Manly NRL player Joel Thompson is in a stable condition in hospital after smashing his head into rocks in an alcohol-fuelled incident during the long weekend.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have recorded a finals win for the ages, scoring the last two tries of the match to sneak past the Manly Sea Eagles 32-26 and into a preliminary final.
It was a semi-final without a great deal of defence being played, but one with multiple momentum swings, lead changes, a trio of sin bins and ten tries across the two sides.
The Rabbitohs made a fast start and at one point, looked like they were going to kick away with a one-sided victory, but it turned out to be anything but.
The trademark grit and determination which has pushed Manly through the season was apparent after they fell to ten-nothing down in the early part of the game on the back of tries to Alex Johnston and Cody Walker, who burst through a gap in the line.
Manly, who came into the match as underdogs, were able to hit back shortly afterwards through Brad Parker and Corey Waddell, as they exposed the Rabbitohs right-edge defensive work for the second game in a row.
South Sydney then lost Cody Walker to the sin bin in the 28th minute after some boneheaded play from both he and Jack Gosiewski. Manly were able to capitalise shortly afterwards though as Daly Cherry-Evans scored on the right edge after some incredible lead-up play from in-form centre Moses Suli.
A superman-style effort from Cameron Murray in the final seconds of the first half ensured the Rabbitohs went to the interval ahead though.
Following halftime, it was more high-scoring, free-flowing, entertaining rugby league as Moses Suli and Jack Gosiewski scored for the Sea Eagles, the second of those coming after Brad Parker became the second player of the night sent to the sin bin.
There is every chance the centre will miss Round 1 in 2020 after he gave up a professional foul on James Roberts for a tripping offence.
Souths couldn’t score while he was in the bin though, and with just 17 minutes to go, they found themselves still behind by six points.
It was a second sin bin which sunk Manly though, after Jake Trbojevic was given his marching orders for pulling Dane Gagai down in support play to a break on the left edge.
The momentum Souths got out of that ultimately proved to be unstoppable, with Manly dropping the ball multiple times in the final minutes, allowing John Sutton, then Cameron Murray, to go over and hand Souths the lead back.
A goal line drop out shot clock violation would put the final nail in Manly’s coffin, with Adam Reynolds able to extend the lead to eight just seconds from fulltime.
The Rabbitohs now head to Canberra for a preliminary final with the Raiders next Friday evening.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 34
Manly Sea Eagles 26