A hat-trick of Adam Reynolds field goals has ended St George Illawarra’s season in heart-breaking fashion, with the Dragons going down 13-12 to South Sydney in a thriller on Saturday night.
It was an enthralling contest fitting of September football. The teams only scored one try each as they defended for their seasons.
While the Dragons will begin their post-mortems, with another season that promised so much ultimately ending with disappointment, Souths advanced to a preliminary final where they will meet the Sydney Roosters in the last ever game of rugby league at the Sydney Football Stadium before its rebuild.
St George Illawarra took the lead against the run of play at ANZ Stadium. The Dragons did well to withstand South Sydney’s opening 20 minute barrage as the sides traded penalty goals.
Before Ben Hunt gave the Dragons an 8-2 half-time lead by doing what he does best.
The halfback danced at the line before isolating John Sutton, burning the back-rower on the outside before slicing through to slide over for the first try.
The Dragons were growing into the match but were to face a massive set back when they lost Tariq Sims to a knee injury after he fell awkwardly in a tackle early in the second half.
A Zac Lomax penalty goal had the Dragons out to a 10-2 lead before Reynolds hit back with a try under the posts.
Another Reynolds penalty goal then made it 10-all with 20 minutes to play.
A Robert Jennings error from an unnecessary long Alex Johnston pass 20 metres out from Souths’ line gave the Dragons field position and their first opportunity to break the deadlock.
But Hunt could only screw his field goal attempt just wide to the left under pressure from Tom Burgess.
That allowed Souths a seven-tackle set. The Rabbitohs rolled down field and, on the back of a strong Cody Walker run, Reynolds put Souths in front with his first one-pointer.
But the Dragons weren’t done. An incredible Tyson Frizell one-on-one strip saw St George Illawarra wrestle back possession deep inside Souths’ half. The Dragons then earned a penalty after Frizell had been tackled, with Lomax’s penalty goal putting St George Illawarra in front 12-11 with just four minutes to play.
Back came Souths. A Cameron Murray strip gave the Rabbitohs possession again. And Reynolds took the opportunity to drag his side back level with his second field goal.
The game looked to be heading to golden-point extra-time. But, with their season on the line, the Dragons attempted to run the ball on the last tackle. They only succeeded in handing possession back to Souths 45m out from their own line with just under a minute to go.
Souths knew the plan. They again attacked the posts before finding Reynolds. This time he danced around the pressure before slotting his third field goal with 19 seconds remaining to secure a famous victory for South Sydney, breaking Dragons hearts.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 13 (Adam Reynolds try. Adam Reynolds three goals. Adam Reynolds three field goals)
St George Illawarra Dragons 12 (Ben Hunt try. Zac Lomax four goals)
at ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park
Leader man of the match: Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs)