A fingertip, golden-point touchdown from Tom Burgess has sprung South Sydney out of jail after a 105-metre Luke Brooks no-try had Wests Tigers believing they had pulled off the biggest boilover of the season.
But Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett refused to believe his British bookend had stolen the show because he had falsely claimed too many tries over the past two years.
This contest already had anything and everything in it before extra time was called for the first time in 2021.
Burgess had just enough on it as he charged 30 metres through a gutsy Tigers middle, dotting down under the posts for the most remarkable of 18-14 comebacks.
“You don’t get a much better try than that in a game like this,” Bennett said of Burgess's barnstorming effort.
Match: Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
Round 6 -
Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney
“I don’t think any of us thought he’d scored the try because he’s done that about four times for us in the last two years, and every time it’s been no try and he’s carried on like they were tries. We didn’t have much faith, but we’re believers now.”
Not that it needed it, but the Steeden squirting from Burgess's grasp added even more drama to the night, as Brooks sprinted the length to score what would have been his own match-winner.
Referee Gerard Sutton even went the whole way with the Tigers No.7 before the Bunker ruled Burgess's try legitimate, prompting Sutton to backtrack 100 metres to call one of the most remarkable games in some time.
Burgess wins it for the Bunnies
Injured Rabbitohs winger Josh Mansour summed it all up as he stood on the sidelines due to a hamstring issue, his mouth agape as he and 16,134 fans awaited that match-winning confirmation.
"I'm already a meme, my mates are hammering me for it," he told NRL.com of the candid shots now doing the rounds on social media.
Put it this way, Adam Reynolds' second two-point field goal in nine days doesn't get a mention until halfway into this match report.
For more than an hour the Tigers, $8 pre-game outsiders, threatened to atone for last week's miserable capitulation to the Cowboys, on a day when the life and times of Tommy Raudonikis were being honoured.
“Last week, we weren’t happy with that at all," coach Michael Maguire said afterwards.
"But what you saw tonight is what the Wests Tigers are about."
Raudonikis would've happily raised a stubby to the players on show throughout a spiteful contest.
But as one of the game's greatest halfbacks, Reynolds' own 42-metre nudge would've had Tommy swinging from the chandelier up on high.
Reynolds puts Murray into a gap
Reynolds' second drop-punt screamer tied things up at 14 apiece after South Sydney had trailed by eight with 17 minutes to play.
“I love Peter’s new rule. It’s made for us,” Bennett joked, praising the two-point field goal rule championed by ARLC chairman Peter V'landys that few expected to see such action so early in its existence.
“It was ideal because one point wasn’t going to get us there. He snapped it and away we went.”
A Tommy Talau professional foul on his own line soon after gave Reynolds a tough penalty goal for the win, but the shot, taken from five metres in from the sideline, hooked left.
A follow-up field goal shot from the pint-sized playmaker swung wide too, so to golden point we went.
Wide open spaces for Garner
It was Damien Cook's short ball at the ruck that sent Burgess on his way, capping a night of drama that saw three players put on report and Latrell Mitchell wage a one-man war against a Tigers outfit he spurned for Redfern.
Mitchell made a quick exit from Stadium Australia immediately after full-time after being made aware of a family matter that took place while he was playing.
He will face scrutiny for smacking Tigers winger smacking David Nofoaluma in the face, and also raised eyebrows by lashing out at Luke Garner with his boot during a second-half tackle.
Mitchell hit the Tigers back-rower in the head with his knee, albeit without much of a wind up, after contributing his own hall of fame moment – a stunning in-goal escape that became a 50-metre break downfield.
Maguire took issue with suggestions the incident will also attract the attention of the match review committee given there was no action taken on the paddock.
“With the technology that we’ve got, we’ve got to be using that to be able to go ‘hang on, those things are happening in the game’,” Maguire said.
“I’d like that to be dealt with straight away, rather than after the game. Who knows where the game could have gone if that changed? I do not understand why we don’t use the technology.”
Mitchell and Garner – who was also placed on report for a dangerous tackle alongside Zane Musgrove (high tackle) – engaged in some old fashioned tongue-fu all night as the Tigers took it to their highly-fancied rivals.
For much of the evening the Tigers had South Sydney's measure.
An early four-pointer to Cameron Murray was answered in kind by Daine Laurie.
Reynolds from downtown to tie it up
It was during the lead-up to Laurie's try – an impressive long-range effort sparked by Nofoaluma – where Mitchell hit the Tigers winger high after he had grubbered inside for his fullback.
A second-half charge through the line from Garner had a Tigers upset in the offing, and well and truly on when Junior Tatola was penalised for a late hit on Moses Mbye.
But as South Sydney surged, smart short balls from Cook and then Tatola put Cody Walker into the backfield before a flying Dane Gagai reduced the margin to two.
Reynolds then made short work of that kick, before the madness ensued.
Mitchell placed on report for contact on Nofoaluma