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A spirited comeback wasn't enough for the South Sydney Rabbitohs tonight, with Super League opponents Warrington holding them out with a 34-28 win in the annual Return to Redfern trial match.
The match was preceeded by a significant announcement for the Rabbitohs, with the South Sydney club confirming 5 on-field captains for the 2012 season. Michael Crocker, Matt King, Sam Burgess, John Sutton and Roy Asotasi will all be listed with (c) by their names in this years Telstra Premiership.
Play was underway with both teams wearing predominantly white strips on a humid Sydney evening - and within ten minutes the Wolves had battered the Bunnies - Rhys Evans and Simon Grix both crossing to put "Wire" up 12-0 early. Lee Briers was faultless with the boot despite some sideline attempts early.
The first trial of the 2012 season was, as usual, split into four quarters. Warrington added one more try before the first break, Rhys Williams putting the visitors 18-0 up. The patriotic near-sellout crowd of 5,000 at Redfern was in stunned silence not long after the resumption of the second quarter, with England international Ryan Atkins adding a try of his own to push the score to 24-0.
It was at that point the visiting side gave up their dominance, and a wave of momentum swung back to the hosts. Souths recording two tries inside the final ten minutes of the second quarter, both Shaune Corrigan and Brendan McKinnon on the scoreboard before the siren sounded.
Trailing 24-12, South Sydney stepped up their assault in the second half, with Warrington turning to an extended bench to give some of their top line players a rest. The Rabbitohs added tries with Nathan Peats and Ryan Carr in the third quarter, and with little resistance from the Wolves, it was suddenly 24-22.
Warrington's soft defence tightened in the final quarter - adding a try through Chris Bridge which wasn't converted - and with South Sydney hitting back shortly after (Corrigan grabbing a double), the final ten minutes would be a tense battle. The Wolves would ultimately find the line with five remaining, Gareth O'Brien with the matchwinner, Richie Myler nailing the final conversion to give the visitors a six-point victory.
As with most trials there isn't much to read into the result of tonight's match - both sides appeared to falter when fielding players from their extended benches. For the Rabbitohs, a lineup made up of primarily NSW Cup players with a few first graders meant they were always going to be challenged by a Warrington lineup only a few short weeks away from the start of their Stobart Super League campaign.
No major injury news in the aftermath of this match, although early reports suggested Adrian Morley may have sustained a minor injury in the first half. We'll bring you more via our Twitter feed at @LeagueUnlimited over the coming week.
Warrington Wolves 34 (Rhys Williams, Rhys Evans, Ryan Atkins, Simon Grix, Chris Bridge and Gareth O'Brien tries; Lee Briers 4/4, Richie Myler 1/2 goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 28 (Shaune Corrigan 2, Ryan Carr, Nathan Peats, Brendan McKinnon tries; Adam Reynolds 5/6 goals) at Australian Technology Park, Redfern. Crowd: 5,000.
Referees: Tony Archer & Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials: Dan Eastwood & Jason Walsh.