The South Sydney Rabbitohs beat the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 30-6 in the 2014 NRL Grand Final at Telstra Stadium on Sunday night. The win ended a 43-year drought for South Sydney whose last appearance and win was in 1971.
It was an incredible start to one of the most highly anticipated Grand Finals in memory. The very first tackle of the game saw the two main impact players clash with each other as Sam Burgess ended up getting a fractured cheekbone from the head of English compatriot James Graham. To his credit Burgess carried on courageously for the duration putting himself in Souths folklore in the process.
Canterbury were on the back foot immediately as Souths were relentless in attack. They didn’t help their cause by losing possession on five occasions in the opening 20 minutes, virtually inviting Souths to score. Bulldogs coach Des Hasler would’ve been happy with their defence at the very least, keeping the Rabbitohs at bay through gritty determination.
Souths finally went over for the first try of the match to Alex Johnston in the 23rd minute. Adam Reynolds missed the conversion leaving the score at 4-0 to Souths. Minutes later and a penalty right in front of the posts saw Reynolds extend the score to 6-0. South Sydney dominated the majority of the first half through controlled possession as their kicking game and physicality only allowed a couple of sniffs of the opposition try line for the Bulldogs. 6-0 to Souths at half time.
The second half picked up where the first left off with Souths back on the offensive as possession at the end of Canterbury’s first set of six was picked up at the 30-metre line. But the Bulldogs weathered the storm, and a loss of possession by the Rabbitohs on their 10-metre line saw Canterbury capitalise on the error as Tony Williams went over in the 49th minute to score off a grubber kick. The ensuing conversion from Trent Hodgkinson made it 6-6.
It was an arm wrestle for the next 10 minutes as the two sides were looking to build some momentum. Canterbury were first to crack as some Rabbitohs pressure saw George Burgess slice through the heart of the Bulldogs defence to score in the 57th minute. It was 12-6 to South Sydney following Reynolds’ conversion. A penalty to Souths saw Reynolds convert again in the 64th minute making it 14-6 as the Redfern-based club were now in the ascendency.
Another head clash tackle by Graham on Dave Tyrell this time saw a dropped ball favour the Bulldogs with possession in enemy territory. But it wasn’t long before the Rabbitohs were back up the other end of the ground with Kirisome Auva’a scoring a try to virtually give Souths an unbeatable lead. The conversion made it 20-6. Three minutes later and Reynolds scored a try on the back of a full set after the kick bounced favourably under the goal posts. Reynolds converted to make it 26-6 with only 2 minutes left to play.
There was still enough time for one more cherry on the cake as the Bulldogs defence was exposed through the centre once again. Souths favourite Greg Inglis powered through to make it 30-6 right on full time. Sam Burgess stepped up to convert from the sideline and just missed.
It was a memorable Grand Final that will justify the celebrations by all involved at the famous foundation club.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 30
Canterbury Bulldogs 6
Clive Churchill Medallist: Sam Burgess