The South Sydney Rabbitohs have secured some much needed security to their spot in the top eight with a 36-28 win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in a see-sawing encounter that featured five lead changes.
The match started off with young Souths halfback Lachlan Ilias showing some individual brilliance, grubbering through for himself and scoring the first try of the game.
It didn't take the Bulldogs long to respond however. Souths' attempt at a trick play on tackle 1 didn't go to plan, with Mitchell's kick going dead. Off the ensuing 7 tackle set, the Bulldogs forced an error off a Flanagan kick. Off the scrum win, Braidon Burns manhandled Alex Johnston out of the way to score in the corner against his old club.
It took just 2 more minutes for the Dogs to score their next try. They got into attacking position courtesy of a penalty, and Declan Casey was able to dummy his way through a 2-on-2 situation to dive over for the first try of his NRL career.
Emotions were running high between the stars on either side, with Latrell Mitchell and Matt Burton exchanging words on multiple occasions, the former running over the top of the latter twice throughout the contest.
Lachlan Ilias had his fingerprints all over Souths' next try as well, passing to put Koloamatangi through a hole and the big second rower getting an offload away on the inside to Cody Walker, who scored.
The next 15 minutes were filled with big defensive plays from both teams. The Bulldogs managed to stop Tom Burgess over the line and throw Isaiah Tass over the sideline, but soon after Souths forced Corey Waddell to drop it, and they were finally able to cross the line to take advantage of their field position through Alex Johnston.
At half time it was 16-10 to the Red and Green, but the Bulldogs were not going to lie down. Latrell Mitchell was penalised for a hand to the face of Josh Addo-Carr, and on the ensuing set Marshall-King came up with a brilliant pass that ended up as a try assist for Joe Stimson.
Souths had a few minutes of attack but the Bulldogs defence came through. Cody Walker eventually made an error, and against the run of play, the Bulldogs scored a magnificent try to hit the front. Declan Casey stepped past two Souths defenders and broke the line, before showing great patience and maturity to wait for support, which he found in Kyle Flanagan. The halfback then passed it off to speedy fullback Jake Averillo, who dived in under the posts.
The Bulldogs new found lead didn't last long. The next time Souths had the ball (two minutes later), Kodi Nikorima offloaded to Latrell Mitchell, who went on a run only Latrell Mitchell is capable of, goose-stepping to beat Burton and then shrugging off the two Bulldogs players in the last line of defence to score a magnificent individual try.
With 15 minutes to go and the scores tied at 22-22, the game was anyone's for the taking. The Bulldogs were the first to stand up and take charge, with Waddell running over Jed Cartwright to create a broken field situation. The ball found Burton, who went to Flanagan, who then found Paul Vaughan of all people in support, the big man crashing over to give the Bulldogs a 6-point lead.
Once again, Souths didn't take kindly to being behind on the scoreboard. On their next set, they went downfield with ease, and the two big guns of Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell combined brilliantly, the former probing around the ruck before passing to the latter, who put big Tevita Tatola through a gaping hole to score under the posts.
Jeremy Marshall-King made an unfortunate error the next time the Bulldogs had the ball, and Latrell Mitchell again came up with a passing try-assist, running across field before letting the ball sing it's way to Alex Johnston, who crossed over untouched, giving Souths a four point lead.
The Bulldogs tried a short kickoff, but Souths came up with possession, and would score once again before full time when Isaiah Tass miraculously kept the ball infield from a bomb to Johnston, who completed his third hat-trick of the season.
That was all she wrote, Souths winning an entertaining affair by 8 points.
Next week, the Bulldogs host the Titans at home on a Sunday Afternoon, while Souths are up against the struggling Storm on Saturday night.