Last played: Rabbitohs v Sharks
Cronulla rode a wave of emotion to defeat the full-strength Rabbitohs 20-7 at Shark Stadium in Round 24 last year.
The home side drew first blood in the 19th minute with Jeff Robson’s jinking run setting up Andrew Fifita who crashed over adjacent to the goalposts. Todd Carney’s conversion gave the Sharks a 6-nil lead, an advantage they would cling to until halftime.
However, they were rocked back on their heels in the 53rd minute when Sam Burgess took an innocuous-looking inside ball from John Sutton yet managed to charge over – on the exact same blades of grass that Fifita brushed – with Adam Reynolds evening things up at 6-all.
Souths appeared to take control of proceedings and indeed edged ahead on the scoreboard when Reynolds booted a wobbly yet effective field-goal to take the slenderest of leads with 15 minutes remaining.
The Sharks dug deep however, with Todd Carney delivering a bullet-like flat pass to Tyson Frizell for the second-rower to score from close range and reassume the lead with a 12-7 scoreline.
A Carney penalty goal with three minutes left on the clock gave the Sharks breathing space at 14-7 before John Williams finished the scoring for the night, chasing down a deft Isaac De Gois long grubber in the dying seconds.
It was a high-quality and skillful encounter, with both sides delivering top-shelf completion rates (Sharks 85%, Rabbitohs 84%) and low error counts (Sharks 6, Rabbitohs 7).
In the end the difference was the Cronulla offloading game – with Paul Gallen leading the way they created nine second-phase opportunities to Souths’ one.
As usual, the Sharks skipper led by example with a whopping 233 metres and four offloads, while fullback Matthew Wright added 173 metres with two tackle-breaks. Anthony Tupou chimed in with three offloads.
Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess were the best of the beaten brigade, with 194 metres and 150 metres respectively.