The South Sydney Rabbitohs have retained the Charity Shield after a 12-12 draw with the St.George-Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
The Charity Shield has delivered some tight contests throughout its 32-year history and both sides played hard to produce another even contest. Benji Marshall looked confident with ball in hand and lighter on his feet after a gruelling off-season.
Souths rested Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, John Sutton and Glenn Stewart with coach Michael Maguire confident in his youngsters.
“A lot of the boys really wanted to play,” Maguire said.
“George, he pulled out last night along with Reyno and Glenn Stewart. The three of them really wanted to play because it was a chance to get a good hitout.”
It was Marshall who made the breakthrough for the Dragons midway through the first half. He took on the line with a healthy turn of speed, palming off Luke Keary to stroll over to put his side up 6-0.
Josh Dugan was moved from the centres to fullback and proved comfortable back in the position that has earned him a lot of praise.
South Sydney struggled to make the most of field possession, with poor handling and stagnated attacking play in the first half. Missing rested half Adam Reynolds, the Bunnies were down 6-0 at the break.
Jason Nightingale knocked on in the left-hand corner early in the second half but it was the Dragons who looked most likely to capitalise on several good opportunities.
Eto Nabuli made amends for Nightingales mistake in the same corner, climbing high to take a Marshall bomb and popping it back to Charly Runciman in support to put the Dragons up 12-0.
Josh Dugan sent a scare through the red and white camp after hyper-extending his left knee on a kick return. Dugan was never quite right from that moment and left the match prematurely.
“It didn’t look good from the screen but he tells me he’s okay,” commented coach Paul MacGregor.
South Sydney managed two tries. Sam Manuleleua picked up the ball to run 70 metres and score while Chris Grevsmuhl crossed late in the match to help his sied scrape through with a draw. It was just enough to retain the shield in what was a gritty performance by the defending NRL champions.
The Rabbitohs fly out on Sunday week to prepare for the World Club Challenge against English Super League champions St.Helens.