Rugby League

Five-star Ronaldo heaps pressure on injury hit Bunnies

April 13, 2024 8:44 pm

[Source: NRL]

A five star performance by Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo helped sink an injury hit Rabbitohs outfit 34-22 at Accor Stadium amid speculation over the future of their coach Jason Demetriou.

Mulitalo scored two tries, laid on two others for second-rower Teig Wilton and produced a try saving tackle as Cronulla hung on to beat a brave Souths outfit, who were reduced to 14 players for the entire second half.

Any doubts about the Rabbitohs not playing for Demetriou were dispelled by the effort and resilience shown by the players after losing captain Cameron Murray, prop Tevita Tatola and winger Tyrone Munro before halftime.

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Souths were already without suspended superstar Latrell Mitchell, while fellow representative stars Alex Johnston, Campbell Graham and Jai Arrow are injured.

However, Souths fell to their fifth loss of the season and 14th defeat in 19 matches since mid 2023, while conceding more than their average 32 points per match in the previous five outings.

It was a chaotic opening 40 minutes for the Rabbitohs, with prop Tevita Tatola (ankle) lasting just 14 minutes and winger Tyrone Munro joining him on the sideline five minutes later with a collarbone injury.

In addition, second-rower Jacob Host, rookie fullback Jye Gray and captain Cameron Murray were all forced to under HIAs.

As a result, Isaiah Tass shifted from centre to Munro’s wing spot, with Michael Chee Kam coming on at centre, and Jack Wighton moved to fullback while Gray was off, with Murray playing centre.

Amid the constant reshuffling of the South Sydney backline, the Sharks took control of the match, with winger Ronaldo Mulitalo scoring two tries and laying on another for second-rower Teig Wilton.

Mulitalo scored his first try after halfback Nicho Hynes linked with fullback Will Kennedy from a scrum win near the Rabbitohs line to put the star winger over in the 12th minute.

Chee Kam hit back for Souths just four minutes later after a 40/20 kick by rookie halfback Dean Hawkins, who combined with hooker Peter Mamouzelos, to create space for the quick stepping second-rower.

However, the weight of injuries took its toll on the Rabbitohs and the Sharks capitalised, with Mulitalo leaping above Taane Milne to snatch a Nicho Hynes kick and off-loading as he fell to the ground for Wilton to score.

The Kiwis international then grabbed his second try in the 34th minute after winning the race for a Braydon Trindall grubber into the South Sydney in-goal and give Cronulla a 16-6 lead at halftime.

With Murray failing his HIA at halftime, the Rabbitohs were reduced to just one player on the bench and their task got even harder after a 49th minute try by winger Sione Katoa, who was on report for his tackle on the Souths captain.

Milne gave Rabbitohs fan a glimmer of hope when he scored in the 56th minute but they seemingly had no answers for Mulitalo, who batted back another Hynes kick for Wilton to score his second try 10 minutes later.

Tries to prop Tom Burgess, who was arguably the best player for the Rabbitohs, and Tass reduced the Sharks lead to 28-22 with five minutes remaining but Blayke Brailey put the result beyond doubt when he dived on a loose ball in the in-goal.