The Rabbitohs are through to the preliminary final for the fifth year in a row, setting up a rematch of last year’s NRL Grand Final against the Panthers next weekend, after beating the Sharks 38-12 on Saturday night,
Just six days after a brutal clash with the Roosters in Finals Week 1, South Sydney were a step above their opponents at Allianz Stadium, showing both impressive grit in defence and patience with ball in hand.
Winger Taane Milne was a key contributor, scoring two tries and setting another up, while the accurate boot of Latrell Mitchell was important too, with the fullback converting all six of his side’s tries and kicking a late penalty.
The loss came at a cost though, with record-breaking winger Alex Johnston failing to finish the game due to a suspected hip flexor issue and forwards Siliva Havili (calf) and Jai Arrow (groin) being ruled out as well.
After getting off to a flying start with a try inside the opening two minutes, South Sydney spent much of the opening 20 minutes defending their line, as Cronulla dominated possession but failed to find a way through.
And after weathering the storm as the game flowed from end to end, Jason Demetriou’s side struck two telling blows inside the final 10 minutes of the first half.
Milne scored out wide after some crisp quick hands inside created space, before Cameron Murray powered through a would-be tackle from Dale Finucane to score under the posts, with Mitchell converting all three of his side’s tries for an 18-0 lead.
Cronulla scored immediately in the second stanza, with winger Ronaldo Mulitalo batting the ball down for his Kiwis teammate Briton Nikora to score, but Lachlan Ilias quickly cancelled it out with one of his own at the other end.
The NRL Bunker ruled out a possible second for the Sharks after finding an infringement in the lead up to Jesse Ramien crossing, before both sides traded tries which left the the Rabbitohs in front 30-12 with 15 minutes to play.
A second for Milne, along with a Mitchell penalty, finished the game at 38-12.