Rabbitohs defeat Dragons in Charity Shield

The Rabbitohs celebrate a try as Dragons centre Matt Cooper looks on. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
The Rabbitohs celebrate a try as Dragons centre Matt Cooper looks on. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Matt Cooper, Jason Nightingale and Mitch Rein started the Charity Shield and failed to finish it.

And then Cameron King, the back-up Dragons hooker, was medicabbed off ANZ Stadium in the worst possible preparation for their premiership opener against the reigning premiers in Melbourne.

South Sydney held off a spirited second-half fightback from the Dragons in the 30th edition of the traditional preseason fixture. 

However, the focus will be on a bulging casualty ward which already includes first-choice halfback Kyle Stanley.

Cooper suffered a calf strain while Nightingale also failed to show for the second half due to a sciatic issue in his leg. 

Rein was forced off with a shoulder problem while the club's other dummy half, King, was heavily concussed after running into the shoulder of South Sydney forward George Burgess. 

At least Michael Weyman, returning from a knee reconstruction, came through unscathed.

Despite the body count, the joint-venture club threatened to steal the contest when two tries in the space of four minutes narrowed the gap to six. 

But late tries to Rabbitohs youngsters Dylan Walker and Mitchell Buckett gave them a deserved victory.

Nathan Merritt was dumped for, the official line is, "failing to meet team standards". 

It's believed the prolific try-scorer channelled James O'Connor and failed to respond to the alarm clock. 

Just like Ben Te'o the previous week, he will be don the red and black of feeder team North Sydney in the ultimate wake-up call.

In his place stepped Bryson Goodwin, who took only 10 minutes to make his presence felt. 

The former Bulldog's winger crossed out wide after a saccharin-sweet cut-out pass from Greg Inglis.

Every stakeholder in the game held their collective breath when the decision was referred upstairs on the slightest suspicion of obstruction. 

However, 'General' Luke Patten kept his head in his first decision in the video box and pressed the green button.

Inglis was again involved in the second touchdown. It is wrong for a man of his size to have such a deft touch. 

This time he was chipping over the Dragons defence, with Andrew Everingham batting the ball back to try-scorer Beau Champion. 

Inglis almost did it all himself when he crossed late in the half. 

However, video referees Patten and Steve Clarke ruled 'no try' after Jason Nightingale kicked the ball out of Inglis' grasp. 

"Why no penalty try?", asked Rabbitohs skipper Michael Crocker. It was a fair question.

No matter. Nathan Peats' converted try soon afterwards, the result of a Canterbury-esque interchange of passes from their big men, gave them a 16-0 half-time advantage.

Injuries aren't the only concern for Dragons coach Steve Price. 

His right-edge defence was targeted often and with great success. And it was a mixed night for the makeshift Dragons halves pairing of Nathan Fien and Jamie Soward. 

The first clearing kick of Fien, wearing the No 7 jersey in the absence of Ben Hornby and Kyle Stanley, was charged down. 

Soward struck a 40-20 shortly afterwards. Like all good relationships, this one will take time to blossom.

It is difficult to read too much into a trial. 

The winners of four of the past five Charity Shields have finished the season lower on the table than the vanquished. 

If anything, it raised only more questions. Like, how good is Greg Inglis? Others, like what sort of a team will Price be able to assemble to take on the Storm, will be tougher to answer.


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