Souths dare to dream after keeping Manly scoreless

Scott BaileyAAP
Damien Cook was a shining light for the Rabbitohs in the same week he said he was leaving the club. (James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS)
Camera IconDamien Cook was a shining light for the Rabbitohs in the same week he said he was leaving the club. (James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

South Sydney have kept their faint NRL finals hopes alive after continuing their mid-season resurgence with a 14-0 win over a depleted Manly.

In a game that made a strong case for stand-alone State of Origin blocks, Souths scored twice in the first 20 minutes before a late try sealed it at a soggy Accor Stadium.

The victory moved the Rabbitohs within four points of the top eight, with Souths still likely needing to win eight of their last 10 games to make the finals.

Last on the ladder a month ago, Souths are attempting to pull off a comeback not seen since Brisbane went from 17th to eighth in 1999.

As gutsy as Souths were in defence for the majority of Saturday night, this was not a contest for the ages.

Manly looked every bit the side that had 13 players unavailable because of injury, suspension or representative duties.

They could clearly have done with Daly Cherry-Evans' polish at the end of sets, Haumole Olakau'atu's power and Jake Trbojevic's energy and ball-playing.

Souths clearly lacked their Origin stars as well.

This was a game that needed the X-factor of Latrell Mitchell, or Cameron Murray's ability to create space by digging into the line and passing.

Instead, all five of the aforementioned players spent Saturday night in Origin camps watching one of the most frustrating games of the year.

"Ideally it would make sense to have Origin by itself, but it's not going to happen," Manly coach Anthony Seibold said after the match.

"Some draws you get a good card there with a bye, but I'm not going to whinge about that.

"I thought we had a good enough team to get a result, but they were just a bit classy.

"We just had so many players playing all over the place. Cohesion was always going to be down."

Ultimately, it was the Rabbitohs' defence and a 10-3 penalty count that proved the difference, with Damien Cook the shining light in the same week he told teammates he was leaving the club.

Manly centre Tolu Koula rushed up out of the line for Souths' first try to Richie Kennar, and space was offered to Jye Gray for the Rabbitohs' second.

Cook in particular had a key role in Kennar's, hitting the Rabbitohs centre on the chest as he charged over.

Then after Souths held their 8-0 advantage until close to the death, the hooker put in a grubber-kick for Keaon Koloamatangi to chase down and wrap up the win.

"He (Cook) was massive tonight," interim coach Ben Hornby said.

"He went back on with eight minutes to go, with the game still in the balance. He cleaned up everything in defence and then went downfield and set up the try.

"He put the week aside ... No one should be surprised, he has been a great player and has been for a long time."

In contrast, the Sea Eagles barely looked like breaking the Rabbitohs during their sets on South Sydney's line.

Manly's best chance came when Tommy Talau had a try rejected with 15 minutes to play because of an obstruction.

The result leaves Manly in 11th spot, towards the bottom end of the logjam of teams fighting for the final spots in the top eight.

Better days are ahead for Manly, though, with Tom Trbojevic to headline a list of seven possible returnees against North Queensland after next week's bye.

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