Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire has praised his team’s brave effort in pushing the Bulldogs all the way in their one-point loss in their Good Friday encounter.
At one point late in the first half it looked as if the Rabbitohs would have to play out the game with just 13 fit men, as forwards Kyle Turner (concussion), Dave Tyrrell (head knock), Joe Picker (ribs) and Apisai Koroisau (shoulder) were all forced from the field.
While Turner, Tyrrell and Picker all returned later in the match they were clearly worse for wear, but the Rabbitohs almost pulled off a famous victory, leading for all but two minutes of the match before being sunk by a heart-wrenching Trent Hodkinson field goal in the 78th minute.
Maguire said his team could be proud of their efforts after heading into the match having already lost key forwards George Burgess and Ben Te'o to suspension, as well as international hooker Issac Luke who remains sidelined with a shoulder injury.
"It's obviously a pretty disappointed change room in there after the effort the boys put in," said Maguire.
"But I said to them the effort was outstanding. Unfortunately we had a few out and a number of young kids came in and I thought they were outstanding in how they went about it.
"To get knocked off, it was disappointing but we learned plenty from that."
As the thrilling contest wore to a close the Rabbitohs had a chance to seal the result late in the match when they worked their way downfield within drop-goal range, but they lost their nerve with halfback Adam Reynolds in position to take the shot, sending the ball to winger Nathan Merritt instead who pushed his attempt well wide of the uprights.
Maguire admitted the missed opportunity proved a costly one.
"I think we could've controlled that set a little differently, but we’ll talk about that and practise that," said Maguire, with the loss meaning the Rabbitohs are likely to drop out of the top eight by the end of the weekend.
"They are areas of the game, when I talk about little moments of the game that we need to get right. We had our chance there, unfortunately we didn't take it."
Maguire took issue with the Bulldogs second and final try of the afternoon, when Mitch Brown slid over out wide off the back of a Bulldogs second-man play where John Sutton appeared to be impeded by decoy runner Josh Jackson. The try reduced the margin from eight to two with just 12 minutes remaining, and Maguire said he thought the try should've been disallowed.
"I'm not quite sure how they’re interpreting the obstruction rule at the moment," he said.
"If [Sutton] doesn't get impeded and his body goes toward where the ball is, we probably stop that.
"We should've stopped that even though it did happen but I'm not quite sure of the ruling on that try."
Despite the high injury toll, which also saw Greg Inglis (lower back) and Sam Burgess (hamstring) playing hampered throughout the latter stages of the game, Maguire said there were no major casualties out of the match.