Eels 24 Rabbitohs 42
Try time for South Sydney’s Robert Jennings, one of four for the night against the Eels at ANZ Stadium.
Footy's fun in a bloody big backyard. The whistle usually goes away, pretty much anything goes.
Brothers gang up on each other. Get told to come back in at roughly the same time. Usually score a few tries each. Attack compulsory, defence optional. There's some horrendous mistakes that not many people see.
And then at the end, you all shake hands and count down the days until you do it all again.
But the thing about backyard footy is the team who is usually supposed to win, generally does win.
The Rabbitohs are now first. The Eels are last. South Sydney won their seventh straight game, reeling off 34 unanswered points at one stage in a 42-24 romp on Thursday night. It was the highest scoring match of the year.
Just like the annoying little brother, Parramatta threw a few punches and had the big bully out the back on the back foot for a while. But the older and stronger brother usually wins. Almost always.
Rabbitoh Hymel Hunt scampers over in the corner against the Eels at ANZ Stadium.
This was no different, played in front of a crowd so sparse maybe the combined Christmas gatherings of said siblings could have almost matched it.
But wasn't it fun to watch?
"We weren’t happy with our start at all," said Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold. "We got better as the game went on. Plenty to work, but we’re comfortable with how we attacked in particular."
After South Sydney's Robert Jennings scored a try – his first of four for the night – just a few minutes before Parramatta's George Jennings crashed over, you thought it couldn't get much more sentimental than that.
Then Robert raced back to retrieve a loose ball later on and the first two men there to collar him? George and older brother Michael Jennings, playing his 250th NRL game and playing stacks on with his younger brothers. There wasn't another player from either side in the same postcode.
It was raining tries for the Bunnies with Tom Burgess celebrating one against the Eels at ANZ Stadium.
"It was a big game for Michael Jennings being his 250th," Seibold said. "I was a bit worried about Rob during the week because he was playing against his two older brothers. He’s not done that before. He’s played against Michael before and we spoke about being aggressive, having some early carries and getting himself into the game."
The Burgesses had fun too. Seibold channelled their mum Julie, calling twins George and Tom back in one after the other for dinner. Or just their standard break at the 20-minute mark. Tom went on to score a rare try.
But the kid late to the party almost had the most fun.
Cody Walker only found the NRL later than everyone else. But he plays every week like he's in the backyard. He was in the middle of everything good about the Rabbitohs again, who will now have a hybrid game against the NSW Waratahs during the bye week.
Maybe no one enjoys the big paddock that is ANZ Stadium more than Rabbitohs No.1 Alex Johnston. He scored a double and has 21 tries in his last 12 games at the ground, a Christmas Day-like strike rate.
There was no brotherly love for Parramatta’s Michael Jennings who watched on as younger brother Robert scored four tries for South Sydney.
But still he couldn't beat Robert. He stood opposite George and Michael all night – who looked like they'd only met each other for the first time the way they defended – and kept running around them to end up with four tries.
"Some of the defensive reads and errors we made tonight were reserve grade tonight," said Eels coach Brad Arthur. "I don’t want to be rude to Souths – they executed their plays really well – but we’ve seen them a thousand times and have defended them at training.
"We just weren’t connected together. Our two inside defenders were up and our two outside defenders were back. The talk wasn’t there and not backing ourselves. We weren’t working together."
When you're onto a good thing in the backyard or the big time, just stick to it. Even if it's at the expense of your own blood.
A week after resting his State of Origin quartet against the Titans, Seibold rolled out his heavy artillery before they head back into camp with their respective State of Origin teams. They all had their moments.
But not as many as the two sets of three brothers. And wasn't it fun to watch.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 42 (Robert Jennings 4, Alex Johnston 2, Hymel Hunt, Tom Burgess tries; Adam Reynolds 5 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 24 (Josh Hoffman 2, George Jennings, Bevan French, Jarryd Hayne tries; Clint Gutherson 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referees: Gerard Sutton, Peter Gough. Crowd: 8047.
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