By Stephen Fenech from Tech Guide
That was a game that had everything – and not all of it was good. But what it did have was a gutsy effort from a patchwork Souths team that had nine changes from the side that beat Parra last week and that lost our halfback in the second tackle of the game. The whole squad had to dig deep tonight including some players who were playing their first game for months. I’m proud to say they stood up tonight. Not everything went our way but we outlasted a Knights team that wasn’t going to pack up and go home early. There were patches when we let the Knights back into it – but our scrambles in desperation were some of our best moments.
Without young Ilias at halfback Cody Walker had to stand up and that’s exactly what he did and he was rewarded with the first try (I backed him too – thanks SportsBet!) Early on we were making good ground through the middle and our defence was pretty sound. Then Nikorima missed the ball when he tried to kick the ball on the Newcastle line and Tyson Frizell cleaned up the ball in open space and our lack of defenders to stop his run upfield made him look like Greg Inglis. The Knights scored in the corner on the next tackle and they were back into it. The ref was looking after them with penalties and six agains (can’t recall Souths getting one six again all game) that brought them right back into our territory. Milford’s fifth tackle kick was plucked out of the air by Edrick Lee but no one thought to wrap up the ball and he easily passed inside to Klemmer to score and take them into the lead. I thought Klemmer was in front of the kicker but this idiot ref didn’t see that. Tonight he proved he couldn’t find his arse with two hands. All the tries he disallowed were overturned by the bunker and found to be fair tries and three captain’s challenges were successful against his rulings. All these wrong decisions could easily have changed the game.
But Newcastle weren’t done yet. When Best crossed out wide I had flash backs of the flogging we copped at the hands a St George a couple of weeks ago. We were 16-6 down and things were looking grim. But when the Knights caught us in our in-goal area and forced a drop out can you believe that’s when it all turned around? I’ve never been a fan of the short drop out but we managed to get the ball back. It was also when Souths got their first penalty of the game – it was the 29th minutes and the penalty count was 5-0 against us. That gave us valuable field position and inspired our second wind. Richard Kennar – filling in for Alex Johnston who was a late withdrawal – scored the first of his three tries down our left side. His second would come four minutes later and Latrell blasted the conversions from the sideline to have us out in front again. Just before halftime Cody took a beautiful intercept and we go from trailing 16-6 to leading 24-16 at halftime. The game had turned so quickly I think I’ll need to see a chiropractor tomorrow. In a single half Souths had been Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – going from wide open and out of control to striking with the speed of a cobra. It was enough to make you dizzy.
In the second half we needed to make a statement. Luckily Kennar found the line for try number three and we had a bit of breathing space. Minutes later Junior Tatola was on the spot to clean up a Cody Walker kick for a try as well. It was at this point that I thought Souths would put on the afterburners. But the Knights still had some fight left in them and there was plenty of time left in the game. When Lee scored in the 58th minute it kept them in touch but barely a couple of minutes later Souths exposed the Knights weak defence on their left side for Paulo to stroll over for an easy try. Just on Paulo I think he had a forgettable game tonight – he made a few mistakes and was caught out of position three times to let in tries. He’s become a bit of a liability of late. For the one good thing he does in a game he comes up with 10 howlers. I don’t think my blood pressure can take it. Paulo’s try did put the game out of Newcastle’s reach but that didn’t stop Barnett from finding the line. Paulo was slow moving up in the line and that’s where Barnett reached out and scored his try.
Latrell was captain tonight and played a solid game. He was put on report for the tackle on Wilson that you wouldn’t look at twice. Latrell is always judged a little harder than most players unfortunately. But tonight it was his presence and passion that helped Souths claw this victory. Cody Walker is back to his best – he showed his class several times with the ball to set up most of our tries and score two himself. Hats off to Tom Burgess who is in career-best form followed closely by Junior Tatola and Jed Cartwright who toiled with the ball and in defence despite not playing for the last few months.
That win puts Souths up into fifth spot but Parra, Brisbane and St George have to play tomorrow and Sunday. Being in the eight at this time of the season is quite an achievement. If we can hold it together and field our best team in the weeks ahead then anything is possible. Next week we’re up against the Bulldogs at Accor Stadium at Homebush. Some good signs are there and if we can build some momentum in the lead up to the semi’s then anything is possible. Let’s go Rabbitohs!!!