Bulldogs march past Souths to final
Sat, 22 Sep 2012 11:33p.m.
Des Hasler became the first coach to reach back-to-back NRL grand finals with different clubs after Canterbury ended South Sydney's bid for a first premiership in 41 years with a 32-8 preliminary final win.
Before 70,354 fans at ANZ Stadium, the Bulldogs set up a decider against Melbourne in a match which swung their way when the Rabbitohs lost rookie of the year Adam Reynolds to a hamstring injury midway through the first half.
The Bunnies - with the NRL's longest active streak between premierships - were leading 8-4 and in control when Reynolds hobbled from the field with what had appeared a brilliant kick into the Bulldogs in-goal went horribly pear shaped.
From there it was all the Bulldogs as they scored 28 unanswered points, two tries in the four minutes before halftime breaking the back of the Bunnies before their spirit was destroyed with two tries in the space of five minutes before the hour.
The win means Hasler - who quit Manly just days after guiding the Sea Eagles to the 2011 crown - becomes the first man to make it back to a grand final with a new side the following season.
It was a stunning opening to the game, the Rabbitohs with skipper Michael Crocker on report and down 4-0 thanks to a Krisnan Inu try before they had even touched the ball.
Souths returned serve thanks to back-to-back penalties as Issac Luke dived over from dummy half, their lead extended when Reynolds added a penalty for what appeared an innocuous bump on Dylan Farrell.
Luke had been the Rabbitohs' most influential player but his impact was minimised when he was moved out to halfback to cover for Reynolds, and the Bulldogs now had a sniff their enemy was vulnerable.
Greg Inglis came up with a brilliant try-saver on Josh Reynolds before being denied himself when held up over the line, and it seemed Souths would hold on for a deserved lead at the break.
Ben Barba's charge to a 23rd try for 2012 was stopped by teammate Frank Pritchard getting in his way, but it proved only a minor delay as Sam Perrett scored his first on the next play off a precise Josh Reynolds kick.
The Bulldogs added a penalty from in front with Sam Burgess ruled to have kneed Perrett as he scored, but it was his penalty for a high tackle from the restart which proved pivotal as Johnathan Wright touched down with seven seconds to go before halftime.
From there it was always going to a mountain for the Bunnies to climb.
Perrett brilliantly tip-toed the sideline off a Greg Eastwood pass to score before Eastwood set up countryman Pritchard on 59 minutes before and finished the job himself with a try on the stroke of fulltime.
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