South Sydney master coach Wayne Bennett says sometimes you need to win ugly and is hoping Saturday’s nail-biting 21-20 NRL victory over Manly will be the catalyst for a late-season surge.
While it wasn’t always pretty, Bennett’s men are back on track, ending a four-game skid, thanks to a 75th-minute Adam Reynolds field goal to sink the Sea Eagles’ spirits.
Manly’s loss was summed up by skipper Daly Cherry-Evans who, just three days after having his heart broken at the same ground in Queensland’s State of Origin III loss, was in tears on the field.
The game swung for 80 minutes before the Rabbitohs eventually withstood a Curtis Sironen-inspired Manly second-half fightback.
“There was the first half, the way we want our team to play, and there was the second half, the way we’ve been playing for the last month,” Bennett said.
“It’s put us where we are and we’ve lost two games by a couple of points.
“I’m pleased with the way we won today. I’m just pleased we showed ourselves what we can do. We’ve got to do it for 80 minutes.
“We just needed a win – it didn’t matter how we did it.”
The Sea Eagles lost no admirers after five-eighth Cade Cust was forced off for the final 10 minutes due to a head knock and they temporarily lost hooker Manese Fainu to cramp with the game in the balance.
But coach Des Hasler was unhappy after his side found themselves 18-6 down at halftime which ultimately cost them the two points.
The Manly fightback began when Cherry-Evans put Sironen one-on-one with Cody Walker and he crashed over.
And they made it two tries in four minutes when Damien Cook threw a wild, misdirected pass and Moses Suli picked it up and ran 80 metres untouched.
The Sea Eagles appeared to have levelled the scores when Cust went over, however Dane Gagai came up with a desperate try-saving strip.
Cust left the field soon after in a bitter blow for Hasler’s side.
But just when they looked like they were dead in the water, Sironen – who terrorised Souths’ left side all day – broke the line and, from the next play, Cherry-Evans rolled the ball into the in-goal and Joel Thompson evened it up.
But on a day of high drama, the final twist came when Reynolds potted the winning field goal with five minutes remaining.
It was fitting that Reynolds came up with the winning point after setting up first-half tries to Dean Britt and Dane Gagai which ultimately proved decisive.
“Our first-half performance was really down,” Hasler said.
“We didn’t compete half as well as what they did. They rolled down field too easy; we didn’t compete in the ruck hard enough.
“We shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place. We ended up scoring more tries, so it’s one we didn’t manage really well.”