South Sydney Rabbitohs leave Cronulla Sharks in ruins after first half masterclass, injuries, Jai Arrow, Alex Johnston, Havili, Tevita Tatola chicken wing, NRL semi-finals live

The South Sydney Rabbitohs are through to a fifth straight preliminary final and will face a replay of last years’ grand final after a thumping 38-12 win over the Cronulla Sharks.

The result means the second-placed Sharks bowed out of the semi-finals in straight sets in its first campaign under Craig Fitzgibbon, while the Rabbitohs will come from seventh and face the Penrith Panthers for a spot in the NRL Grand Final.

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The Rabbitohs are also alive in a bid to be the first side in the NRL era to win the premiership from outside the top four, continuing an epic record of eight prelims in the last 11 seasons.

But it’ll be a long week for the Rabbitohs before next Saturday’s clash as try machine Alex Johnston, utility Siliva Havili and Origin forward Jai Arrow all left the field.

Havili suffered a calf injury, while Johnston left the ground with a reported cork to the leg. However, Channel 9 reported the Rabbitohs were fearing a hip flexor injury.

But there were concerns for Arrow, who looked in discomfort over a suspected groin injury.

Speaking in the press conference, Souths coach Jason Demetriou said he had high hopes all three injured players would be alright.

“Siliva’s got a calf problem, so fingers crossed. The physio thinks if it’s not too bad he might be okay,” he said.

“Jai’s just got a groin thing he’s carried for weeks so he’ll be fine. Aj’s got a hip flexor injury. Again it’s not serious but fingers crossed he get stuck into the rehab and with a seven day turnaround we can get him back.”

The Rabbitohs will also be sweating on the match review committee after prop Tevita Tatola was cited for a chicken wing tackle.

As expected, Demetriou said he believes Tatola will be alright.

“There’s no doubt he puts it in a position where he’ll probably get fined but he doesn’t go on with it so I think he’ll be okay,” the Rabbitohs coach added. 

Michael Ennis told Fox League: “I think he’s in some trouble. I think the first one was an awkward position and the second one he readjusts that.”

He added he believed it was a chicken wing.

Gorden Tallis disagreed, saying it was “grade two carry on from the winger and I reckon it’s pre-school”.

Braith Anasta said it would be a massive call, saying the Rabbitohs “need Tatola to beat Penrith”.

But it didn’t stop the Rabbitohs going berserk in a dominant display to send the Sharks crashing out of the finals with back-to-back losses.

The first half was an absolute nightmare for the Sharks as the Rabbitohs controlled the play from beginning to end.

Mark Nicholls crashed over in the third minute, while Taane Milne added a second after 29 minutes, before captain Cameron Murray scored a soft try right on halftime to make it 18-0.

Murray hit the line but kept his legs pumping and fend working and brushed straight through the defence for an easy try.

The dominant performance saw fans already calling the result with 40 minutes still to play.

But the Sharks hit the ground running in the second half, scoring immediately after the break.

The Rabbitohs hit straight back but the Sharks’ attacking intent was clear after one of the great passes was all for nought after a try was disallowed.

A bomb was knocked back by Ronaldo Mulitalo, caught by Briton Nikora and spectacularly passed behind his back for Ramien to go and score in the corner.

It was denied after Ramien was seen a step offside from Matt Moylan’s kick.

Although Mulitalo was the next to score, racing 95m after Ramien knocked down a pass from Latrell Mitchell to his winger, the no try appeared to be the straw that broke the Sharks, as Souths piled on two more tries to put a score on.

Tallis said he was “a little disappointed by the Sharks”, while Corey Parker added it was “their worst performance in their biggest game”.


Cody Walker has crashed over in the 61st minute, bamboozling Nicho Hynes with a crisp left foot step.

It makes it 30-12 and making it harder and harder for the Sharks to mount a comeback.

The Sharks looked to have bounced back with a second try when Jesse Ramien dived over in the corner following an all-time pass but it’s been denied after the centre was deemed to be offside.

After scoring first in the second half, before the Rabbitohs immediately responded to make it 24-6, the Sharks needed to score.

A bomb was knocked back by Ronaldo Mulitalo, caught by Briton Nikora and spectacularly passed behind his back for Ramien to go and score in the corner.

But it was denied after Ramien was seen a step offside from Matt Moylan’s kick.

It was the last thing the Sharks needed.

However, they were next to score in the 55th minute when Mulitalo did it all himself, racing 95m after Ramien tapped a cut out ball from Latrell Mitchell and the flyer raced away for a try.

It makes it 24-12 with plenty of time left.

It’s taken just two minutes for the Sharks to get on the board with Briton Nikora scoring straight after the break.

A cross-field kick from Nicho Hynes was knocked back into the hands of Nikora, who crossed in the corner to open the account for Cronulla.

Is a comeback on the cards? We’ll see in about 35 more minutes.

It doesn’t get more brutal than a try moments before halftime as the Sharks now know.

The Rabbitohs lead 18-0 at the break after Souths captain Cameron Murray broke the Sharks back, crossing next to the posts moment before the halftime break.

It will take an almighty comeback to win this one but fans were already writing off Cronulla.

Taane Milne was happy. Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Taane Milne was happy. Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

After the first try three minutes into the game, the second has come after 31 minutes.

Taane Milne crossed in the corner after quick hands gave Latrell early ball and he threw a pin-point perfect cut-out ball to put Milne in in the corner.

It’s 12-0 and the Sharks are looking down the barrel of a straight sets loss to be bundled out of the finals – unless they can turn it around.

South Sydney are on a roll – and it’s taken just a matter of minutes.

Prop Mark Nicholls crashed over on the first attacking set from Souths after an early penalty.

“It’s bad news,” Greg Alexander said.

Hard to argue as the Rabbits get on the board immediately.

Siosifa Talakai is out. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Siosifa Talakai is out. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The Cronulla Sharks have been dealt a pair of late blows for their sudden death semi-final against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Origin star Siosifa Talakai will miss the match with a rib injury, having been hit and miss last week with a syndesmosis injury.

The Sharks will also be without giant prop Royce Hunt who suffered a calf injury.

It means Connor Tracey will move to the centres, while Lachlan Hunter will move onto the wing for the Sharks. Braden Hamlin-Uele comes in as starting prop.

The Rabbitohs have injury troubles of their own as Campbell Graham will return for the match but need a pain-killing injection to get on the field.

“He’s fine, he’ll get a needle tomorrow but he’s tough as nails,” coach Jason Demetriou said on Friday. “He’ll be right to go tomorrow night.”

Souths also lost Tom Burgess through suspension this week after his hit on James Tedesco. His two-match ban will mean the Rabbitohs will need to make the finals for him to play again this season.

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