THE Bunnies scooted over the top of a sodden ANZ Stadium to race to 10-nil lead in almost even time before the Jarryd Hayne-inspired Eels dug deep to engineer a thrilling contest.
And what a contest: when the sides returned from halftime with the Rabbitohs leading 10-4 the Eels mounted waves of attack in not ideal conditions, while Souths’ forwards simply tucked the ball under their arms and hoped to a) not spill the soap-like ball; and b) make a few metres of territory each set.
The mix of dour and open play ground to Golden Point courtesy of a Hayne try double. In extra time the Eels blasted four gettable attempts at field goal – a Hayne low-flyer almost knocked the goalposts over as it slammed into the crossbar – but converted none.
Then, for the second Friday night running a referee rained on the parade at the death: after 89 minutes and 51 seconds of struggle and with Souths licking their lips at one last chance to snap a field goal from a scrum feed 10 metres out, pocket ref Brett Suttor blew time-on when a Souths forward’s head popped up as they were still bound – even though halfback Craig Wing did not have a ball to feed the scrum with.
By the time Wing jogged the 10 metres to pick up the ball and returned to the scrum base the siren blared – and Suttor signalled an end to the game. Souths players, including incredulous captain Roy Asotasi, protested but were told to “walk away”.
While the decision may have been technically correct it was a lousy way for things to finish.
The Game Swung When… Souths’ fullback Luke Capewell shrugged off the attempted tackle of Nathan Hindmarsh to make it 16-8 with 27 minutes left; it looked all over for the home side.
But then in the 66th minute the Rabbitohs gave away successive penalties that saw the Eels piggybacked down to the Souths line and when Jarryd Hayne took a short pass and carried five defenders over two minutes later it was game-on at 16-14.
The turning point came in the 73rd minute with a harsh penalty against back-rower Michael Crocker, who simply stood his ground as Eels decoy runner Joe Galuvao pounded through one off the ruck; Crocker was deemed to have tackled a player not in possession and Burt’s penalty locked proceedings up with seven minutes left.
It looked as though Souths would get a final chance to work into position for a match-winning field goal in the last minute of regular time when Eels winger Eric Grothe lost the ball as he was preparing to play it; referee Suttor called for a scrum before the touch judge tipped him off about a Michael Crocker strip and a relieving penalty was awarded to the Eels who wound down the clock.
Who Was Hot… Jarryd Hayne was unstoppable (32 runs, 328 metres, 17 tackle breaks) and more than redeemed himself for the rash play that cost his side six points (see HTBSTBB below). He scored two tries through sheer determination and always looked a threat.
Fuifui Moimoi (19 runs, 202 metres) came alive in the second half and made serious territory. Eric Grothe (four tackle breaks) was a welcome sight for coach Daniel Anderson, making numerous carts from dummy-half and finished well to score a try. Krisnan Inu (119 metres, three offloads) did some nice things.
For Souths, Craig Wing (51 touches and two try assists) worked hard at the scrumbase in Chris Sandow’s absence, Eddy Pettybourne hit hard (28 tackles in 45 minutes) and Nathan Merritt (128 metres) and Luke Capewell (173 metres) ran hard.
Who Was Not… The big wet saw plenty of errors committed, mostly in handling and missed tackles. Nothing you wouldn’t expect under the conditions though.
However, Parra prop Josh Cordoba had his side behind the eight ball from the beginning, spilling the ball in the play-the-ball from the kick-off; the Rabbitohs capitalised with their first set of possession when Wing bombed and Merritt batted the kick back for Crocker to score.
In the 82nd minute, with Souths battling to get out of their own half, a promising surge was stopped quickly when Luke Capewell tried a ridiculous flick pass in heavy traffic – the turnover put his side back under immense pressure.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… In the 13th minute the Eels backline looked to spread the ball quickly; Jarryd Hayne caught a pass behind him, spun and turned his back on the opposition before offloading in the one motion – unfortunately the pass was thrown forward into the hands of Souths winger Nathan Merritt who high-tailed it for the line from near halfway.
Hayne gave Merritt more than five metres head-start but collared him near the try line, both players sliding into the right upright with one struggling to plant the ball and the other battling to prevent it. In the end the video ref ruled a benefit-of-the-doubt try, which was a fair call.
Refs Watch… Though there wasn’t much of a blow-up afterwards about Suttor’s decision to end proceedings a little early (his get-out clause was that Rabbitohs prop Luke Stuart had popped his head up from the packed scrum, forcing the ref to re-start the clock under 2009’s new scrum rules) the decision still riled plenty of Souths fans.
Elsewhere more than a few strips went unnoticed.
Bad Boys… Krisnan Inu was placed on report for a dangerous tackle on Jamie Simpson in the 19th minute. He was subsequently charged by the NRL and will miss two games should he offer an early guilty plea.
NRL.com Best & fairest… 3 points – Jarryd Hayne (Eels): Shone in a class of his own amid the doom and gloom; 2 points – Craig Wing (Rabbitohs): Schemed and probed like a good halfback; 1 point – Michael Crocker (Rabbitohs): Another tough game after a long stint on the sideline.
Eels 16 (J Hayne 2, E Grothe tries; L Burt 2 goals) drew with Rabbitohs 16 (M Crocker, N Merritt, L Capewell tries; C Wing, I Luke goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 10,670.