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Match Report - Round 3 2002

Hot, crossing Bunnies

By Greg Prichard - www.smh.com.au, 31/03/2002

The true believers would have found the irony delicious. South Sydney, the club that refused to give up its tradition and was kicked out of the competition only to get back in, against what is left of the Manly and North Sydney clubs that formed a joint venture to survive - and the Rabbitohs won. Big-time.

And now that they've won two games in a row, after falling to the Sydney Roosters in their premiership come-back match, maybe Souths are right after all when they say they can make the finals.

Norths no longer have a role within the joint venture, so it is Manly who will have to cope with the disappointment of a poor start to the season all on their own.

The result was never really in doubt. Four converted tries in the first 20 minutes by Souths - punctuated by just the one from the Eagles - set the tone of the match.

The Eagles, probably already envisaging a long, hard season if this was how tough it was going to be against Souths, were under enormous pressure and the Rabbitohs weren't letting up.

Souths' tries varied widely in style, with equal elements of skill, luck, opportunism and determination.

A useless chip from Eagles' five-eighth Tasesa Lavea in the third minute went straight to Souths' fullback, Wade McKinnon. Immediately noticing a gap in the defence straight ahead of him, McKinnon took off and went 80m to score.

The Eagles hit back in the seventh minute when winger John Hopoate crashed over from close range, but then the Rabbitohs hit them with a combination of blows from which they never really recovered.

Halfback Blaine Stanley bombed to the left in the 10th minute and winger Brent Grose contested the ball with two Eagles' players. Grose came down with it, and doubled around to the wing before scoring.

Prop Paul Stringer scored from what was meant to be nothing more than a settling hit-up off a tap 10 metres out from the Eagles' line in the 17th minute and in the 20th minute, centre Russell Richardson crossed after a freakish lead-up.

Stanley chipped the ball to 35m out from the Eagles' line and McKinnon followed through.

Eagles' full-back Brendon Reeves looked at least as good a bet as McKinnon to get to it first, but McKinnon beat him to it and kicked it off the ground to the left.

Next, Grose kicked it off the ground and the ball bounced off Hopoate's leg and into the arms of centre Russell Richardson, who could hardly believe his luck as he strolled away for the try.

It didn't matter where Souths scored; winger Scott McLean was converting from everywhere and their 24-6 lead looked enormous, but to the Eagles' credit, they didn't fold.

Instead, they began to show some more heart in defence and after conceding 24 points in the first 20 minutes, they conceded none in the second 20, and managed to cut the deficit to 12 points with a converted try in the 35th minute.

Much like Hopoate had scored earlier, Reeves made it over from close range.

Aussie Stadium
30 March 2002

Eagles 20
((J Hopoate B Reeves T Lavea J Goddard tries J Ferris 2 goals)

Rabbitohs 44
(R Richardson 3 W McKinnon 2 B Grose P Stringer S McLean tries S McLean 6 goals)

Crowd: 15,825
Referee: S. Clark

TEAM:

1 Brendon REEVES
2 Robert MILES
3 Lenny BECKETT
4 Ben MacDOUGALL
5 John HOPOATE
6 Tasesa LAVEA
7 Jason FERRIS
8 Grant WOODEN
9 Jamie GODDARD
10 David WESTLEY
11 Nathan LONG
12 Mark SHIPWAY
13 Steven MENZIES (C)

14 Jason KING
15 Wade FORRESTER
16 Brad KELLY
17 Shayne DUNLEY