By Stephen Fenech from Tech Guide
The one word that comes to mind after that amazing win was quality. Quality effort in everything they did – quality in attack, quality in defence and a quality approach.
That would have to be one of the best wins of the season – our first win against the Storm since 2018. And it’s also our sixth win in seven games and another momentum builder as we approach the semi-finals and dare to dream.
Tonight’s win over Melbourne – their fourth loss in a row – was a statement. It sent a message to the other teams in the NRL that South Sydney playing at their best like they did tonight can beat anyone.
Within the first minute Nelson Asofa-Solomona tried to take Cam Murray’s head off and for a second I feared we were going to lose Cam then and there – a repeat of his Origin Game III misfortune. But thankfully he was OK and still on the field and he led by example. The Storm grub was put on report and from the resulting penalty Keaon Koloamatangi crossed out wide for our first try (and thanks SportsBet – I backed him as first tryscorer!!) with Latrell slotting the conversion.
Melbourne had a few opportunities on our line in the next section of the half but our defence held. The Storm was up to their usual tricks when they were defending – offside all night. I was out there, and it was blatant. And there was also their usual grubby wrestling and holding us down in the tackle that went ridiculously unpenalized. Cody Walker was rocked by a massive tackle from Olam that I felt up in the stand.
Souths had the upper hand for most of the half and our hard work was rewarded in the 27th minute when Alex Johnston flashed over in the corner. Is there a more exciting sight than seeing AJ score in the corner? It as much acrobatic as it is athletic the way he manages to plant that ball in the corner. Latrell missed the conversion, but we were still in control.
What was frustrating was how often the Storm were receiving relieving penalties coming out of their end. A luxury rarely afforded to Souths. In fact, he penalised Souths for the most minor things in the ruck. Yet Melbourne laid all over Souths players for so long we could have charged them rent.
Just as I was thinking we could put another try on them to extend our lead before halftime, Havili knocks on during a sloppy play the ball. In the next set Marion Seve slices straight through the middle and left Cody and Isiah Tass clutching at thin air before he scores under the posts. With the conversion they were right back in the game.
That 10-6 scoreline at halftime was not indicative of the game – Souths were by far the better side. Melbourne had made a lot of uncharacteristic errors in their own quarter, and this combined with Souths next-level effort had us well on top.
I was confident Souths could go on with this thanks to the huge games from Keaon and Jed Cartwright who was a revelation in the centres making great yards with the ball and providing solid defence out wide.
The second half started well. A crucial play was forcing a drop out in the 43rd minute. Latrell had successfully challenged a knock on and six tackles later it was his flick pass that put AJ over yet again in the corner.
One of the best moments in the match was a couple of minutes later when Cook ran from dummy half and made a half break before offloading inside to Keaon who then passed it to Ilias who did well to reach the line and stretch out to put the ball down beside the post to take us to 20-6 with Latrells conversion.
Melbourne wasn’t laying down, Souths were just making a better effort on every play. The Storm even managed two 40-20s but the South defence on their own line through the game was watertight – that was a telling factor that led to this great victory.
Paulo would find the line in the 55th minute to take the score out to 24-6 but there was plenty of game time left and we still couldn’t afford to take our foot off the gas.
Melbourne is one of those teams that can turn around a game as quickly as a street mugging. Not tonight. Storm did manage another converted try to bring them back to what would be the final 24-12 score. But you know what – that score flattered Melbourne – Latrell missed three goals and we could have had 30 points on the scoreboard.
What impressed me about Souths tonight was their intensity which they maintained for most of the game. They were always on their toes in defence and were more than willing to take the ball forward and commit to claw those hard yards especially coming out of our end.
They played this game like it was a semi-final – and that’s the level they need to maintain over the coming weeks if we want to live out this Cinderella story of making the Grand Final again. Souths made it loud and clear that they’ve got what it takes to win the big matches ahead of them.
It starts again next week when we take on the Sharks – another team that’s in our way as we chase premiership glory. Souths are hitting form at the right time of the year like a distance runner saving their best effort to overtake the others at the finish line. If Souths continue with this quality and with this effort, we’ll be going for gold. Let’s Go Rabbitohs!!!