Aaron Gray’s stunning rookie year has continued with the hard-running winger starring in South Sydney’s 20-8 win over Manly at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
Gray scored two tries and threw the final pass for another as a gritty Souths kept the Sea Eagles anchored to the bottom of the NRL ladder.
Gray scored the Rabbitohs’ opener in the 28th minute after Peta Hiku had scored first for Manly two minutes before.
But it was Gray’s efforts early in the second half that paved the way for Souths’ win.
He flicked a pass inside, that did appear forward, to Bryson Goodwin to put the Rabbitohs ahead 10-4 after 46 minutes.
Gray then scored himself from a John Sutton kick two minutes later as the home side wrested control of the match, against a tough but unlucky Manly.
Gray has scored seven tries in his first eight NRL games and his emergence comes on the back of fellow Bunnies winger Alex Johnston’s sensational rise last season.
Souths’ win is soured somewhat by a concussion to Adam Reynolds who was taken off in the 24th minute.
Tom Symonds (cheekbone) is an injury concern for Manly.
Souths back-rower Glenn Stewart was solid in his return from a thumb injury against his former club, while Rabbitohs props George and Tom Burgess put in two of their better efforts of the year, playing against brother Luke for the first time.
Kieran Foran was one of Manly’s best after spending the week in the headlines due to his contract standoff with Parramatta.
Two first half hits from Jorge Taufua on Dylan Walker and Steve Matai on Dave Tyrrell were contenders for tackle of the year.
Matai gave Manly some hope when he crossed in the 55th from a clever short side play engineered by Foran.
But Luke Keary hit back for the Rabbitohs in the 64th minute from a hot potato pass from Johnston after he chased down the five-eighth’s kick.