St George Illawarra claimed the Charity Shield for the first time in 10 years after holding out South Sydney 16-10 in an entertaining pre-season clash in Mudgee.
Both teams combined razzle-dazzle attacking football with desperate defence in a game that would have given Dragons and Rabbitohs fans plenty to be hopeful about for the coming season but the Red V were deserved winners after scoring four tries to two.
Some of their tries were spectacular efforts, as the left edge of Ben Hunt, Jack Bird, Moses Suli and Cody Ramsey, along with fullback Tyrell Sloan, proved hard to handle for the Rabbitohs defence.
Cody Ramsey dives over in the corner
Rookie five-eighth Talatau Amone also had a strong game, while Hunt showed the way for his team-mates both in attack and defence, while also producing a 40:20 kick.
Young Rabbitohs halfback Lachlan Ilias, who has been earmarked to wear the No.7 jersey in place of the departed Adam Reynolds, was also impressive and produced a 20:40 kick - a feat only ever performed by Brandon Smith in an NRL match.
Ilias combined well with star five-eighth Cody Walker and used his kicking game to regularly relieve pressure on the Rabbitohs.
Match: Rabbitohs v Dragons
Round 2 -
Venue: Glen Willow Oval, Mudgee
- Winger Cody Ramsey set the tone for a night of spectacular tries with an acrobatic put down in the corner after a cut-out pass from fullback Tyrell Sloan.
- Jack Bird scored in the next set after Ben Hunt opted to run the ball on the last tackle and delivered a short pass to Sloan, who linked with Bird and centre Moses Suli to send Ramsey racing down the touchline. With Bird backing up, Ramsey turned the ball inside to put the second-rower over out wide.
- Rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias relieved the pressure his side was under with a 20:40 kick - just the second in NRL history - and Cody Walker put centre Jaxson Paulo over for a 17th minute try.
Lachlan Ilias nails a 20/40
- Hunt then created an attacking raid from deep inside the Dragons half with a cross-field kick for Sloan, who caught the ball on the full and then toed ahead before regathering after an Ilias fumble.
- Tom Burgess was sin-binned on the following play after tackling Talatau Amone in an off-side position near the Rabbitohs line in a desperate big to prevent another St George Illawarra try.
- It mattered little as the Dragons score from the penalty re-start after Zac Lomax stepped three defenders before putting winger Mikaele Ravalawa over for a 27th minute try, with a sublime flick pass.
Lomax skilfully finds Ravalawa in the corner
- St George Illawarra interchange prop Jayden Hunt was sin-binned in the 34th minute after a late tackle on Campbell Graham after the Rabbitohs centre had passed the ball to Walker.
- Walker then reduced the Dragons' lead to 12-10 at halftime when he raced over from dummy half to score in the 38th minute after Ben Hunt had stopped a rampaging Keaon Koloamatangi just short of the line.
- Both teams made a number of changes at halftime but the St George Illawarra left edge was still potent, with winger Mat Feagai scoring the only second half try in the 48th minute after quick hands from Hunt and Suli.
Feagai extends the Saints lead
Play of the game
From Lachlan Ilias's 20:40 kick to Zac Lomax's stunning flick pass, there were so many big plays in this high class clash but it was hard to go past the long range try scored by Jack Bird after Ben Hunt decided to run the ball on the last tackle.
South Sydney have been renowned for having the most lethal left edge in the NRL but the Dragons may stake a claim to that title after Hunt linked with fullback Tyrell Sloan, who shifted the ball through Bird and Moses Suli to send Cody Ramsey racing down the sideline.
Quick-fire plays sees Bird extend lead
What they said
"It was a real level up on last week, which we thought it was going to be. Souths are obviously a fantastic side so for them to do that tonight will give them a bit of confidence. Certainly a few guys put their hands up tonight": Dragons coach Anthony Griffin.
"I thought Lachie had some really good moments, I thought he kicked well and defended well. It's his first hit-out, it's going to take time. I thought Cody looked sharp as usual. We have just got to be a bit better at getting to our points. I thought we over-played a bit in the first half, we played too lateral, and we didn't get many opportunities in the second half": Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.
The Rabbitohs travel to Brisbane to take on a Broncos team led by their long serving former halfback and captain Adam Reynolds in round one on March 11, while the Dragons face the Warriors on the Sunshine Coast on March 12.
With Latrell Mitchell suspended for the opening round, Blake Taaffe is set to wear the South Sydney No.1 jersey as he did in last year's grand final, with Lachlan Ilias to be given first shot at the halfback role after an impressive Charity Shield performance.
Cody Walker finds the chalk for Souths
The Dragons will enter the season full of confidence, with Tyrell Sloan all but guaranteed the fullback role and Cody Ramsey to play on the left wing after the pair combined so well against Souths.