South Sydney has torn Newcastle to shreds in a semi-final carve up after piling on 46 straight points to expose Newcastle as being out of their depth.
October 4, 2020 2:40PM
Last updated October 4, 2020 5:45PM AEDT
South Sydney has left Newcastle “shell-shocked” after plundering 46 straight points in a semi-final carve up at ANZ Stadium.
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After the Knights shot-out to a 14-0 lead, the Rabbitohs thundered back into the contest by scoring an eight-minute team hat-trick that saw the game all tied up at 14-14 mid-way through the first half.
From there they put Newcastle to the sword with eight tries before the Knights scored on the final siren. The late try did nothing to stop the Rabbitohs’ celebrations after they set-up a showdown with Parramatta at BankWest Stadium in the second week of the finals.
It was the highest score ever produced by the Rabbitohs in a finals series game.
The total points haul of a235 points in the first week of the finals has also set a record for the most points scored in the first round of a finals series since the NRL went to a top-eight finals format.
Cody Walker and Damien Cook ran rings around the poorly-disciplined Newcastle defence while Alex Johnston and Tevita Tatola scored doubles.
The Rabbitohs leaders were everything the Knights’ stars weren’t.
Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga were criticised by Channel 9 commentator Phil Gould for failing to take the game on during an arm-wrestle early in the second half.
Gould slammed the pair for failing to make an aggressive play and allowing the Knights to settle into survival mode.
It cost them in the end, as the Bunnies scored the decisive try through Tatola in the 61st minute – and it broke the Knights’ spirit.
While the season is now over for the Knights, the Bunnies will marsh full of confidence into their battle with the Eels at BankWest Stadium after they thumped Brad Arthur’s men at Parramatta earlier this season.
Rabbitohs star Cody Walker was heard accusing Mitchell Pearce of a headbutt during a heated first half melee.
Replays showed the pair made incidental contact as they squared off, but the referees dismissed Walker’s claim.
The NRL Bunker also chose not to recommend any action be taken over the incident.
However, Pearce’s leading head further angered the Rabbitohs, who were already frustrated by their slow start.
Souths prop Tevita Tatola has barged through four defenders to score between the posts in a play that has broken the Knights.
Tatola’s try in the 62nd minute put the Bunnies ahead 28-14 after the Rabbitohs won a slug-fest start to the second half.
Tatola barged through four defenders and then stretched out his free hand to score another soft try on the back of a mistake in the Knights’ defensive line.
Adam Reynolds extended Souths’ lead to eight points in the 48th minute when he slotted a penalty goal.
The Rabbitohs were given a penalty 5m out from the try line when Mitch Barnett was ruled to have been offside after failing to line up straight at second marker.
Replays showed Barnett was scrambling back to position and was very close to being straight at marker when the penalty was blown.
Paul Gallen described the decision as “harsh” in commentary for Channel 9.
Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook caught Mitch Barnett out of position in the Knights defensive line and sliced straight through the struggling Knights defence to put South Sydney in front for the first time.
Cook darted out of dummy half before passing to Cameron Murray, who was able to put the Bunnies ahead 20-14 just a few minutes before half time.
Channel 9’s Phil Gould described Cook’s run as a play that gives NRL coaches “nightmares”.
It gave South Sydney 20 unanswered points before half time.
South Sydney scored an eight-minute hat-trick to turn their semi-final against the Knights on its head.
After finding themselves down 14-0 in the blink of an eye, the Rabbitohs recovered in the 15th minute when Corey Allan broke through some soft Newcastle right edge defence to score out wide.
Star playmaker Cody Walker then responded to an earlier headbutt accusation by scoring two sets later.
The Rabbitohs made it three tries when they again ripped the unorganised Knights right edge to shreds and allowed Alex Johnston to score next to the corner post.
Just like that the game was all tied up 14-14.
Hymel Hunt scored for Newcastle in the third minute after a successful captain’s challenge gifted the Knights field position inside the Rabbitohs’ red zone.
After overturning a referee decision, the Knights scored in the corner when Mitchell Pearce went out the back in a wrap-around play with Kalyn Ponga before Hunt found space down the touchline and dived for the corner.
Replays showed he grounded the ball just before his legs made contact with the sideline.
Ponga’s conversion made it 6-0 to Newcastle in a dream start.
NRL guru Phil Gould told Channel 9 the passage of play was: “Absolutely incredible”.
The Knights were soon out to a 14-0 lead when Bradman Best scored a few minutes later before Ponga slotted a penalty goal.
Newcastle playmaker Mason Lino has been axed in a late team shake-up from the Knights.
Lino has paid the price for the Knights’ poor performance against the Titans last week with coach Adam O’Brien making the call to move Kurt Mann to five-eighth alongside Mitchell Pearce with young Chris Randall starting at hooker and Tex Hoy joining the bench.
Liam Knight has been called into the starting pack for South Sydney.
NRL great Braith Anasta said he supported the move because Mann is a better partner for Pearce in the halves and should help take some of the pressure off the halfback’s shoulders.