Firey contest sees three players placed on report in epic NRL clash.
South Sydney won just their fourth game in 18 appearances at Brookvale Oval to down the Manly Sea Eagles by eight points.
The clash between two of the best sides in the competition through the first two months of the season lived up to the hype, as both side showed a kind of physicality and desperation normally reserved for the finals.
After a gripping first half where an Adam Reynolds penalty was all that separated the sides, the Rabbitohs blew the game open before the inevitable comeback by the Sea Eagles.
In what was a fiery clash, three Manly players were placed on report, with Brett Stewart, Steve Matai and Richie Fa’aoso (twice) set to front the judiciary next week.
Souths coach Michael McGuire said the game was almost a complete team performance against one of the best sides in the NRL.
“I’m proud of the boys, it’s great to be a part of a team like that,” McGuire said.
“We’ve been working hard to get those kinds of performances, Sutto (John Sutton) and Reyno (Adam Reynolds) guided us around the park and the forwards laid the platform.”
The game did not show signs of being stuck in trench-warfare in the first half half when Manly’s Jorge Taufua burst through some brittle defence.
The brutal hits through the middle third of the field continued, but Manly began to cough up possession coming out of their own half.
Only scrambling and well-organised defence kept the Bunnies out.
Fa’aoso was put on report for the first time, when he lifted Greg Inglis into a dangerous position in the 19th minute.
In what was the fourth set of six in a row for Souths inside the 40 metre area but again Manly managed to hang on, living up to their ranking as the best defensive team in the competition.
The physicality in every tackle was upped a fraction with every passing minute, as neither side was able to crack the line.
After yet another penalty to South, Reynolds slotted a 40 metre penalty kick to give his side a 2-0 lead.
Andrew Everingham claimed to be hit by Brett Stewart with an elbow as he ran past with the Sea Eagles fullback placed on report.
Manly started to build pressure of their own off the back of a glut of possession in the red-zone, with three repeats sets.
The Sea Eagles continued to attack the edges of the Souths defence, working the ball
from sidelines to sideline but still they were not able to break through with just two the difference at half-time.
But then the complexion of the game was turned upside down with a decoy run by Chris McQueen putting Inglis into open space as he helped grow the lead to eight.
Fa’aoso was lucky to stay on the field for his second lifting tackle, amazingly again on Inglis, but he was reported again and is set to spend at least six weeks on the sideline for his combined offences.
Off the back of the penalty for Fa’aoso’s spear tackle, John Sutton crossed in spite of being looked at by the video referee to make the score 14-0 in the blink of an eye.
Tensions boiled over when a fight erupted after Matai hit Souths’ George Burgess high, with players coming from all over to join the brawl.
In what was a major turning point in the game, Manly bench player Tom Symonds looked to have scored, before it was turned down by the video referee for obstruction.
The Rabbitohs rubbed salt in the wound of the no-try ruling at the other end as Beau Champion scored to make the lead 20, in what was effectively a 12-point swing to the visitors.
Anthony Watmough scored with 18 minutes to go to give the home fans some home, which was further boosted when Daly Cherry-Evans also touched down with eight minutes left.
But time ran out for the Sea Eagles, as the Rabbitohs continued to push their claims as a premiership contender this season.