South Sydney has held off a fast finishing Tigers to hold onto an 18-10 victory in greasy conditions at Bankwest Stadium tonight. The win for the Rabbitohs pushes Wayne Bennett's side back into the Top 8 in a huge boost to their final's aspirations.
Souths winger Dane Gagai scored his first club hat-trick of his NRL career to seal the win in his best performance of the season for the Bunnies. Halfback Adam Reynolds was superb for the home side, leading his side around the park astutely in the wet conditions, having a hand in three of his side's tries and was clearly the standout. This was despite having a horror night with the boot, with the Rabbitohs goalkicker missing four straight conversions.
The Tigers managed to get into the game late with tries to blockbusting prop Josh Aloiai and debutant Reece Hoffman but the Tigers just couldn't convert any of their chances earlier in the match despite the rotation of Josh Reynolds, Harry Grant and Benji Marshall throughout the game.
With both sides coming into the game sitting on the edge of the Top 8 there was plenty to play for and there was drama early to set the scene. Tigers winger David Nofoaluma snatched at an intercept and toed the ball ahead. As players raced for the loose ball, Tigers half Josh Reynolds lashed at the ball with his foot and accidently collected Souths centre Campbell Graham in the head. Latrell Mitchell found offence and gave Reynolds a clip with his forearm and a scuffle ensued.
Off the back of the penalty against Reynolds, the Tigers gave away another penalty for being offside and Souths goalkicker Adam Reynolds took the two points on offer to open the scoring in the match.
The game continued to be a real arm wrestle in greasy conditions, until just before halftime, which saw the Rabbitohs halves in Reynolds and Cody Walker combine on the right to create enough space for Dane Gagai to slide over for the first try of the night. Reynolds missed the conversion from the touch line and Souths' lead extended to 6-0.
Gagai then had a double in a matter of minutes, when the Tigers raced up on Latrell Mitchell close to the line. Mitchell then shrugged off Moses Mbye and put Gagai over in the corner and the Rabbitohs led 10-0 at the break.
Dane Gagai then had his first club career hat-trick in the second half, when Reynolds counted the numbers on the blind side and put the Queensland Origin winger over for try number three for the night. Reynolds again missed the conversion and the Bunnies led 18-0 with just over 20 minutes remaining.
After being camped on the Bunnies line, the Tigers managed to get back in the match, when hooker Harry Grant produced an inside ball for a rampaging Josh Aloiai close to the line and the big front rower crashed over for his third try of the season. Mbye converted and the Tigers trailed 18-6 with less than 15 minutes remaining.
Wests backed up and scored their second try in quick succession, when Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks combined to give Moses Mbye some space on the left-hand side. Mbye then found his winger Reece Hoffman on debut who scored in the corner. Mbye failed to convert and the score was narrowed to 18-10.
South Sydney then managed to hold off a late Tigers fightback to seal a morale boosting win to give their finals aspirations a boost.
The Rabbitohs return to Bankwest Stadium next Saturday, where they host Newcastle in another tough match up next weekend. Wests head back to Leichardt Oval next Friday night, where they host the embattled Broncos.