Bunnies TV NSWRL Grand Final Match Report

North Sydney Bears v South Sydney Rabbitohs Commbank Stadium, Parramatta. Bunnies TV NSWRL Grand Final Match Report.

By Greg Allan

After a couple of weeks in the wilderness, I was back in South Sydney Rabbitohs supporter mode today. Following our shocking fade-out to end our NRL season, I have to admit to drifting away from the game a bit. If you’ve been reading my weekly reports this season, you’ll know that I follow the game closely but without Souths there, the interest has been pretty low. Sure, I’ve been watching the finals but I can’t say I’ve been too engaged.

Bunnies TV NSWRL Grand Final Match Report
Lucas, Juliet, Greg, Craig and Terry celebrating the win.

This all changed today with our mighty Rabbitohs playing in the NSWRL Grand Final at Commbank Stadium. I had no excuses not to go. Parramatta is only about half an hour from my house, the tickets were dirt cheap, it was a beautiful day and I got to watch my team go ‘round again. I got both my kids – Lucas and Juliet into the car and headed off to Parra where I met two of Rabbitoh mates – Craig and Terry for a rare Sunday arvo of footy.

The Souths Crowd

I got there in time to catch the end of the Flegg GF. The Souths crowd were getting behind the Doggies, making sure that the Roosters didn’t get any silverware. Who knows? Maybe this support was enough to get them over the line as the young Canterbury side held on for a tight 22-20 win. The crowd was building for the main fixture. There were plenty of league starved fans there. Mostly Rabbitohs but a huge contingent of Bears fans too. We were all sitting on the sunny side of Commbank as they had reserved the shady side for the players and officials. It was a bit bright but not too bad. The fact that Commbank is such a good stadium where there isn’t a bad seat made the sun a minor factor.

Bunnies TV NSWRL Grand Final Match Report
A good stadium.

It wasn’t long and we were underway in front of a very healthy crowd. Reggie/Charlie Rabbit and Barney Bear led their respective teams out. If it wasn’t for the modern stadium and the fact that I’m no longer a primary school student, I could have been back in the 80’s!

A Tight Start

It was a typically tight start. The Bears had the first crack after a penalty advanced them to our line. Soon after, Terrell May, showing the class he’d been displaying for the Roosters in the top grade, crashed over under the sticks. The try went to a video ref however, with the on-field official calling no try. This was the eventual ruling but the crowd was treated to a try/no try farce. Both selections flashed up on the scoreboard with the wrong choice of ‘try’ being chosen in the end.

This continued every time there was a decision but the crowd got used to it, just like we did with all the non-NRL quirks of the day. Unfortunately, North Sydney were able to score first almost immediately after this with a try in the corner. The Bears crowd went absolutely nuts, the Souths crowd fearing that the misery that they’d suffered with the NRL team would continue here today. 4-0 Bears.

Shaq Barged Over

Terrell May wasn’t the only NRL level prop showing his class. Shaq Mitchell barged over for the first South Sydney try. This came following a repeat set from a sharp kick from Dion Teaupa. 6-4 Souths. With the Bunnies in front, Norths started to make a few errors. Despite the opportunities we were given, we couldn’t capitalise so the scores remained the same. This was until Bears five-eighth Jesse Marschke carved us up from a scrum to score under the posts. It was disappointing as it looked like we were getting on top but had nothing to show for it except a conceded try to the opposition. 10-6 Bears.

Highlights from a magnificent day at the footy.

This seemed to spur Souths into action, with a great try to Ethan O’Neill. I hadn’t seen a lot of these guys this year but I was particularly impressed with him today. I thought he had a great game. 12-10 Souths. Jacob Gagai also scored but the try was disallowed after another crazy video ref presentation up on the screen. I’m not exactly sure why it was disallowed as the replays were a bit sparse today. The players seemed ok with the decision. To end the half, Norths had a chance to grab back the lead and were looking quite dangerous. They received a penalty and took the two points to level the scores at 12 all at the break. It was a very even half overall, the game was anyone’s.

Back For The 2nd Half

After grabbing an icy-pole for my daughter and avoiding the long mid-strength beer queue, I was back in my seat ready for the 2nd half. Both sides had chances early with Souths probably having the better of the exchanges. A few errors were creeping into both sides’ play though. Tyrone Munro was able to single-handedly stop a Bears raid with a great hit and steal. Disappointingly though, we dropped it soon after. Our problems compounded when the impressive Ben Lovett went down with what looked like a serious injury.

Bunnies TV NSWRL Grand Final Match Report
Ben Lovett was helped from the field today.

Just when things were starting to look a little worrying, the Rabbitohs were in! A fantastic try in the corner to Tom Carr from some fantastic shifting play with Izaac Thompson throwing the last pass after a bit of a juggle. Tough kick for Hawkins which was just waved away. Souths 16-12.  Following this, Souths continued to pile on the pressure. The Rabbitohs kicking game close to the line was impressive, we forced quite a few line drop-outs today. We weren’t used to this as fans as this was something our top side really struggled to do in 2023. Yet another drop out was forced from a neat kick and an even classier tackle from Blake Taaffe to wrap up the Bears player.

Matt French Runaway

Just like in the first half, Souths looked to be the better side but just couldn’t quite turn it into points. A runaway play from Matt French almost got us another 4 pointer but the field position was undone by a forward pass. Even though Souths looked to be going slightly better, the Bears were far from out of it. Norths refused to give up and with 10 to go they were able to snatch the lead with a crashover try between the posts. Norths 18-16. 

Bunnies TV NSWRL Grand Final Match Report
Matt Mitchell got a hug from his son Shaq. Image by Richard Nassif

It was now desperate stakes. There was still time but the fact was we were behind. I was hoping that not being able to convert possession into points wouldn’t cost us the title. A penalty from a crusher tackle gave us an early chance. Yet another repeat set and maybe another from this great close kicking game that we were being treated to by our B side put the pressure on the Bears. An awesome charge from Shaq made matters worse for the red and blacks.

This constant threat eventually cracked them and the Rabbitohs were in for a superb try! Tyrone Munro crossed for a try in the corner right in front of where we were sitting. Fantastic stuff! The Souths crowd went up as one! Tyrone finished it off nicely as he does but it was a really sharp blind side set-up from Hawkins and Taaffe. Dean kicks a cracker from the sideline to extend the lead by 4 and take the penalty goal or the 2 point field goal out of play for Norths.

In Front

We were in front 22-18 but things weren’t over with still a few minutes left on the clock. Norths regained the ball from the kick off. There were a few nervous moments with the Bears on the attack but thankfully a pass on the last tackle went astray and rolled over the sideline. From there, Souths were able to wrap things up and claim a famous win! The club’s first title in 40 years in this grade! The strong Souths crowd were going to go home happy, the poor Bears fans were not…

The players celebrated their win on the field, they certainly seem a happy and united team. It was impossible not to love this moment. Coach Joe O’Callaghan who apparently is coming onto the NRL staff next season wore the contents of a Gatorade bucket just in front of us. He’s obviously done a great job with this team and I’m hoping some of his knowledge and success will rub off on to the top squad next year.

Ethan & the cup.

Final Score South Sydney Rabbitohs 22 North Sydney Bears 18.

Shannon Gardiner waves to the crowd.

A Great Team

What a day out at the footy! I was nothing but impressed with this team. They played with the structure, expertise and execution that the top team had been lacking in the back end of the season. I know it’s a different level but it really was so refreshing to see. It was a great team performance with the forwards creating an excellent platform for the backs. Blake Taaffe was the worthy MVP but there were plenty of other standout performances.

Onto next week to face the Brisbane Tigers in the State Cup on Grand Final Day next Sunday. It’s a bit of a strange concept with no doubt both teams celebrating their own grand final successes only to play in another one. Still, it’s going to be fantastic to have something to look forward to on Sunday and from what I’ve seen today our boys are going to be very hard to beat..  Congratulations Souths – Premiers in the NSW Cup for 2023!

Thumbs up from Tallis Duncan.

Bunnies TV NSWRL Grand Final Match Report.

By Greg Allan for Bunnies TV.

1 comment

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  • I tell you, seeing that picture of Shaq hugging his father sent shivers down my spine. What an inspiration! Here is a person who has lifted himself off the scrapheap and now has a medal as a reward.
    Remind me of the story of Roy Hobbs from the movie THE NATURAL.
    Now for a first grade ring Shaq.