Brave Souths denied by Smith field goal
South Sydney pushed them all the way but the Melbourne Storm escaped with a thrilling 15-14 golden point win over the Rabbitohs at AAMI Park on Saturday night to go top of the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder.
Storm captain Cameron Smith slotted the match-winning field goal after Cooper Cronk and Adam Reynolds had both sent attempts wide in extra time, with Smith having also locked up the scores with seconds remaining in regular time with a long-range penalty goal.
The Rabbitohs had appeared destined to snap an eight-game losing streak when they led 14-12 with a minute remaining after one of their best performances of the season.
It was a remarkable turnaround for Souths after being thrashed by 50 points by Canberra last week, but in the end it wasn't quite enough to get the better of Smith and the Storm.
It looked set to be a scoreless first 40 after a plethora of missed opportunities in the opening 35 minutes of the game, but a beautifully worked play from Souths broke the deadlock.
Adam Reynolds' perfectly weighted kick found Alex Johnston, with the winger leaping over Marika Koroibete to put the first points of the game on the board.
Both sides had tries ruled out prior to Johnston's four-pointer. First Kenny Bromwich thought he was over in the 24th minute only for play to be called back for obstruction, then the Rabbitohs were denied when Aaron Gray couldn't help himself and was penalised for an obvious double movement.
Souths were also disallowed a try after Johnston's opener, with a promising move which saw Greg Inglis find his way over was brought back by the bunker for obstruction.
The visitors took a six-point lead into the main break, but it only lasted four minutes in the second half.
Melbourne found themselves with an extra man out wide and made Souths pay, as Cameron Munster's cutout ball hit Marika Koroibete in stride and put the Fijian in.
The try sparked the Storm into action, forcing back-to-back goal-line dropouts to keep the Bunnies on their own line.
Melbourne were soon rewarded for their efforts through Cheyse Blair, who dived over in the corner to give the Storm the lead. Blake Green had shrugged through an initial tackle before throwing the ball over the two teammates to Blair, who tiptoed the touchline to plant the ball down.
In keeping with the nature of the game the momentum changed hands once again, as the Rabbitohs took the lead back through a debut try to Angus Crichton.
Another precise kick from Reynolds found Crichton, with the forward out-jumping Blair to give the visitors the lead.
The Storm hit back within five minutes with a penalty goal to Smith levelling the scores at 12-all with 20 minutes to play.
Both sides traded penalties in the middle of the field over the next 10 minutes, before South Sydney were given a penalty in range and Adam Reynolds gave Souths the lead.
Souths were just seconds away from completing arguably the upset of the season, before a dangerous tackle from Damien Cook gave Smith the chance to send the game into golden point.
Smith made no mistake, drilling the penalty goal from 38 metres out to send the game into extra time.
The hooker was on hand again just four minutes later, as the home side recorded their 13th victory in their 14 outings to move into first place.
Melbourne Storm 15 (Koroibete, Blair tries; Smith 3 goals, Smith 1 field goal) def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 14 (Johnston, Crighton tries; Reynolds 3 goals) Half-time: 0-6. Crowd: 13,569.