Rabbitohs rise in epic encounter

NRL2021
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Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have produced an iconic performance to down the Penrith Panthers 16-10 in the Second Qualifying Final on Saturday evening.

Given little chance of causing an upset after going down to the Panthers twice during the regular season - including a shameful 56-12 loss in Dubbo prior to Origin - Wayne Bennett's men lived up to their reputation as the pride of the league with a defensive display not seen since the side's last premiership victory in 2014.

Outscoring last year's beaten grand finalists two tries to one, captain Adam Reynolds proved the difference with a precise kicking game.

The victory sees the Rabbitohs progress through to the Preliminary Final in a fortnight where they will play the winner of next Friday's Semi Final between the Sea Eagles and the Roosters.

In an absorbing opening which saw the lead change multiple times, Reynolds put the Rabbitohs on the board with a penalty goal from close range.

Hitting back with a try to Stephen Crichton (8th minute) a few sets later, a brilliantly executed grubber from Nathan Cleary saw Paul Momirovski defy the dead ball line with a bat-back that allowed Crichton to pounce.

Responding in kind after Dane Gagai exhibited dazzling footwork before finding Cody Walker (24th minute) in support, Cleary slotted a penalty goal shortly afterwards to lock the scores up at 8-all.

Walker came close to scoring his second only to knock on over the try line, however, the visitors retook the lead with another Reynolds penalty goal late in the first half.

In a bizarre finish to the first 40 minutes, the Panthers threw the ball around with reckless abandon as the halftime siren sounded and were rewarded with a penalty after the referee deemed Jai Arrow offside; Cleary nailed the ensuing penalty goal to send both teams to the sheds level at 10-all.

Weathering a barrage of high balls from Cleary throughout the match, rookie fullback Blake Taaffe - playing only his sixth game in first grade - delivered the final pass to send Jaxson Paulo (44th minute) over for a decisive four-pointer in the right corner.

Gaining in confidence at the same time their opponents showed signs of frustration, Reynolds put the Rabbitohs up 16-10 with his third penalty goal after Penrith co-captain Isaah Yeo was placed on-report for a crusher tackle.

Managing to hold their nerve despite the best efforts of the Panthers to send the match into extra time, the Rabbitohs finished ahead on the scoreboard to move with 80 minutes of the premiership decider

Next Saturday, the Panthers will face the winner of tomorrow's Elimination Final between Parramatta and Newcastle in Mackay.

Penrith Panthers 10 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 16

Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Crowd: 18244
Halftime Score: Penrith Panthers 10 South Sydney Rabbitohs 10

LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Adam Reynolds
2 points - Stephen Crichton
1 points - Blake Taaffe

PENRITH PANTHERS (10)
Tries: Stephen Crichton
Conversions: Nathan Cleary (1/1)
Penalty Goals: Nathan Cleary (2/2)

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS (16)
Tries: Cody Walker, Jaxson Paulo
Conversions: Adam Reynolds (1/2)
Penalty Goals: Adam Reynolds (3/3)


See how it happened in our Match Centre