Tom Trbojevic and another bunker howler have officially put South Sydney’s finals hopes to bed, after the Rabbitohs went down 20-12 to Manly at Allianz Stadium on Monday night.
The defeat was Souths’ seventh in a row and means they will miss the finals for the first time under coach Michael Maguire.
The Rabbitohs were poor in a first half dominated by Trbojevic and trailed 18-0 at the break.
They surged back into the contest in the second stanza through tries to Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker before the bunker controversially disallowed a Joe Burgess try in the 59th minute before 8,273 fans.
The four-pointer was referred as a try but the bunker turned it down, claiming Burgess dropped the ball, despite no clear evidence he did.
That stopped Souths’ comeback in its tracks.
A Jamie Lyon penalty goal soon after gave Manly an eight-point buffer they held for the rest of the contest.
The win was Manly’s third in a row and keeps intact their September dreams.
They are are four points behind eighth-placed Penrith but face Newcastle and Parramatta over the next fortnight.
Manly skipper Lyon could find himself in trouble with the NRL after he appeared to question the integrity of the match officials when he remarked to referee Henry Perenara after a series of penalties against Manly: “It seems like you are trying to get them back into the game.”
Manly completely dominated the first half, as Souths struggled for momentum on the back of a series of handling errors, in particular by Joe Burgess.
Lyon crossed first for the visitors from a Daly Cherry-Evans pass in the just the fourth minute.
Lyon added a penalty goal minutes later before a Jorge Taufua try in the 24th minute gave Manly a 12-0 lead.
Trbojevic was the best player on the field in the first stanza and scored a deserved try five minutes from the break for Manly to lead 18-0 at halftime.
But Souths came surging back in the second half, with halfback Adam Reynolds leading the way.
The NSW playmaker scored himself in the 46th minute and then grubbered for Cody Walker’s try five minutes later.
Joe Burgess then had his try disallowed and that was Souths’ night.