Round Twelve of the NRL opened with eleventh placed St George Illawarra Dragons against tenth placed South Sydney Rabbitohs with the Dragons the bookies favourites to pick up the points.
Both coaches made three changes to last weekends sides. The Dragons had Pereira, Sims and Sailor in their seventeen while the Rabbitohs welcomed back Latrell Mitchell, Knight and Mago.
The Dragons needed to win by more than twenty points to get them above the Rabbitohs, but a win for Souths could see them up into seventh place in the table.
The Dragons opened the scoring with just six minutes on the clock when Adam Reynolds lost the ball for the Rabbitohs deep in the Dragons twenty. Corey Norman picked up the loose ball and went fifty metres before putting in the pass to Matt Dufty for the full-back to sprint the remaining thirty to score in the left corner. Zac Lomax drilled his kick wide of the left upright.
The second came on twelve after a fantastic Dufty miss-out pass found Euan Aitken to go through and round closer to the sticks to give Lomax the conversion for a 10-0 lead. Souths were already in all sorts of trouble.
It was all too easy for the Dragons on fifteen when Aitken made the break, shrugging off two tackles, and passing inside to Dufty to go fifteen for his second of the game. Lomax was again accurate with the boot, the Dragons scoring at a point a minute.
Souths broke their duck on twenty when Cody Walker took the ball at first receiver ten from the line, stepped twice, and scored by the left upright. Latrell Mitchell kicked the conversion, the Rabbitohs trailing 6-16.
Alex Johnston intercepted the ball off a wayward Dufty pass on his own ten metres and went ninety metres down the left wing to leave the Dragons chasers trailing in his wake and score fifteen in from the touchline. Mitchell hit the left upright from the conversion attempt the Dragons lead down to just six points.
The scores were level on thirty-six after Johnston broke down the left wing and chipped over the top of the chasing defenders Latrell Mitchell able to pick up the pass after the bounce wrong-footed the Dragons defence. Mitchell added the conversion to his try for 16-16, a complete turnaround of events.
It had been a half of two halves which saw the sides locked up at the interval.
Souths were in front on forty-nine when Cody Walker and Dane Gagai combined to find Alex Johnston to go in by the corner flag for the wingers second try of the game. Mitchell was unable to convert.
In the tit-for-tat game it was St George who scored next when Tyson Frizell grounded a Ben Hunt ten metre grubber kick twenty metres from the right upright. Lomax was unable to convert, the sores all tied up with twenty-six to play.
Souths edged ahead again on sixty-two when Walker took a short pass from Nichols when he hit the ball at speed, crashed the line, and got his second of the evening. Mitchell added the conversion for 26-20.
A second Johnston intercept-try of the game came on seventy-three as winger popped out of the line to collect the ball and run seventy metres to score five in from the corner flag with Dufty in full pursuit. Mitchell’s kick was wide of the uprights, the Rabbitohs with a ten-point lead.
A Mitchell penalty on seventy-six extended the lead to twelve points, the Rabbitohs with the points and seventh place on the ladder.
On seventy-nine Tristan Sailor grubber kick was grounded by Mikaele Ravalawa in the corner, but when Lomax hit the post and the cross-bar with his kick, the ball bouncing back into the field of play, the game was over.
This was an extraordinary game. The Rabbitohs were not in it in the opening twenty minutes and it looked as though the Dragons would be runaway winners. But Souths found their form and were the beeter side for the remaining hour of the match to stun the home side and take the two ladder points with a 32-24 win. Coach Paul McGregor will be feeling that his pocket has been picked but Wayne Bennett will have been impressed with the way his Rabbitohs side dug in to secure the points after a shaky start.
St George Illawarra Dragons: Dufty (2T), Pereira, Aitken (T), Lomax (2G), Ravalawa (T), Norman, Hunt, Lawrie, McInnes, Vaughan, Frizell (T), Sims, Ford. Subs: Fuimaono, Kerr, Host, Sailor.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: Mitchell (T, 3G), Paulo, Graham, Gagai, Johnston (3T), Walker (2T), Reynolds, Tatola, Cook, Burgess, Su’A, Sironen, Murray. Subs: Nicholls, Knight, Koloamatangi, Mago.
Referee: Ashley Klein.
Ground: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney.