South Sydney Rabbitohs cruise past Cronulla Sharks to set up Penrith Panthers blockbuster

Coach Jason Demetriou said after the game: “We know how tough a job we have ahead of us. I was pretty pleased as a coach to see how they were flipping their minds straight to the task coming up next week.

“For this group, it’s about going one better than last year, and that’s where the mindset went straight after the game.

“Penrith don’t beat themselves. They’re highly motivated, they work extremely hard for each other and have skilful players as well. We’ll put our gloves on, step into the ring and have a crack.”

There are injury concerns for the Rabbitohs with Alex Johnston suffering a hip-flexor injury, Siliva Havili (calf), while Jai Arrow clutched at the same groin that troubled him a fortnight ago and came from the field late.

Junior Tatola was also placed on report for a suspected chicken-wing tackle on Ronaldo Mulitalo, and Lachlan Ilias collected Matt Moylan with a shoulder charge.

But Souths still have a fit Mitchell, Cameron Murray, Ilias and Cody Walker.

Plenty of Souths fans who attended Allianz Stadium six days earlier to witness an epic against the Sydney Roosters would have been wondering how much energy their players had left. Could Souths have been suffering from a Bondi hangover?

But they muscled up in defence early, and scored after three minutes through Mark Nicholls.

Jai Arrow aggravated a groin injury.Credit:Getty

Apart from a lull in the second half when Cronulla looked an outside chance of getting themselves right back in the game, Souths remained in control.

They have momentum and enough star power to knock over the Panthers.


Demetriou, who is suddenly 80 minutes away from a grand final in his first year as an NRL head coach, deserves plenty of praise.

So, too, Cronulla’s fellow rookie head coach Craig Fitzgibbon, whose Sharks finished second on the ladder during the regular season.

“I’m bitterly disappointed with our performance, it’s not good enough for this time of year and we got a lesson in fundamentals of footy – we didn’t respond to anything in the right fashion,” Fitzgibbon said.

“I’m disappointed we finish off the season in that fashion.

“For semi-finals, the defence isn’t good enough. I won’t be finishing this year feeling happy, I just want to get on to next year and improve it.”

The Sharks had to survive their own 92-minute golden-point epic last weekend against the Cowboys, and lost Royce Hunt and Siosifa Talakai during the week.

There were 39,733 fans inside Allianz Stadium, and it was bloody great to see such a large number of fans who made their way from the Shire. It was wonderful they got to farewell departing forwards Aiden Tolman and Andrew Fifita.

Next week will be a belter. Hopefully Souths are at full strength and it is a gripping contest. Take the skinny odds Mitchell nails a few from out wide and raises his arms and nods his head in approval.

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