The South Sydney Rabbitohs have started the 2023 season in strong style with a 27-18 victory over the Cronulla Sharks at Shark Park.
The clash started in one of the worst possible situations for the Rabbitohs, with their big man Tevita Tatola ruled out of the match from the very first tackle of the game after showing Category 1 concussion symptoms after a head clash.
Ronaldo Mulitalo learnt a hard lesson at the ten-minute mark to never think anything - especially a try - is a certainty. The Sharks winger was put into space as he charged towards the line before slowing down with a smile on his face thinking it was a fait accompli, only for Lachlan Illias to knock the ball out in a desperate tackle.
After saving the try down the other end, Illias was able to open the scoring when he looked to dummy the ball out to the right, but elected to go himself - bouncing out of a tackle and getting his way to the line to score.
The Sharks were able to level the scores through some bizarre work when Will Kennedy got himself into space and put a kick through, which he grubbered again before Braydon Trindall had to soccer through a couple of times himself to score and convert.
It wasn't just the Sharks who bombed tries though, Izaac Thompson lost the ball short of the line when he got into space, and then Keaon Koloamatangi lost the ball chasing through an Illias kick. It was second time lucky for the Rabbitohs big man Koloamatangi though, when he put the Sharks defence in two minds and he went through to score.
Cronulla were able to level the scores on the stroke of halftime and get their confidence levels up as they looked to shift the ball left before going right to put Sione Katoa over in the corner.
If the Sharks got a confidence boost from the try at halftime, then whatever happened during the break must've brought the confidence down, because they looked like a team devoid of any confidence. Errors killed any momentum that they took into the half, and even though it took Souths time to capitalise - capitalise they did.
The Bunnies finally took advantage just shy of the 50-minute mark when Illias put Campbell Graham through for his first effort of the night.
Errors continued to hamper any efforts that were made by the Sharks to wrestle the momentum back, and a Latrell Mitchell penalty goal pushed the score out to 20-12 after Briton Nikora was penalised for a late tackle on Cam Murray.
More errors and ill-discipline hampered the hosts after Braden Hamlin-Uele was put on report for a high shot and then from the ensuing set, Graham was put through by Illias in a carbon copy of his first try.
Things went from bad to worse for Cronulla after the try was awarded, with Wade Graham sent for 10 minutes by referee Todd Smith for what was deemed a high shot earlier in the set by the Bunker.
Cronulla did get a late try when Teig Wilton chased through a Matt Moylan kick, and was able to close the gap to just 8 points but errors again scuttled the momentum. A late Mitchell field goal put the icing on the cake for Souths.
Next weekend, the Sharks have another tough clash when they take on Parramatta at Commbank Stadium, whilst Souths must be brimming with confidence as they take on the Panthers at Penrith on Thursday night.
Match Highlights - #NRLSharksSouths
A resilient Rabbitohs side overcame multiple injuries to record a 27-18 victory over the Sharks! pic.twitter.com/TXl2RB75Pp
— NRL (@NRL) March 4, 2023