Dragons down gallant Bunnies to stay unbeaten
THEY turned back the clock on Friday night at Jubilee Oval.
What a game. What defence. What attitude. What spirit.
What an inspiration.
In the end it was St George Illawarra who held on for a 16-12 victory but in no way can you underestimate the mighty performance of South Sydney.
After the Dragons dominated first half possession, the unbeaten competition leaders looked to be cruising to another comfortable win when they marched 16-2 clear after 52 minutes.
But to their credit the Rabbitohs just wouldn't go away before two tries in the final 10 minutes set up a thrilling finish.
With Adam Reynolds forced off for a concussion test, his halves partner Cody Walker crossed in the 72nd minute to pull the margin back to 16-6.
Another try two minutes later to Greg Inglis was followed by a sideline conversion to young Adam Douehi to put the Rabbitohs within a converted try of a famous win.
But with the Rabbitohs still on the attack in the 78th minute, fatigue finally caught up to them when Walker dropped the ball inside the Dragons' quarter.
And from there Paul McGregor's men held on through gritted teeth and tremendous perseverance.
Without their inspirational forward leader Sam Burgess, the Rabbitohs couldn't have tried harder and probably would have beaten most NRL rivals on the night.
But just as gutsy were the Dragons who had to win the hard way after some comprehensive victories over the opening four rounds.
The Rabbitohs absolutely busted their guts to stay in the contest and only be trailing 8-2 at the break.
The Dragons dominated possession with a 60-40 per cent split in the opening 40 minutes with Souths forced to make 47 more tackles.
Both teams copped some questionable calls with a disallowed try to Nene MacDonald denied because of an obstruction probably the worst of them.
This time Tariq Sims was the offender when he ran into the line and made contact with Reynolds.
It was probably a fair call from the bunker to overturn the live on field "try" decision because Reynolds was slightly impeded.
But the problem was anyone who had seen the try awarded to Canterbury's Moses Mbye back in round three would have been scratching their heads to explain how that was allowed and this one wasn't.
MacDonald had another try overturned by the video officials even though referee Gavin Badger was standing right in front of MacDonald and called "try" on the field.
Souths also had a tough break when a pass from Walker to John Sutton was ruled forward.
The only try the Dragons did score in the first half came through Euan Aitken when he beat Inglis with power and speed.
Aitken's battle with Inglis was a beauty while the battle in the middle was just as intense.
Soon after halftime Ben Hunt swooped on a Sutton pass that went to ground and against the run of play the flying Dufty raced away to extend the lead.
Souths showed tremendous spirit to keep fighting even when luck was going against them.
Desperate defence from veteran Jason Nightingale in his 250th NRL game denied Damien Cook and Robert Jennings in the space of a minute.
But as the possession continued to turn, the Dragons' defence eventually couldn't any longer.
Walker gave his fans hope when he finally broke through in the 72nd minute before Inglis was over but in the end it wasn't enough to secure the two competition points, although the effort from both teams was enormous.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 16 (E Aitken M Dufty tries G Widdop 4 goals) bt SOUTH SYDNEY 12 (G Inglis C Walker tries A Doueihi A Reynolds goals) at UOW Jubilee Oval. Referee: Gavin Badger, Peter Gough. Crowd: 16,709