Top matches of 2012 - No.4: Rabbitohs make improbable comeback

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Nathan Merritt of the Rabbitohs runs forward as part of the play for the match winning try during the round 19 match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Photo / Getty Images.
Nathan Merritt of the Rabbitohs runs forward as part of the play for the match winning try during the round 19 match between the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Photo / Getty Images.

The stunning, spectacular and the sentimental, nzherald.co.nz lists the top ten sporting matches of 2012.

Number 4: Rabbitohs make improbable comeback
Monday July 16th, 2012

When the ball was spun through the Rabbitohs' back-line with two minutes left in their Monday night NRL match against the Roosters, Triple M commentator Dan Ginnane was discussing the South Sydney side's impending seventh loss of the season.

The Rabbitohs were trailing by ten points, and by the 78th minute it seemed unlikely that there would physically be enough time for anything to change the final result.

Then Ginnane's voice quivered. "Unless..... unless," he continued. Unless there was about to be one of the most incredible finishes to an NRL match in the history of the competition.

And there was.

Rabbitohs' winger Nathan Merritt finished off a sweeping move to score his second try in the 79th minute to bridge the gap, before Adam Reynolds hurried conversion reduced the deficit to four points.

"Don't tell me, don't tell me...... they will have one set," Ginnane shouted excitedly in the commentary box.

From the kick-off, with just 27 seconds remaining, Reynolds finished off a sweeping 70m movement which saw Merritt, Dave Taylor, Chris McQueen and Issac Luke handle before the Souths' halfback scored in front of 20,000 fans.

It was one of the most memorable passages of play from the 2012 sporting year and will long live in the memories of those who witnessed the turn around.

Souths players were delirious - embracing before racing over to hug their jubilant fans in the eastern bays of Allianz Stadium.

"You can take me now, I have seen it all!" yelled Fox Sports' commentator Warren Smith.

Ironically, the Roosters scored two tries in the final three minutes to secure an equally unlikely victory over the Souths in round one.

An unfathomably brilliant end to a game dripping with rivalry, emotion and spite.

What they said:

Braith Anasta (Roosters)

"It was a bit of a nightmare. I couldn't believe it. I was in total shock.

"It was a funny feeling after what happened in round one. Like we did in round one, they played until the end."

"We just needed to get in a good kick and defend one set."

Nathan Merrit (Rabbitohs)

"I actually thought I was going to get there myself (for the winning try), but I could feel a few players behind me and I had to pass it.

"I thought Issac was going to score, but he got tackled before the line, and `Reyno' showed character to pick up the loose ball and score. It was an incredible feeling. It's the best try I've been involved in.

"Two tries in the final two minutes ... but that last one is the best I've been a part of.''

Brian Smith (Roosters coach):

"It's something that could have been avoided. There's just mental issues there. Guys are not where they're supposed to be, not thinking clearly under pressure.

"For younger guys in that caldron of complete fatigue and a little bit of mayhem, and the cat's amongst the pigeons and trying to keep each other steady and calm ... It's why professional sport and our game in particular is so well supported. It can always happen.

"The overwhelming thing to start with is 'oh my God, I can't believe that happened'. But it happens too often in our game. Canberra did it in a losing vein, they did it yesterday.

"In the end, when you need those points and you break free from those percentage plays ... It was our job to recognise that. It's not about percentages, it's about shutting down one big play."

Top matches of 2012
No.5 - Pacquiao knocked out cold
No. 6 - Breakers triumph in overtime
No.7 - Epic Aussie Open final
No. 8 - Blues suffer last minute heartbreak
No.9 - Arsenal make astonishing comeback
No.10 - Black Sticks go down fighting

Over the next week we will count down the best matches of 2012. Which ones stood out? Have your say below.

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