Sunday 17 December 2017 / 12:05 AM

NRL SATURDAY: SPITE, CONTROVERSY, UPSETS

RABBITOHS 24 d. KNIGHTS 18 @ McDonald Jones Stadium

The Rabbitohs held on for the second consecutive win in an absorbing contest in the Hunter that was overshadowed by spiteful incidents and sin-binnings.

THE MATCH: The visitors raced out of the blocks via a seventh-minute Alex Johnston try, before John Sutton powered through to push Souths out to a 10-0 lead.

But George Burgess’ nasty elbow to the head of Knights lock Mitchell Barnett earned the big Rabbitohs prop 10 minutes in the bin, and the home side struck twice while they had a one-man advantage, Trent Hodkinson and Peter Mata’utia crossing for a 12-10 halftime advantage.

Bryson Goodwin and rookie Braidon Burns scored in the first 18 minutes of the second half as Souths got back on top, and Hodkinson’s sin-binning for telling the referee “you just cost us the game” after his side conceded a penalty appeared to seal the result.

But Jamie Buhrer grubbered for Ken Sio to score in the 78th minute, setting up a nervous finish for a Rabbitohs outfit that ultimately hung on for a valuable two points.

THE MAN: Five-eighth Cody Walker again provided the spark for South Sydney, producing two try assists and running for 116 metres. The sophomore NRL playmaker is consistently busy and the bulk of his work is quality.

THE MOMENT: Adam Reynolds’ floating cut-out pass from Burns to score was exquisite, the NSW Origin No.7 displaying superb vision and execution.

Rabbitohs 24 (Alex Johnston, John Sutton, Bryson Goodwin, Braidon Burns tries; Adam Reynolds 4 goals) d. Knights 18 (Trent Hodkinson, Peter Mata’utia, Ken Sio tries; Hodkinson 2, Brock Lamb goals).

ROOSTERS 14 d. PANTHERS 12 @ Pepper Stadium

The Roosters and Panthers lived up to their billing as 2017 premiership contenders in a tense struggle, but it was the visitors that got up courtesy of a controversial late try.

THE MATCH: Penrith broke a long impasse when Matt Moylan’s incredible flick found Tyrone Peachey, who raced over in the corner after 25 minutes, but Mitchell Pearce sent Michael Gordon in just five minutes later for the Roosters.

Latrell Mitchell combined with Pearce to finish off a 60-metre gem just before the break. The Panthers inched back into the lead 12-10 with a pair of Nathan Cleary penalty goals the only scoring plays for the first half hour of the second half.

The Roosters snatched the result through a long-range try to Gordon, who toed ahead a Daniel Tupou grubber – but only after a highly dubious pass from Mitchell released Tupou down the sideline.

THE MAN: Pearce’s two try assists in the first half were magnificent as the Roosters No.7 continues to bury the memories of a troubled 2016 with a vintage start to this year’s campaign.

THE MOMENT: It was unfortunate such a quality struggle was marred by a forward pass that probably should have been picked up by the touchie.

Roosters 14 (Michael Gordon 2, Latrell Mitchell tries; Gordon goal) d. Panthers 12 (Tyrone Peachey try; Nathan Cleary 4 goals).

SEA EAGLES 30 d. COWBOYS 8 @ 1300SMILES Stadium

The Sea Eagles eased the pressure on the club and coach Trent Barrett with a resounding win over an injury-hit Cowboys outfit.

THE MATCH: North Queensland led 8-2 after Jake Granville’s 27th-minute opener, but Manly hit straight back when Daly Cherry-Evans’ grubber evaded Kyle Feldt and sat up for Jorge Taufua to score.

The embattled visitors took a shock 14-8 lead into halftime when Tom Trbojevic blocked a Johnathan Thurston kick and scorched 95 metres for a try, and the Sea Eagles carried that momentum with them throughout the second half.

Brenton Lawrence (51st minute) and Jackson Hastings (78th) added tries, while Dylan Walker finished with a perfect seven-from-seven with the boot as the Sea Eagles somehow held the Cowboys scoreless for more than 50 minutes in their own backyard.

THE MAN: Jake Trbojevic produced a wonderful 80-minute display at lock to firm as a likely NSW Origin debutant this year. The tyro racked up a game-high 42 tackles and still had enough in the tank to make 100 metres from 11 carries.

THE MOMENT: ‘Tommy Turbo’s’ length-of-the-field effort against the run of play provided the Sea Eagles with the impetus to complete arguably the biggest upset of 2017 to date.

Sea Eagles 30 (Jorge Taufua, Tom Trbojevic, Brenton Lawrence, Jackson Hastings tries; Dylan Walker 7 goals) d. Cowboys 8 (Jake Granville try; Johnathan Thurston 2 goals).

[YouTube – Deadcroc Dundee]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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