Souths closer to grand final amid drama

Scott Bailey
South Sydney have beaten Manly 34-26 to advance to an NRL preliminary final against Canberra

South Sydney are one win away from just their second NRL grand final in 48 years after knocking Manly out with a controversial 34-26 semi-final victory.

In a dramatic night at ANZ Stadium, Manly coach Des Hasler claimed his team was "dudded" as the Rabbitohs came from behind late to claim the win on Friday.

Down 26-20 and all at sea with 13 minutes to go, the Rabbitohs gained the ascendancy when Manly lock Jake Trbojevic was sin-binned for pulling back on centre Dane Gagai.

Souths then swung the match quickly in their direction, scoring two tries in their next three sets to keep their season alive and set up a date with Canberra in the nation's capital.

"With 20 minutes to go, I'm in pre-season next year, (wondering) what I got to do with these guys," coach Wayne Bennett said.

"My season's over, I'm feeling like we're not going to be at training on Monday.

"Twenty minutes later, we're sitting here going to Canberra.

"They just like to seem to get behind, put themselves in a hell of a lot of pressure, and then they'll start to make a few things happen."

Retiring favourite John Sutton got the first of Souths' two match-turning tries, cutting through the Sea Eagles defence from close to the line to level it at 26-26.

Moments later they had the lead through Cameron Murray when he scooped up a ball to score, after being one of Souths' best all night.

Adam Reynolds then iced the game with a minute left on the clock, kicking a penalty goal when Manly failed to kick a drop out before the shot clock expired.

"Do I think we were dudded? Yep, we've been dudded," Hasler said.

"I don't mind a penalty. I can handle a penalty. Did he deserve to get sent off? No, I didn't think he deserved to get sent off.

"That doesn't help the cause."

Hasler vented his frustrations at the NRL's head of football Graham Annesley after the match, who later defended the call.

But the Bunnies also had their challenges.

Cody Walker was sin-binned in the first half for a slap on Jack Gosiewski, while Alex Johnston and Adam Doueihi both left the field in the second half following a head clash.

After sprinting to a 10-0 lead early through tries to Cody Walker and Johnston in the opening 15 minutes, they were on the receiving end of an avalanche of Manly attacks.

The Sea Eagles looked to have control of the match, as centre Moses Suli monstered Sutton in the lead-up to one try, then Gagai before another.

Brad Parker, Gosiewski and Corey Waddell also crossed as they continued their career-best form under Hasler to give the Sea Eagles a 26-20 lead.

But the match was due to have the one last Trbojevic twist, extending Souths' season into the third week of the finals and ending depleted Manly's against-the-odds run.