Oh the pain. Cronulla must have spent a little too much time in camp in Kiama during the week because once again someone in the squad forgot to pay tribute to the football gods.
After scrapping along all night against the Rabbitohs, the boys from the Sutherland Shire looked set to claim a long-awaited win – but with just seconds left on the clock, on the last play of the game for the Bunnies, Scott Geddes broke their collective hearts.
This game might not have meant a lot to loads of people but it certainly meant plenty to the Sharks who were trying to arrest a nine-game losing streak and avoid the dreaded wooden spoon. Coach Ricky Stuart took his troops into camp on the South Coast in the lead-up and treated the match like a final. But at the end of the day they fell one tackle short.
Just like last week against Manly, the final minute was their nemesis – the only saving grace came when the Cowboys beat the Roosters the following day to ensure the tri-colours finished last (although at 16-0 the Sharks’ boys watching at the pub must have been sweating).
The Game Swung When… Neither team really ever had dominance over the other. The score ran (Sharks score first) 6-0, 6-6, 12-6, 12-12, 14-12, 14-18, 18-18, 24-18, 24-22, 24-26, meaning no side was ever further than six behind the other.
But with the tackle count expired and the clock about to do the same the Bunnies found a small hole between Matthew Wright and Paul Gallen – with Scott Geddes simultaneously releasing himself from a ‘nudie run’ and snatching victory with his first try of the year. It was a simple short ball from close range and it came after the visitors were given a restart to their tackle count when Issac Luke claimed a bomb from Mitch Brown with 60 seconds to go. It was heartbreak for the home side and another victory for Souths in a year of inconsistency.
Who Was Hot… John Sutton had some touches of class for the Rabbitohs, claiming three try assists and getting them home, while Luke Douglas and Paul Gallen did everything they could to get the Sharks home. Douglas ran for 168 metres and added 34 tackles plus a much-awaited try in his 98th straight NRL match, while Gallen may have been sin-binned but still ran for 253 metres and added 29 tackles.
Who Was Not… For a game with next to nothing riding on it, both teams showed enough commitment to spare them from this category.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Three props scored tries on the night, which was pretty amazing in itself.
And obviously the fact the Sharks gave up the result so late in the piece was hard to believe.
In terms of the try of the match, that honour went to Rabbitohs’ fullback Nathan Merritt. Craig Wing, in his last game in the NRL before heading to Japanese rugby, sliced through from inside his own half and offloaded to a flying Merritt. The speedster stepped around the fullback in a 40-metre dash and ensured he’d grab points by expertly diving for the turf early and sliding across the line.
Special mention to John Sutton’s 30-metre pass to Chris McQueen for the Rabbitohs’ penultimate try… it was pretty classy.
Injuries… South Sydney winger Chris McQueen’s knee buckled late in the match which might ensure his off-season is spent in rehab.
Refs Watch… Matt Cecchin and Gerard Sutton are unlikely to be in the top rung of officials for the finals but they were competent enough in this one. Cecchin had a few terse moments with players and ended up sending Paul Gallen to the Sin Bin after he tried to question a decision despite not being captain and was caught offside from a quick tap.
Bad Boys… Rabbitoh Ben Lowe had notched up two high tackles inside the opening 21 minutes and ironically the second one saw Luke Douglas stay down, drawing a penalty and seeing Lowe placed on report. Of course it was Douglas who was wrongfully sent off for a high tackle against Manly the week before.
Lowe was charged by the match review committee but will escape suspension with an early guilty plea.
Paul Gallen was sin-binned late in the first half for getting involved while offside after being warned not to; and Jamie Simpson and Terence Seu Seu had a one-on-one stoush, each throwing a flurry of right hands.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – John Sutton (Rabbitohs): Produced the key plays for the Bunnies’ points, including the match-winner at the death; 2 points – Luke Douglas (Sharks): Bounced back from last week’s disappointment with a strong prop’s display and erased his name from the ‘nudie run’ roster after showing great perseverance to chace an attacking kick to score; 1 point – Paul Gallen (Sharks): Tried to carry his team over the line with big stat numbers, running for more than 250 metres despite spending 10 minutes off the field.
Rabbitohs 26 (E Pettybourne, C Wing, N Merritt, C McQueen, S Geddes tries; C Sandow 3 goals) def Sharks 24 (L Douglas, M Brown, P Gallen, K Snowden tries; L Covell 4 goals) at Toyota Stadium. Crowd: 14,879.