Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
The South Sydney Rabbitohs and Manly Warringah Sea Eagles are no strangers to each other on the big stage, with Grand Final showdowns between the two teams in 1951, 1968 and 1970.
In recent times, we have seen the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles partake in a couple of finals footy blockbusters, with Manly defeating South Sydney in the 2013 Preliminary Final 30-20, which was the last time the maroon and whites made it this far in the competition.
Heading into this game fans were hoping for as high quality a matchup as the winner would be 80 minutes away from premiership glory and the loser eliminated from the 2021 NRL competition.
For the opening ten minutes South Sydney had all the ball down Manly’s end of the field, but the Sea Eagles goal line defence held strong and prevented the Rabbitohs from scoring.
However, 13 minutes into the game Cody Walker would point South Sydney on the board when he scooped up a loose ball on the tryline and crashed over to score, continuing the great form he has displayed throughout the season that has seen him named amongst the five contenders for the 2021 Dally M Medal.
For another week the dream of a fairytale finish for Benji, Adam Reynolds and Wayne Bennett lives on after Souths marched into the grand final
3 Big Hits from #NRLSouthsManly
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) September 24, 2021
Then at the 22 minute mark a great cut out pass from Blake Taffee to Alex Johnston resulted in the back to back Ken Irvine Medallist scoring his 28th try for the season in the corner.
Walker would then grab his double when cleaning up a perfect grubber from Damien Cook and extending the Rabbitohs lead, before Jaxson Paulo crossed over for South Sydney’s fourth try of the night with just under three minute to go until halftime, with the score 22-0 the Rabbitohs way as the players headed into the sheds.
South Sydney dominated possession in the first half, and while the Sea Eagles showed glimpses of great things when they did have the ball, they also left a lot to be desired.
Manly needed to strike first in the second half to have any chance of winning this game and strike first that they did, with an unmarked Reuben Garrick cruising over in the left corner with 36 minutes to go in the game.
The Sea Eagles then allowed errors to creep back into their game, which led to Benji Marshall assisting Campbell Graham with 28 minutes to go in the game for South Sydney’s fifth try.
Paulo would then get under a high ball and run backwards before turning around to plant the ball down and score his second try of the evening.
Manly’s chances were not helped when Josh Aloiai was sin-binned with 12 minutes to go in the game after his dangerous tackle on Mark Nicholls.
In the end Tom Trbojevic and Reuben Garrick managed to score a consultation try each, but South Sydney cruised home to a 36-16 win, eliminating the Sea Eagles and qualifying for their first NRL Grand Final in seven years where they will either face the Penrith Panthers or Melbourne Storm in a Grand Final matchup we have never seen before.