Suncorp Stadium: South Sydney should never have let this one go down to the wire.
Cody Walker produced a wonderful captain’s knock in the first half to set up three tries and give South Sydney a 26-6 lead.
It could have been 32-0 had Lachlan Ilias not bobbled the ball before the try line after diving at full stretch to take an Alex Johnston kick.
But the Warriors bagged four tries in 15 minutes to cut the deficit to two points with 50 seconds on the clock. Their hopes were boosted when Damien Cook was sin-binned for a professional foul when impeding Reece Walsh trying to get to the ball to score.
The drama went right to the end when Shaun Johnson attempted a 55m field goal, which was charged down by Souths pair Jai Arrow and Siliva Havili, before Johnson challenged for an accidental off-side.
The challenge was unsuccessful as both sides trudged off a wet Suncorp Stadium disappointed. Souths won 32-30.
The good news for Souths is they banked two competition points. Walker was also back to his best in the first half.
South Sydney celebrate a try by Taane Milne (centre).Credit:Getty
Given the top job in place of the injured Cameron Murray, Walker produced his best half of football for the season and had the ball on the string.
Walker has looked unhappy at different stages during the year, and was even the subject of a police investigation following an incident outside a Central Coast hotel, which ended up being nothing more than a noise complaint.
But the 32-year-old stood up when his players needed him, especially with Murray sidelined with a shoulder injury and Latrell Mitchell already out of action because of a hamstring issue.
Cook was the other captaincy candidate, but even Cook said during the half-time coverage that Walker was “stepping up really, really well”.
Walker said after full-time: “I thought we were near perfect in that first half, we completed our sets in the wet, and it was the Rabbits of old.”
Waker did well to hold up the ball and then rifle a cut-out pass to Taane Milne to score in the eight minute.
His long ball put Johnston over in the other corner, while a well-weighted kick gifted Blake Taaffe his own four-pointer.
Souths coach Jason Demetriou would have been disappointed with his side conceding so many points in the second half.
But they can now use the victory over the Warriors as a bit of a launchpad for the next month that features games against rivals outside the top eight, including Canberra, Wests Tigers, Gold Coast and St George Illawarra.
With a bit of luck, Souths can string some few wins together before they roll the red and green welcome mat for their big guns Murray and Mitchell.
One of the few things to go wrong for Souths in the opening half was a fresh shoulder injury to Jacob Host, who lasted less than two minutes. Junior Tatola, however, helped with the forwards rotation by punching out a high-quality 40 minutes for 14 runs and 135m. He finished the game with nearly 180m.
Jai Arrow also made more than 40 tackles in a gusty return to the middle for Murray.
The Warriors did well to not give up, but they could not have started the game any worse, which was extra disappointing given their inability to win against a 12-man Cronulla six days earlier.
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