In a tight match played in difficult conditions, the South Sydney Rabbitohs have defeated the Parramatta Eels 14-12 following a late match-winning try to interchange forward Cameron McInnes.
The victory is the first time the South Sydney Rabbitohs have won without Adam Reynolds since he made his NRL debut in 2012. With just five minutes remaining, McInnes strolled through a gap close to the line. He was allowed far too much space as the Eels rushed up on the decoy runner, Issac Luke hitting the right man with his short pass. In a match where kickers had failed from all six attempts at goal, Luke converted from in front to give the Bunnies their winning, two-point advantage.
Youngster Aaron Gray was the star of the match, running hard for six tackle breaks and scoring two tries, bringing his tally to five four-pointers in just four first grade games. Gray was also first to cross the line in the rain-soaked match. His four-pointer came off the back of a deft John Sutton grubber that exploited some poor positioning at the back from Chris Sandow. That was an early example of a lack of experience at the back for Sandow who was otherwise solid throughout the match. On a number of occasions he caught high floating bombs in the wet conditions.
The Eels hit back in the 15th minute though as Semi Radradra did brilliantly to set a try up out of nowhere. The big Fijian winger flew over Joel Reddy to claim a midfield bomb, before regathering his balance and sending Brad Takairangi into space. Takairangi got himself down low and utilised the dewy conditions to allow himself to slide into the corner to score.
Parramatta slowly gained the ascendancy over the next 20 minutes on the back of some impressive intensity up front from the likes of Nathan Peats and Manu Ma'u and a more willing attitude in attack. Meanwhile, the Bunnies were playing conservatively, seemingly afraid to make mistakes in the wet conditions.
They Eels converted on their advantage in the 35th minute after a superb cut-out pass from Luke Kelly. While Souths appeared to have numbered up well down the short side, Luke Kelly took the ball and threw a rocket of a pass out to Reece Robinson. The try was once again unconverted, leaving the game at 8-4 to the Eels at half-time.
The first half would close out with a moment of controversy however as the injury-prone Richie Fa'aoso appeared to raise his elbow into the throat of George Burgess. The incident was not placed on report, sparking an aggressive on-field response from the Bunnies pack, who almost drove the Eels back into their own in-goal on the next hit-up.
For the first 15 minutes of the second half both sides descended into an arm wrestle. The Rabbitohs began to up their attacking intensity and were rewarded in the 55th minute as Gray bagged his double after a late offload put him into space on the edge of the Eels defence. Once again the try was unconverted, leaving goal kicks at zero from five and the match tied up at eight-all.
Parramatta were handed some good fortune to take the lead with 12 minutes remaining. After Joel Reddy spilled a cross-field kick, the ball sloppily fell back into the in-goal off the hands of Radradra. Manu Ma'u was on hand to plant the ball down and give the Eels a four-point buffer heading into the final ten minutes of the match. That would not be enough however as Souths rolled downfield and youngster McInnes burst through a gap to steal the game late in front of the South Sydney faithful.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 14 (Aaron Gray 2, Cameron McInnes tries; Issac Luke goal) defeated Parramatta Eels 12 (Brad Takairangi, Reece Robinson, Manu Ma'u tries) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 11,658.