Late charge by Canterbury just falls short as Adam Reynolds’ boot proves the difference.
South Sydney has shown they have the mental toughness to hang on to a lead, after beating the Canterbury Bulldogs 28-20 at ANZ Stadium.
In the past 18 months the Bunnies have transformed into a side who would not surrender a margin if placed under pressure.
And again it proved so as Des Hasler’s men mounted a stirring second half come back, only to see their best efforts go to waste, putting them square in the battle for the final few places for the upcoming finals.
The win was also a historic one for the Bunnies as it was the first time they had beaten Canterbury twice in a season for 21 years.
After a back and forth contest early Souths earned a vital 40-20 kick off the boot of halfback Adam Reynolds, but the Bunnies were unable to convert on the opportunity.
John Sutton put Dylan Farrell into a yawning gap after the Rabbitohs opened up the Bulldogs defensive line with a well-worked play.
Despite analysis from the video referee for a possible obstruction, it only showed a sold dummy-pass by Sutton and a misread in defence by Canterbury, as the Bunnies made it 6-0.
Frank Pritchard put a big hit on Bryson Goodwin which resulted in the Rabbitohs centre staying down, and as a result he was put on report for a shoulder charge.
In what could be a worrying issue for the Dogs moving into the finals, the second-rower has plenty of form which could come against him in a possible punishment.
Dylan Walker was put across the line after another excellent double-pump pass and grubber from Reynolds, however, doubt remained about the grounding of the ball.
Replays showed the ball did eventually touch the turf in the in-goal and the lead doubled for the Rabbtiohs.
In a worrying sign for the Dogs early, they had missed 11 tackles in the opening 25 minutes, as the Rabbtiohs attack continued to probe and test their opponents around the edges with three line breaks being created.
After another high tackle, Souths elected to take the two points via the boot of Reynolds to take them out beyond a two converted try margin in the shadows of half-time.
In a crucial blitz by the Bulldogs, they captalised off a penalty given away by their opponents which allowed Josh Reynolds to find Sam Perrett with a beautiful long pass.
Trent Hodgkinson landed the conversion and crucially Canterbury clawed their way back to 14-6 down at half-time.
The Bulldogs had an injury concern early in the second half as Pritchard received treatment for a knee injury.
However, he soon rejoined the line as he helped move the ball on to Mitch Brown in the left corner, as the score suddenly became 14-10.
South Sydney then replied as Greg Inglis injected himself into the game, busting the Dogs open before he found Issac Luke backing up on the inside.
Canterbury earned back-to-back sets on the Rabbitohs line with a short pass by James Graham finding Dene Halatau who crashed across from close to the line.
Hodgkinson landed the conversion as the game again became interesting at 20-16.
But in the blink of an eye the Rabbitohs showed good hands down the short-side to allow Bryson Goodwin to sneak across in what was a vital try for the home side to make it 26-16.
The see-sawing game took another twist as Brown barged his way over for his second try for the night, keeping his side’s hopes alive as they again narrowed margin to six.
A lack of discipline by the Bulldogs late in the game gifted an ideal chance for Souths to ice the game and they managed to do so when they earned a penalty from right in front with Reynolds adding the extras, to make the final margin eight.
Souths’ second last game of the regular season will be against the lowly Wests Tigers while Canterbury will be out to keep their head above water when they tackle the Penrith Panthers.