Top spot was a ‘long-shot’ prize for the South Sydney Rabbitohs as they opened round five of the NRL with a game against a Brisbane Broncos side who needed the win to keep in touch with the high fliers in an intriguing match at Stadium Australia in Sydney between fourth and tenth on the ladder.
Wayne Bennett was up against Kevin Walters in a fixture which has traditionally favoured the visitors and in which honours were shared last season, when both sides won their home matches.
Benji Marshall was named in the starting line up for Souths as both sides made a number of changes with the home side looking to build upon their impressive nilling of the Bulldogs last time out, while the Broncos sought to bounce back from their heavy loss to the Storm.
Souths applied all the early pressure and it paid dividends on eight when Adam Reynolds cross field kick found Alex Johnston who offloaded to Josh Mansour who found the supporting Benji Marshall for one of the easiest tries of his career. Reynolds pushed his conversion wide of the far upright.
Reynolds kicked a twelfth minute penalty to make amends for the conversion miss and push his side out to a 6-0 lead.
It was all too easy for the Bunnies. Fast hands and two miss-out passes allowed Latrell Mitchell to put the ball on a plate for Johnston to cross on a sizeable overlap. Reynolds again failed to find the target with his touchline conversion.
On their first real attack of the game the Broncos got themselves on the board. The move was started after a Marshall offload pass was intercepted and worked down the field Jamayne Isaako stepped through the defence for a great try. The Broncos full-back converted his own try settling the Brisbane nerves.
After a scrappy period the Rabbitohs went in again with just a couple of minutes left on the clock with Dane Gagai jinking his way through the Broncos defensive line and finding Reynolds in support to canter over under the sticks. He added the conversion to his try for a 16-4 lead. Then seconds before the hooter Reynolds kicked a forty-two-metre field goal for an additional two points under the new rule, five rounds in the making.
The first points of the second half, on fifty-two, were the final nail in the coffin for the Broncos with Mitchell crashing through one tackle, regaining his knees and stretching for the line to ground. When Reynolds added the goal it was 24-6, Brisbane’s 2021 nightmare was continuing.
From the back of a scrum on the Broncos ten metre line the ball was picked up by Marshall and fed out to Campbell Graham who pushed his way through a weak defensive line to ground. Reynolds again failed to kick the conversion from wide.
With r minutes left a pinpoint Reynold high kick was collected by Mitchell who fell back wards over the line despite the attention of four defenders and forced the ball to the ground for his second try of the game. Reynolds was accurate with the boot this time for 34-6.
A Mitchell one-pointer with twenty second on the clock gave a final score of 35-6, a comprehensive Souths win.
The win lifts the Bunnies into second place in the table, at least until the rest of the round gets played, but they are in a terrific position already and playing well under the control of the inspirational Benji Marshall. The Broncos, on the other hand, are looking in all sorts of trouble as they languish in the bottom half of the table.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: Mitchell (2T, DG), Johnston (T), Gagai, Graham (T), Mansour, Marshall (T), Reynolds (T, 4G, DG), Burgess, Cook, Tatola, Host, Su’A, Murray. Subs: Hawkins, Nicholls, Mago, Arrow. 18th: Sele.
Brisbane Broncos: Isaako (T, G), Coates, Kennar, Niu, Mead, Milford, Dearden, Lodge, Turpin, Haas, Glenn, Riki, Pangai Junior. Subs: Croft, Flegler, Asiata, Te’o. 18th: Bullemor.
Referee: Ben Cummins.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 10-4, 10-6, 14-6, 16-6, 18-6 : HT : 22-6, 24-6, 28-6, 32-6, 34-6, 35-6 : FT.