Maguire masterminds win over Eels
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire's stunning decision to replace halfback Adam Reynolds has proved a masterstroke after young gun Luke Keary set up the match-turning play in their 32-12 win over Parramatta on Friday night.
South Sydney were clinging onto a 16-12 lead when Reynolds was substituted for Keary in the 64th minute, and with his first touch of the football the rookie playmaker put up a perfectly-placed bomb for second-rower Kyle Turner to take the lead out to ten.
From there the Rabbitohs closed the match with another two tries, and snapping a worrying two-game slide to entrench their spot in the top eight.
For Parramatta, the loss was their fourth straight and leaves them in danger of falling as low as 13th by the end of the weekend.
The Eels got the early jump on the visitors courtesy of an advancing defensive line that stunned the slow-starting Rabbitohs pack. Coach Brad Arthur's mid-week call for physicality seemed to have been heeded when South Sydney big men Sam Burgess, Ben Lowe and Jason Clark all showed signs of discomfort in opening exchanges.
For all of Parramatta's domination however, a ninth minute try to rookie second-rower Tepai Moeroa from a Corey Norman short ball was all the home side could come up with after 20 minutes.
Eventually South Sydney began to turn the wheels, and crossed for their first points through a well-rehearsed right-side shift that ended in wingman Lote Tuqiri over for his first try in Rabbitohs colours.
Eels halfback Chris Sandow thought he had stolen momentum when he produced a 40-20 in the 37th minute, but his third play cut-out was intercepted by a Dylan Walker who was eventually brought down by Jarryd Hayne.
Sandow exacerbated his mistake by being put on report for a shoulder charge on Walker as he was on the ground and in the ensuing set, Sam Burgess cut through a shortened Eels left edge for an unlikely 10-6 lead at the break.
In a week where Parramatta coach Brad Arthur wanted his men to show no respect for their bodies, the Eels’ middle certainly showed a hardened edge against arguably the best pack of big men in the NRL.
But the first-year mentor would've been furious with a lazy putdown by winger Vai Toutai that bombed a certain four-pointer to open the second half.
And again the visitors made them pay, rampaging their way up the field and catching the home side short on their right flank by an Inglis long ball to Johnston to extend their lead to ten.
It would've been more had George Burgess not stood in the Eels defensive line when Joe Picker went through untouched five minutes later.
Having not tasted defeat to the foundational club on their home turf in 17 years however, Parramatta hit back when Norman placed a cross-field kick beside the posts for utility Joseph Paulo.
But the match was turned on its head when Maguire called on his supersub, who instantly set up the win with a try for Turner, before Johnston and Burgess completed their doubles in the closing minutes.
Both Hayne and Inglis wore No. 16 in a show of support for injured Knight Alex McKinnon.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 32 (Johnston 2, S. Burgess 2, Tuqiri, Turner tries; Reynolds 2, Luke 2 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 12 (Moeroa, Paulo tries; Sandow 2 goals) at Pirtek Stadium. Crowd: 16,125.