY to Dragons. Video ref checking on the grounding....
51 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Rangi Chase from dummy half, kicking for himself before diving on the ball is given BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT by the video ref. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward 15m in from touch is successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 14-10
60 min: Amazing passage with Souths passing the ball behind their own goal line in an effort to avoid being trapped. Risky stuff. Souths eventually forced into a line drop out and Saints will apply more presuure.
61 min: SIN BIN - Jamie Soward is off for 10 minutes after slowing down the tackled player. Follows interecept and 70m break from Jeremy Smith. Widders in support is tackled by Soward who holds him down. Dragons down to 12 men.
64 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Mellor gets a double, running onto a grubber and improves his position to make for an easy conversion. Conversion attempt by Joe Williams successful and the Rabbitohs are back in front. South Sydney Rabbitohs 16-14
67 min: Try saver from Merrit, holding out Houston.
69 min: Dragons perform a try saver of their own with Vagana being held out, but time is running out for the home side.
71 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Yileen Gordon scores a few metres in from touch courtesy of an overlap. Conversion attempt by Joe Williams successful and Souths have an eight-point buffer. South Sydney Rabbitohs 22-14
72 min: Soward back on the field.
74 min: Josh Morris and Houston hold out Merritt. Great try saver but they concede a penalty right in front.
75 min: PENALTY GOAL South Sydney Rabbitohs Joe Williams puts the visitors further ahead and that'd be the Dragons' season. South Sydney Rabbitohs 24-14
Full time Rabbitohs 24 - Dragons 14 Souths have broken a long drought after losing their previous 10 matches against the Dragons. A big victory full of character for the Rabbitohs who were able to capitalise on their opportunities. The Dragons were far from disgraced but their slim hopes for a finals berth appear to have evaporated. They'll be playing for pride for the remaining three rounds.