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Bunny boilover! Rabbitohs stun Panthers to book prelim berth

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11th September, 2021
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South Sydney are one win from just their second grand final in 50 years after they stunned Penrith 16-10 in their NRL qualifying final.

Unable to get close to the Panthers or Melbourne for the past two seasons, the Rabbitohs turned on their grittiest performance of the year in Townsville.

Adam Reynolds starred while fullback Blake Taaffe overcame an early scare, justifying the faith put in him by Wayne Bennett to replace the suspended Latrell Mitchell.

The result leaves Penrith with a nightmare run to return to the grand final, with Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo both facing possible trouble for crusher tackles.

The Panthers now not only have a do-or-die battle with Parramatta or Newcastle next week, but also face the prospect of having to contend with Melbourne in the preliminary final.

Souths meanwhile are flying, having qualified for their fourth preliminary final in as many years.

And after Saturday night, they will be believing they can finally progress past the third week of the finals for just the second time since 1971.

They did a job on Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai, while their defence resembled nothing like the outfit that let in 50 points to Penrith and Melbourne in the space of a month earlier this year.

Cameron Murray and Damien Cook defended relentlessly, while Tom Burgess totalled almost 200 metres in a Herculean effort in the middle.

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The Rabbitohs also had the departing Reynolds and the future prospect Taaffe to thank for it.

Playing in his last finals series for the Souths, Reynolds kicked superbly, played a key role in one try and sent over two penalties and as many conversions in the win.

Taaffe was also brave after he could so easily have dropped his head early.

With so much focus on Nathan Cleary’s bombs in the lead up and how Taaffe would handle them, the Rabbitohs fullback spilled his first kick from the Panthers No.7 early.

Penrith then scored from the next set when Cleary grubbered into the in-goal and Paul Momirovski batted it back for Stephen Crichton to score.

But Taaffe battled on, not spilling another ball all night and taking a crucial kick under his posts and earning a penalty with 10 minutes to go.

After a series of penalty goals and a try to Cody Walker after a Dane Gagai bust made it 10-10 at the break, Reynolds and Taaffe combined superbly to start the second half.

Reynolds dug into the line and got on the outside of the defence to create a two-on-one, before Taaffe’s quick hands created the easy try for Jaxson Paulo.

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It was enough to give Souths the lead, before the gutsy defence held on for the most crucial 35 minutes of their season as Penrith let their opportunities slip.

© AAP

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