NRL 2022: NZ Warriors' second-half fightback falls short as South Sydney Rabbitohs sneak victory

A brave second half from NZ Warriors against South Sydney Rabbitohs has fallen just short of an incredible comeback victory, leaving the NRL's 'Magic Round' with a 32-30 defeat.

Down 32-6 in the second half, the Warriors scored 24 unanswered points at Suncorp Stadium - but were ultimately too far behind to snatch a victory in dire conditions.

Less than a week on from an embarrassing 29-10 loss to a reduced Cronulla Sharks, the Warriors' deficiencies were on show again, as the Rabbitohs ran in five tries in the first half.

The Rabbitohs celebrate Damien Cook's try.
The Rabbitohs celebrate Damien Cook's try. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

It took just six minutes for South Sydney to open their account, as winger Taane Milne made the most of an overlap on the right edge, and doubled his tally seven minutes later in identical fashion.

On the other flank, fellow winger Alex Johnston was in to score his side's third in the 16th minute, again exposing the Warriors' edge defence.

Looking frail on the edges, the Warriors weren't spared through the middle either. 

A grubber through the defensive line from Rabbitohs captain Cody Walker caught the Kiwi side completely off guard midway through the first half, as fullback Blake Taaffe pounced to score the fourth try after just 23 minutes.

Hooker Damien Cook made sure he also joined in on the Rabbitohs' first-half fun, showing off incredible strength to hold off four attempted tackles after six more was called, to leave the Warriors with more questions than answers at 26-0 down after half an hour.

But in horrendous conditions in Brisbane, the Warriors at the very least stemmed the flow to end the first half, before an overlap on the left flank had Marcelo Montoya grab a consolation try before halftime.

Down 26-6 at the break, the Warriors appeared certain to sink further as Lachlan Ilias scored the first points of the second half, thanks to another break down the flank from Johnston.

Now 32-6 down, and staring at a third humiliating defeat in four weeks, the Warriors completely swung the momentum to threaten an upset.

Bunty Afoa runs against the Rabbitohs.
Bunty Afoa runs against the Rabbitohs. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

A kick out to the left wing from Walsh found the hands of Montoya, who batted it back infield to put Adam Pompey in to score, before Jazz Tevaga had the Warriors' third try just five minutes later, crashing over from dummy half.

The Rabbitohs' cause was hampered when Cook was sent to the sin-bin for a professional foul on Walsh, reducing South Sydney to 12 for the rest of the match.

And with a numerical advantage, the Warriors looked to make it count after last week's defeat to the Sharks.

Young half Dejarn Asi split the Rabbitohs' defence to score the Warriors' fourth, before another overlap on the left allowed Montoya in for his second.

Flawless with the boot, Walsh landed five conversions from five attempts to bring the Warriors within two at 32-30.

Needing to run the length of the field in less than a minute for a shot at victory, Shaun Johnson attempted a two-point field goal to send the match into Golden Point.

But his effort was charged down, and despite a captain's challenge for offside, knock-ons from South Sydney's Kodi Nikorima and Warriors debutant Freddy Lussick ended the match and any chance of a miracle victory for the Kiwi side.

Defeat leaves the Warriors 10th on the NRL ladder after the first 10 rounds of the season, with four wins and six defeats to begin the 2022 season.

The Rabbitohs meanwhile secured their fifth win to go with five defeats, lifting the 2021 NRL runners-up into eighth on the ladder.

The Warriors can look to snap their two-match losing run next week, when they travel to face St George Illawarra Dragons on Saturday.

NZ Warriors 30 (Montoya 2, Pompey, Tevaga, Asi tries; Walsh 5 conversions)

South Sydney Rabbitohs 32 (Milne 2, Johnston, Taaffe, Cook, Ilias tries; Taaffe 4 conversions)