South Sydney have waited since 1989 to win another minor premiership so it mattered little that it took 73 minutes for them to gain the lead in what could be a costly victory, beating Canterbury 21-14.
It was a brave rather than polished South Sydney side who failed to gain any real traction in a stagnated performance as they climbed laboriously to the top of the NRL ladder.
Canterbury were most likely the better of the two teams, but the home side didn't score another try after the 33rd minute. The win could prove costly for South Sydney with Issac Luke and Adam Reynolds placed on report while Sam Burgess (hip and arm), Greg Inglis (groin) and Chris McQueen (concussion) finished the game with injuries.
Luke could face a short-time ban with the hooker placed on report for kicking Ennis while Luke tried to play the ball. The incident was almost identical to the grade one dangerous contact with feet charge which was slapped on Canterbury five-eighth Josh Reynolds which carries 100 demerit points.
Luke has 65 carry-over points from a dangerous contact charge in round 22 meaning any grade two charge could see him miss finals games.
Adam Reynolds was also placed on report for a lifting tackle in the come from behind victory.
Canterbury's aspirations of a top four finish are all but dashed with the loss meaning they could drop as low as seventh on the ladder by the end of this round.
The match was full of confrontations with Michael Ennis in the thick of the action.
The Canterbury skipper had an ongoing battle with the on-field officials, while he wasn't short of a word to opposites Luke and Reynolds.
Englishmen James Graham and Sam Burgess clashed multiple times with Graham singling out Burgess for plenty of extra attention in front of 20,424 people at ANZ Stadium.
Burgess had the last laugh scoring two tries to help his side to victory while Reynolds' composure at the death helped sway the game in his team's favour. A cut-out pass allowed Lote Tuqiri to score the matchwinner before Reynolds kicked a one-pointer to extend his side's lead to seven.
Canterbury will welcome Josh Reynolds back from a three game suspension against Gold Coast next week as the NSW five-eighth watched his side race to a 12-6 half-time lead. The Bunnies struggled for any continuity in the opening half as the Bulldogs scored first after seven minutes.
Mitch Brown finished off a short side raid with Josh Morris and Moses Mbye combining for the Bulldogs winger to race to the tryline. Morris looked to have put his ongoing knee complaints behind him as he ran freely for the first time post-Origin.
South Sydney's halves Reynolds and Luke Keary struggled to gain any real control as the Rabbioths continued to turn over the football in crucial areas. Eventually, an inside ball from Keary isolated Ennis who missed a tackle for Burgess to score with South Sydney drawing level after 28 minutes. Ennis received plenty of feedback from the South Sydney side who celebrated their opening points. But in a game where the Bulldogs paid tribute to their departing skipper, Ennis ensured his team would finish the half in front when he dummied his way to the tryline.
South Sydney capitalised on an early Canterbury error to draw the scores level when Burgess scored his second try before limping from the field.
A penalty goal to Hodkinson were the only points added before Burgess returned to the field 20 minutes later. His return helped spark South Sydney to life as Canterbury battled for field possession in the second half.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 21 (S Burgess 2 L Tuqiri tries A Reynolds 4 goals A Reynolds field goal) Canterbury Bulldogs 14 (M Brown M Ennis tries T Hodkinson 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 20,424
- Sydney Morning Herald
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