Souths overrun Sharks to reach NRL prelim

·3-min read

South Sydney face a nervous wait on several stars after easily dispatching Cronulla 38-12 to book a date with Penrith in a fifth straight NRL preliminary final.

On a dominant night for the Rabbitohs, Cameron Murray was brilliant in Saturday's do-or-die semi-final, while Lachlan Ilias also stood up and Taane Milne scored two tries.

But it didn't come without some concerns, with Alex Johnston suffering a hip flexor injury, Siliva Havili a calf problem and Jai Arrow a groin issue ahead of next Saturday's clash at Accor Stadium.

Prop Tevita Tatola also found himself on report for a chicken-wing tackle on Ronaldo Mulitalo, with fellow front-rower Tom Burgess already missing through suspension.

"I think (Tatola)'s alright. There's no doubt he put it in a position where he will probably get fined," coach Jason Demetriou said.

"But he didn't go on with it, so I am pretty sure he will be okay."

"Physios hope (Havili) is not too bad and he'll be okay. Jai has a groin issue he has had for a few weeks and will be fine.

"AJ has a hip flexor. Fingers crossed we can get them into rehab and we can get them back."

But regardless, little was going to sour the Bunnies' night at Allianz Stadium as they qualified for a fifth straight preliminary final.

They jumped out to an 18-0 at halftime and while Cronulla got themselves back into the game at 18-6 and 24-12, the Rabbitohs never looked in trouble.

Souths also did it without relying on Latrell Mitchell for an impact play.

Mitchell kicked seven goals from as many attempts but he also threw an intercept pass that led to a Sharks try.

Cody Walker also had a quiet evening, but he did skip over for the try that put the match to bed at 30-12 before Milne crossed late.

Instead, this time it all started with their inspirational skipper Murray.

The lock has been one of the unsung heroes of South Sydney's surge to the finals, routinely playing a part in tries for his outside men by digging into the line.

He was at it again for Souths' second try, helping Ilias and Keaon Koloamatangi give Mitchell the space to put Taane Milne over.

Murray also provided the decisive play of the match just before halftime, breaking free from Dale Finucane's hold to go over from 15 metres out.

"His handling and ball-playing was again first-class," Demetriou said.

"He's pivotal. Our spine extends to our 13. He has a huge role in that."

Ilias also thrived in the key moments in the biggest game of the rookie halfback's career.

He pulled off a crucial tackle on Braden Hamlin-Uele to drag down the Sharks prop when the score was 6-0, before later forcing an error on Wade Graham.

And when Cronulla opened the scoring in the second half, the No.7 went short side and backed up to score and re-establish an 18-point lead.

But for all the Rabbitohs' brilliance, Cronulla were poor in defence.

Souths' first try came when Mark Nicholls crashed through Toby Rudolf from close range, after Damien Cook put him one-on-one with the defender.

And while the Sharks briefly threatened a comeback in the second half, any hope of that was snuffed out when Walker scored with 17 minutes to play.

With that, Cronulla's season was over, becoming the first top-two side to go out in straight sets since Manly in 2014.

"I'm bitterly disappointed with our performance," coach Craig Fitzgibbon said.

"It's just not good enough at this time of year. We got a lesson in fundamentals of footy.

"And we just didn't respond to anything tonight. We had little squirts, but nothing of note."