Penrith get an eight-point try after Souths' Lachlan Ilias kicks Taylan May in the FACE

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Penrith get an eight-point try after Souths’ Lachlan Ilias kicks Taylan May in the FACE during electric grand final rematch

  • Ilias struck May’s head with his boot in the 49th minute, was placed on report
  • Nathan Cleary kicked both conversions to make it 20-6 in favour of Penrith
  • Souths struck back through Cody Walker to reduce that lead to 20-12 
  • Try from a stunning Jarome Luai grubber kick put match to bed at 26-12 

A frenetic and high-quality grand final rematch between Souths and Penrith has been marred by an ugly incident that led to an eight-point try to the Panthers.

Penrith winger Taylan May was crashing over to score in the 49th minute of the game when Rabbitohs halfback Lachlan Ilias slid into him and smashed his foot into his face just after he put the ball down.

The dangerous foul was quickly picked up by officials and referee Ashley Klein gave Nathan Cleary a second shot at goal after he’d converted from the sideline, extending the home side’s lead to 20-6.

Penrith winger Taylan May (centre) crashed over to score in the 49th minute

Penrith winger Taylan May (centre) crashed over to score in the 49th minute

There was heavy criticism of the NRL’s lack of action when Parramatta winger Sean Russell had his ribs broken and driven into his lung when Gold Coast’s Jayden Campbell drove into him with his knee as he scored in round one.

Ilias could now be in strife for the boot to the head after he was placed on report.

The Souths No.7 was having the best first-grade match of his young career up to that point, showing off a fine kicking game, crossing for a try that was disallowed due to obstruction by Tom Burgess and showing a deft touch with his passes close to the line.

The Bunnies looked like they could be smashed off the park in the early going, with Izack Tago opening the scoring in just the second minute by finishing off a sweeping movement to the left that saw half Jarome Luai punch a hole in the defence.

Before referee Ashley Klein intervened to award the Panthers an eight-point try

After he deemed Rabbitohs halfback Lachlan Ilias (left) had slammed his foot into May’s face

Stephen Crichton crossed just seven minutes later, with May adding a third seven minutes after that – but Penrith couldn’t convert any of the scores.

The Bunnies struck back through Campbell Graham after 15 minutes, with Latrell Mitchell converting, then Cody Walker kept them in it by finishing off an Alex Johnston break 20 minutes out from full time to make it 20-12.

Jarome Luai put through a sublime grubber kick under intense pressure in the 69th minute, with Liam Martin falling on the ball to put the contest away, Penrith running out 26-12 winners. 

It was a high-quality encounter full of thrilling passages of play, leading Fox commentator Dan Ginnane to brand the first 40 minutes the ‘half of the season so far’.

Mitchell showed he is steadily improving in just his second game back from a six-week suspension, but took a bizarre air swing at the ball when he first attempted to convert Walker’s try. 

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