Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Fulltime score: Round 26 Cronulla Sharks 22 v South Sydney Rabbitohs 26
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have upset semi-finalists the Cronulla Sharks by 26-22 in a rousing display of footy down at Toyota Park tonight. In the process, Souths have avoided the wooden spoon for 2005, the first time in three seasons and they will most likely hand the undesirable object to Newcastle.
Cronulla will be very disappointed with their effort tonight after showing good form early in the clash by opening up a 12-point lead. Leading into next week?s semi, possibly against the Dragons at WIN Stadium, the Sharks really won?t know how to handle themselves in such a tense affair if tonight is anything to go by.
They opened up an early lead with a smart try to hooker Kingston after Dykes darted out of dummy half. Their second effort came after Souths fullback Todd Polglase was sinbinned for 10 minutes for lying on Nigel Vagana following a big break down the western side of the field. Two plays later big centre Paul Mellor crashed over and things seemed to be going to plan.
But momentum swung back to the Bunnies late in the half when Polglase returned to the game, with rising star John Sutton cutting through some very average defense to post Souths? first try and get the ball rolling. Cronulla went to the break leading 12-6 but looking flat.
The Rabbitohs resumed in the second half showing plenty of enthusiasm and kept the ball alive for several phases at varying points throughout the half. Polglase scored early next to the posts levelling the game, before one of the best individual tries of the year saw Sutton once again cross the stripe when it appeared nothing was really happening in the game. The plucky five-eighth received the ball with little room to work with and he simply stepped his way through the opposition to hand Souths the lead.
Cronulla kept in touch in the 54th minute with a superb 90m intercept try to Mellor, but the writing was on the wall. Souths powered home with another strong effort to Polglase before fullback David Peachey scored a consolation try in the 75th minute in his last game at home for the Sharks.
The victory was well deserved by the visitors and they can enjoy their Mad Monday celebrations in the knowledge that they?ve had a pretty good year by their standards. But it places overwhelming pressure on Cronulla to hit back next week away from home against whoever might be their opponents, most likely the Dragons. In an interesting footnote, the Sharks haven?t played at WIN Stadium since 1996 and haven?t won there since 1989.
Sharks v Rabbitohs match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery for this game
Scorers: CRONULLA SHARKS 22 Tries: Mellor 2, Kingston, Peachey Goals: Covell 3/5 STH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 26 Tries: Sutton 2, Polglase 2 Goals: B.Walker 5/5
Toyota Park Crowd: 17,111 Referee: Russell Smith Half time: Sharks 12-6
As always, it's a cool night down here in the Shire. The crowd has built steadily to a healthy mass. Both teams are as per the program with David Peachey playing his last home game for the Sharks. The crowd gives injured clubman Jason Stevens a farewell also.
1 min: And the Rabbitohs get us underway in the first half!
7 min: NO TRY - Sharks. Video referee rules Sharks 5/8 Adam Dykes to have dropped the ball before the line as his team pressed the Bunnies. Both sides feeling their way into the contest at this stage with possession fairly even. Score nil-all.
14 min: NEWS - Still no score here at Toyota Park, with the match a little scrappy at the moment. Both sides have had opportunities but have failed to convert them as yet.
17 min: NEWS - Peachey makes a huge break up the centre of the field but a try goes begging as the support grass the ball.
19 min: TRY - Sharks. Adam Dykes darts out of dummy-half and finds new hooker Kevin Kingston on the inside and he crashes over to post the first points. Covell converts from just wide of the posts. Sharks 6 Rabbioths 0.
25 min: BINNED - Todd Polglase for the Rabbitohs is given ten in the bin for lying all over Nigel Vagana after he made a huge break down the western side of the field.
26 min: TRY - Sharks. Paul Mellor scores from the ensuing play the ball following Polglase's sin-binning. Covell fails to convert from out wide. Sharks 10 Rabbitohs 0.
30 min: PENALTY GOAL - Sharks. Covell slots it through the posts after the home team are awarded a penalty for an infringement in the ruck. Sharks 12 Rabbitohs 0.
35 min: NEWS - Polglase back on the field for the Bunnies.
36 min: TRY - Rabbitohs. The Sharks turn the ball over from a scrum and from the following play Souths 5/8 John Sutton takes the ball to the line and beats Brett Kimmorley pointlessly, running 20m to score. Great stuff from this young player. Ben Walker pots the goal to close the gap a little more. Sharks 12 Rabbitohs 6.
Half time: The Sharks go to the break leading 12-6 but don't have a firm grip on the game. Both sides have been giving away plenty of penalties in an undisciplined game. It has also been pretty scrappy in parts. The Rabbitohs looked to rally late in the first half once Polglase came back from the sin-bin. This game is wide open and could present an ideal opportunity for the Bunnies to avoid the spoon.
41 min: And the Sharks resume proceedings here in the second half tonight with a deep kick-off!
43 min: TRY - Rabbitohs. Ben Walker drifts across the field, links up with Manase Manuokafoa who finds fullback Todd Polglase screaming up on the inside and scores under the posts. Walker converts easily and we've got a real game on our hands here. Sharks 12 Rabbitohs 12.
46 min: TRY - Rabbitohs. Sutton beats almost half the team, with a hint of a shepphard, to score a wonderful individual try. Walker kicks another as the Bunnies take the lead. Rabbitohs 18 Sharks 12.
52 min: NEWS - The Bunnies are on fire. Trapping the Sharks in goal and keeping the ball alive continuously have been features of their game so far that we've rarely seen this season. Cronulla will really need to lift if they are to beat Souths tonight.
54 min: TRY - Sharks. Unbelievable stuff. A 90m intercept try to Paul Mellor from a stray Ben Walker pass. Covell adds the extras. Rabbitohs 18 Sharks 18.
61 min: BIFFO - A scuffle breaks out between Hutch Maiava and Luke Stuart after Hutch knocks on. A bit silly really.
PENALTY GOAL - The Bunnies elect to go for goal and Ben Walker makes no mistake. Rabbitohs 20 Sharks 18.
65 min: TRY - Rabbitohs. After a chargedown by the Sharks, Souths regain possession and press the line. Polglase scurries out of dummy half and goes over under the posts with some very soft defense shown by Cronulla. Walker extends the lead to a handy 8 points. Rabbitohs 26 Sharks 18.
71 min: TRY - Sharks. Peachey jumps above the pack to swoop on a Kimmorley kick out wide and get the home team back in the game. Good to see Peach get on in his last game at Shark Park. Covell misses the goal from the sideline. Rabbitohs 26 Sharks 22.
75 min: OUCH - Shannon Hegarty leaves the field with some sort of knee injury. It looked fairly innocuous on the replay, but the guy is in a fair bit of pain.
Full time: The Rabbitohs get home in a spirited effort against all odds down at Toyota Park against Cronulla. They ground out the second half in a gritty effort with the Sharks appearing to lack commitment and vigour.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - J Sutton (Rabbitohs) 2 - B Walker (Rabbitohs) 1 - N Vagana (Sharks) -----------------------------------------