South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett admitted he erred by playing utility Adam Doueihi on the wing in Friday night’s 30-6 loss to Sydney Roosters and hinted at backline changes for next week’s sudden-death clash at ANZ Stadium.
The Rabbitohs began preparing to face the winner of Saturday night’s Manly-Cronulla elimination final at halftime after Bennett conceded the game against the Roosters was lost and they needed to regain some confidence ahead of next Friday night’s match.
After trailing 26-0 at halftime, Souths won the second half to limit the damage to 30-6 but few of their fans in the 30,370 crowd would have walked away from the SCG convinced they could still win the premiership.
The match was a virtual carbon copy of last Friday night’s Round 25 game, won 16-10 by the Rabbitohs, except this time the Roosters scored tries they bombed in the previous encounter, with Joey Manu again causing havoc for Souths' left-edge defence.
Match: Roosters v Rabbitohs
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Bennett produced a masterstroke at halftime last week by shifting NSW Origin forward Cameron Murray from lock to left centre after Dane Gagai succumbed to a hamstring injury but the pairing of James Roberts and Doueihi struggled to contain Manu and three of the Roosters' first-half tries were scored on their edge.
“I made a mistake tonight, I put Adam Doueihi on the wing,” Bennett said. “He has played halfback, he has played five-eighth, he has played fullback and he has handled all of those really well so I thought he would handle that but it was maybe a bridge too far for him at this stage of his footy career.
Bennett: I made a mistake putting Doueihi on the wing
“That was my decision so I take the responsibility for that. He has played well and we were short of players, we needed someone to put on the wing and we thought he could do a job for us.
“It wasn’t all Adam’s fault, I am not saying that for one moment, but the buck stops with me and I made a mistake.”
Doueihi had been playing fullback recently but he swapped with Alex Johnston, while Roberts usually plays on the right edge.
With Gagai and suspended captain Sam Burgess set to return next week, Bennett said Campbell Graham was likely to move from right centre to the wing.
Burgess could also play as left second-rower, with his brothers George (suspension) and Tom (injury) returning against the Roosters.
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“We have got a couple of players coming back next week who are pretty important to us so I think those things will go in our favour,” Bennett said.
“If we handle it properly we can get over it quickly, it is just how we handle it that will be the issue. The first part of it is recognising that we didn’t play well in the first half. In the second half we hung in there and made a game of it.”
Bennett said the Rabbitohs had lacked intensity at the start of the game and he told them at the interval that it was important for their season that they lifted in the second half.
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“For us to have any chance next week we needed to redeem ourselves and get some confidence back,” he said. “At halftime the game was lost and we just needed to try and salvage what we could out of the second half.”
Halfback Adam Reynolds said it was important for the players to quickly put the defeat behind them and focus on next Friday night’s match.
“If we don’t we will find ourselves in the same position so it important to learn from it and move on,” Reynolds said.
“It could have got real ugly in that second half and we spoke about that at half-time. We just wanted to go out there and be better in the second half.”