A tense final that ebbed and flowed ended the way of the Rabbitohs after a decisive second-half burst. They go through to take on the Panthers next weekend for a right to appear in the 2020 NRL grand final.
Defeat was tough on Parramatta, who endured a horrendous build-up to the match, and started awfully, but battled back to lead at half-time courtesy of the omnipresent Gutherson. South Sydney came back strongly after the interval and scored a crucial early try, followed up ten minutes later to secure a narrow lead. That set the scene for the game’s decisive moment. On the hour mark Moses smashed a simple penalty against the post and after Souths gathered the looses ball they went down the other end to cross for a game-breaking four points.
The Eels seemed spooked by the eight-point margin and that led to handling errors in possession and gaps in defence. Two further Rabbitohs tries were the result, putting gloss on a result that was in the balance for most of the night.
The Rabbitohs were not at their scintillating best but still racked up 38 points in a final. Cook was outstanding in attack and defence, and Reynolds was sharp, but it was a solid allround team effort on the night that got them through. Gutherson and Paulo excelled for the Eels who made light of the absence of three of their preferred outside backs.
Thanks for joining me tonight. Let’s do this all again next week with a couple of titanic preliminary finals.
Parramatta Eels 24-38 South Sydney Rabbitohs
TRY! Eels 24-38 Rabbitohs (Cook 79)
The most decisive attacking force of the night puts the game to bed for the Bunnies. Moses chips and chases from in his own half, Cook takes possession on halfway, surveys the scene, spots a channel on the right edge, that he darts through, then he sprints into open field, then he wrong-foots Gutherson charging across from fullback. Superb individual try from a player in supreme form.
TRY! Eels 24-32 Rabbitohs (Jennings 75)
Parramatta are desperate, perhaps too desperate, but they somehow keep the ball alive and ride their luck with a series of set restarts to enjoy a full set 15m from the line. They only need one invitation, Brown sending his troops right, then the ball comes back left through the offload machine Paulo, and out to Jennings with the overlap. He touches down in the corner and Moses smashes a super touchline conversion.
TRY! Eels 18-32 Rabbitohs (Paulo 70)
Souths cough up the bonus set cheaply. Can Parramatta take advantage? No, no they cannot. From midfield on halfway the Eels throw the ball wide to the left, but it’s slow and readable, and Paulo does exactly that, timing his attack perfectly to intercept Brown’s floaty cutout and waltz home unopposed.
This has been a heck of a turnaround in the second half.
Paulo crosses for a double! #NRLEelsSouths #TelstraPremiership pic.twitter.com/wJaqa3DVFB
October 10, 2020
69 mins: So close from South Sydney! Cook again orchestrates the right play from dummy half, this time sending his side down the short side the right where the ball flows through hands to the outside, then back in, for Allan to charge to the line, but he’s just tackled short with the fullback wise not to attempt a double movement touchdown. Cook then dribbles dangerously forcing a line drop-out.
68 mins: The Eels are showing an urgency bordering on panic. They have plenty of time left, but they need to establish field position.
66 mins:Close but no cigar from Souths. Cook has orchestrated play from hooker and after guiding a series of assaults from his forwards he heads left but Gagai and Johnston can’t combine for the score under the attention of fierce Parramatta defence.
64 mins:Parra try the short kick-off but it doesn’t work and Souths get a scrum on halfway. That’s quickly followed by another indiscretion and Reynolds kicks them 30m from the line.
TRY! Eels 18-26 Rabbitohs (Sironen 62)
Errors from both sides lead to a couple of cheap turnovers in midfield, the outcome of which is good field position for the Eels. Matterson gets the crowd interested with a tackle burst, then Brown darts towards the line before being scragged, and after the kick the ball returns for another set for the blue and gold. From there the tempo raises a notch again with Gutherson eager to get Paulo into the game, and it works a treat with the giant earning a penalty 20m out.
Parramatta elect to kick the two points, and it should be a formality, but Moses smashes the post! And the ball lands in favour of Souths who gather and dash 60m! Oh my. And four tackles later the referee is signalling a try! What a turnaround.
Cook on the last tackle dabs a kick in-goal from the ruck and Gutherson swoops in to collect, but instead of touching down he tries to pick up and run, loses the ball in contact with the chasing Rabbitoh and his spillage lands in Sironen’s hands.
Reynolds doesn’t miss the conversion.
Hug huge turnaround in this contest. Scores should be level, but two massive Parramatta blunders mean the Bunnies lead by eight.
You can't script THAT! 🤯 #NRLEelsSouths #TelstraPremiership pic.twitter.com/NEpTowvflC
October 10, 2020
57 mins:It’s all going South Sydney’s way now. Approaching halfway deep in the set they earn a restart which allows them to probe on the edges of Parramatta’s defence in dangerous territory. It’s Walker’s turn to strut his stuff this time and he looks to have carved an opening on the left wing but he’s harshly called for a forward pass in contact.
TRY! Eels 18-20 Rabbitohs (Murray 55)
Adam Reynolds, take a bow. Souths grind their way to the halfway line but instead of playing conservatively Reynolds slows the game down, throws the dummy to his right, then darts through the gap. Line broken he offloads in the tackle on his outside to Graham who draws the last defender and passes inside to Murray who finishes the move.
Down by ten at the break, Reynolds kicks the conversion to put the Bunnies in the lead!
The Rabbitohs are back in the lead! #NRLEelsSouths 18-20. #TelstraPremiership pic.twitter.com/zQPWcjvgbC
October 10, 2020
54 mins: Early kick from Reynolds forcing Gutherson to accept fierce contact from four chasing Rabbitohs - and he loses the ball! But it was stripped and it’s a penalty against the Rabbitohs. The Eels kick to good field position and lay siege to South Sydney’s line. Paulo in particular is a menace in these situations with his unerring ability to offload in traffic. It takes some excellent coverage from Johnston coming in off his left wing to snuff out the danger.
52 mins:Here they come again Parramatta, and it’s that man Gutherson again, turning a dangerous bouncing kick return into a 40m run before offloading to Jennings to eat up more metres. Taikarangi then takes up the charge with the Eels continuing their work down the left wing. Eventually they cycle the ball to the opposite flank but Souths defend well and force an error.
50 mins: That was a crucial score for South Sydney and goes to show how dangerous they can be when they build up a head of steam. Parramatta need to hold firm for a passage and they do just that with a solid set defensively before making excellent ground in attack.
TRY! Eels 18-14 Rabbitohs (Knight 47)
The Rabbitohs are building a head of steam with repeat sets but the Eels continue to defend stoutly. Koloamatangi makes Parra’s defender earn their corn with a barnstorming run, and after he’s brought down 15m from the line Cook takes advantage to snipe from the play-the-ball. His dart unsettles the defensive structure and he’s an offload away from a try-assist - and that offload arrives with Knight on the burst to crash over just to the right of the posts.
Reynolds adds the extras.
Smart play by Cookie! 👏 @SSFCRABBITOHS are back in the game! #NRLEelsSouths #TelstraPremiership pic.twitter.com/ug7lIAVsBJ
October 10, 2020
45 mins:Better from the Bunnies. ON tackle four the same pattern looked to be repeating but Reynolds took a step and fed Walker into space. He kept the ball alive down the left wing, finding Gagai, setting up a dangerous last tackle. Reynolds takes full advantage, dabbing through a wicked grubber that induces a line drop-out.
44 mins:Again - and this has been the pattern for much of the night - Souths can only reach halfway with their drive, forcing Reynolds to bomb deep. Parramatta have defended the middle well so far.
42 mins:Souths take the first set to halfway before Reynolds bombs to Gutherson. Good to see Su’A out for the Bunnies after his knee injury in the first half. Parramatta’s first hit of the half is more dangerous with a couple of half-breaks, the most threatening from Moses. Allan does well to neutralise a dangerous kick.
Here we go for the second half...
I’m drawn to that decision early on to accept two points when Souths were well on top. I wonder if they’ll rue the decision not to keep their foot on Parramatta’s throat at that stage.
Meanwhile, in the AFL, things are not going according to plan for Collingwood.
Well, I confess I did not see that coming before kick-off, nor after an opening five minutes dominated by Souths, and especially when the scoreline read Eels 0-8 Bunnies after 20 minutes. But after grinding their way back into the contest Parramatta blew South Sydney off the park in a three-try ten minute burst. Clint Gutherson was all over it, scoring twice and assisting the other, providing an irrepressible energy to the side he skippers and jolting them into action.
But it’s probably been in defence that the Eels will have most pleased Brad Arthur. They have committed a couple of errors, young Dunster in particular, but overall they have secured the middle without much fuss and covered the wings despite the Rabbitohs enjoying plenty of possession in dangerous areas.
One stat of note to add, Parra are 11/11 this season after leading at half-time.
Half-time: Eels 18-8 Rabbitohs
39 mins:Parra are defending excellently, once again denying Souths a sniff for five tackles. On the last Cook weaves a little magic to break the line but cramped for room he kicks a tasty grubber under the posts that the Eels have covered, but almost make a mess of trying to play their way out of trouble.They settle for a line drop-out.
37 mins:Good work from South Sydney’s Paulo, claiming the kick and running it out past halfway before Gutherson wraps him up. Again Parramatta defend superbly, even the under pressure left edge where Blake and Dunster wrap up Sironen on the last tackle within inches of the line.
35 mins: Better from the Bunnies who snipe dangerously left and right but the Eels are solid in defence and Gutherson is on hand yet again to mop up the grubber and jink his way out of danger.
34 mins:Parramatta look dangerous in possession yet again, and once more it’s down the left wing, but it’s all a little frantic this time and once pass too many ends up in touch. Someone just needed to steady and accept contact.