League: Warriors drop ball in Sydney(+photos)

By Simon Kay

Rabbitohs 18 Warriors 16

The Warriors blew a great opportunity to break into the top eight after losing to the Rabbitohs in Sydney last night.

Ivan Cleary's team were favourites after grinding out a win over Melbourne last weekend but were undone by a lacklustre kicking game, a lack of clinical finishing and too many errors in South Sydney's half.

Souths scored two tries off kicks, while the Warriors failed to threaten with the boot. And butchered scoring opportunities also proved costly, with Sonny Fai early and Evarn Tuimavave late producing the most glaring misses.

Right from kickoff, the Warriors looked to set up Manu Vatuvei and Fai down the left at ANZ Stadium.

As early as the fifth minute, Fai blew a great chance to open the scoring when he fumbled a charge-down with the tryline open.

Seconds later, Souths scored from the resultant scrum. After just one pass to John Sutton, he punted long down the middle into open space.

With Lance Hohaia standing flat, the first fullback on the scene was Rabbitoh Nathan Merritt, who took advantage of a fortuitous bounce to collect the ball and outsprint Aidan Kirk to the corner. Deft early kicks were a feature of South Sydney's play.

The roles were reversed 12 minutes later, when Souths posed a rare early threat to the Warriors' tryline. The ball was spilled, Ruben Wiki pounced and put Hohaia into open space.

Hohaia carried the ball to halfway and as Souths defenders converged on him, he turned a superb pass inside to Jerome Ropati, who had the pace to finish the job.

But Souths were back in front at the 20-minute mark, when a sensational Craig Wing pass put an unstoppable Ben Lowe through a yawning gap just metres from the line.

The Warriors produced most of the second quarter's try-scoring chances. Nathan Fien almost squirmed over in the tackle and Brent Tate came close to setting up a try in the right corner after half an hour but his pass in the tackle bounced off Ropati's chest.

Targeting the left finally paid off four minutes before halftime when Vatuvei broke through two tacklers in a run from inside his own half and then set up Hohaia. The fullback's successful conversion saw the scores level at 12-12 at the break.

That run capped an impressive first half for Vatuvei but the big winger, back from six weeks out injured, tired badly in the second.

Souths dominated the third quarter and deservedly took the lead for the third time when David Kidwell dived on a short Sandow grubber up the middle in the 56th minute.

Cleary responded immediately by sending on Steve Price and Wiki.

Five minutes later, Hohaia scored off a Grant Rovelli pass in a set play but he couldn't level the scores, with his conversion hitting the post in what would prove a costly miss.

Rabbitohs fans thought their side had extended their lead just two minutes later after a good run from David Fa'alogo but the video ref correctly ruled the pass to the second rower had glanced forward off Wing.

That seemed to deflate the Rabbitohs and the match swung back the Warriors' way.

Tuimavave could have given the Warriors the lead heading into the last 10 minutes but he spilled Sam Rapira's pass just metres from the tryline.

The Warriors dominated the final 10 minutes but couldn't find a way through, giving Souths just their fifth win in 19 attempts against the New Zealand franchise.

The loss ended a four-match winning streak for the Warriors, who have five games to get back into playoff territory, starting with the Broncos at home on Saturday.

Rabbitohs 18 (N Merritt, B Lowe, D Kidwell tries; I Luke 2 gls, C Sandow gl) Warriors 16 (J Ropati, L Hohaia 2 tries; Hohaia 2 gls). Halftime: 12-12.

- Herald on Sunday

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