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A five star performance by Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo helped sink an injury hit Rabbitohs outfit 34-22 at Accor Stadium amid speculation over the future of their coach Jason Demetriou.

Mulitalo scored two tries, laid on two others for second-rower Teig Wilton and produced a try saving tackle as Cronulla hung on to beat a brave Souths outfit, who were reduced to 14 players for the entire second half.

Any doubts about the Rabbitohs not playing for Demetriou were dispelled by the effort and resilience shown by the players after losing captain Cameron Murray, prop Tevita Tatola and winger Tyrone Munro before halftime.

Souths were already without suspended superstar Latrell Mitchell, while fellow representative stars Alex Johnston, Campbell Graham and Jai Arrow are injured.

Latrell Mitchell (suspended) looks on with Damien Cook and Alex Johnston as a brave Souths crashed 34-22 to Cronulla.
Latrell Mitchell (suspended) looks on with Damien Cook and Alex Johnston as a brave Souths crashed 34-22 to Cronulla. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

However, Souths fell to their fifth loss of the season and 14th defeat in 19 matches since mid 2023, while conceding more than their average 32 points per match in the previous five outings.

It was a chaotic opening 40 minutes for the Rabbitohs, with prop Tevita Tatola (ankle) lasting just 14 minutes and winger Tyrone Munro joining him on the sideline five minutes later with a collarbone injury.

In addition, second-rower Jacob Host, rookie fullback Jye Gray and captain Cameron Murray were all forced to under HIAs.

As a result, Isaiah Tass shifted from centre to Munro's wing spot, with Michael Chee Kam coming on at centre, and Jack Wighton moved to fullback while Gray was off, with Murray playing centre.

Amid the constant reshuffling of the South Sydney backline, the Sharks took control of the match, with winger Ronaldo Mulitalo scoring two tries and laying on another for second-rower Teig Wilton.

Mulitalo scored his first try after halfback Nicho Hynes linked with fullback Will Kennedy from a scrum win near the Rabbitohs line to put the star winger over in the 12th minute.

Ronaldo Mulitalo Try

Chee Kam hit back for Souths just four minutes later after a 40/20 kick by rookie halfback Dean Hawkins, who combined with hooker Peter Mamouzelos, to create space for the quick stepping second-rower.  

However, the weight of injuries took its toll on the Rabbitohs and the Sharks capitalised, with Mulitalo leaping above Taane Milne to snatch a Nicho Hynes kick and off-loading as he fell to the ground for Wilton to score.

The Kiwis international then grabbed his second try in the 34th minute after winning the race for a Braydon Trindall grubber into the South Sydney in-goal and give Cronulla a 16-6 lead at halftime.

Ronaldo Mulitalo 2nd Try

With Murray failing his HIA at halftime, the Rabbitohs were reduced to just one player on the bench and their task got even harder after a 49th minute try by winger Sione Katoa, who was on report for his tackle on the Souths captain.

Milne gave Rabbitohs fan a glimmer of hope when he scored in the 56th minute but they seemingly had no answers for Mulitalo, who batted back another Hynes kick for Wilton to score his second try 10 minutes later.

Taane Milne Try

Tries to prop Tom Burgess, who was arguably the best player for the Rabbitohs, and Tass reduced the Sharks lead to 28-22 with five minutes remaining but Blayke Brailey put the result beyond doubt when he dived on a loose ball in the in-goal.

Match snapshot

  • Sharks left winger Ronaldo Mulitalo has scored 12 tries in his past 11 games.
  • The Rabbitohs are conceding an average of 32 points per game.
  • Sharks right winger Sione Katoa has scored six tries in five games against the Rabbitohs.
  • The Rabbitohs have won only five of their past 19 NRL games.
  • The win put the Sharks at the top of the NRL ladder after losses by the Cowboys and Sea Eagles on Saturday.  
  • The Sharks ended a seven game losing streak against Souths at Accor Stadium.
  • Cronulla centre Kayal Iro ran a team high 172 metres with the ball. Only Souths centre Jack Wighton (178m) ran further. 
  • Sharks winger Sione Katoa ran 155 metres and made 12 tackle breaks.
  • Rookie Rabbitohs fullback Jye Gray ran 165 metres and made six tackle breaks in his NRL debut.
  • Souths missed 47 tackles to 25 by the Sharks.

Play of the game

Ronaldo Mulitalo's combination with Nicho Hynes produced dividends for Teig Wilton when the Sharks winger leapt high for a kick and passed to his second-rower just before he landed on his back to set up a stunning 28th minute try. 

Teig Wilton Try

What they said

"I'm pretty proud. I spoke about it last week about valuing the 80 minutes to make it the most important part of our week. There was a fair bit of carnage out there and we had one interchange for over half a game and lost a winger and a fullback for 15 minutes. To drag ourselves to 28-22, if we maintain that fight we will win a lot more games than we lose," - Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.

Rabbitohs: Round 6

“It was a really hard fought and earnt victory. I thought that was a strong performance in the first half there and obviously we made it a little bit close but I was still pretty confident in the way we were playing. We had really limited opportunities, but we thought we looked sharp when we got them. Ultimately, the score was getting closer, but we were still playing pretty well," - Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon.

Sharks: Round 6

What's next

The Rabbitohs have the bye next weekend but there has been plenty of speculation that coach Jason Demetriou's future could be decided during the break.

Cameron Murray is expected to be available for their next match against the Storm on ANZAC Day but Tatola and Munro are likely to join a long injury list.

The Sharks host the Cowboys at PointsBet Stadium next Sunday, with coach Craig Fitzgibbon hoping that star forwards Braden Hamlin-Uele (knee) and Dale Finucane (facial injury) will be available.

Jack Williams suffered a cork and finished the match with ice on his knee.

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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