Bunnies oust Manly to reach grand final

South Sydney have stormed into the NRL grand final with a 36-16 win over Manly.
South Sydney have stormed into the NRL grand final with a 36-16 win over Manly.

Adam Reynolds barely kicked a ball as South Sydney brushed aside Manly 36-16 to break a run of three-straight NRL preliminary final losses and help vindicate Wayne Bennett's coaching reputation.

After getting the Rabbitohs to a grand final in his third year at the club, Bennett said he hopes Friday's win helps repay Souths for the faith they showed in him despite claims Brisbane attempted to undermine him for the job three years ago.

In a stunning post-match press conference, the ex-Broncos coach said his former club attempted to sabotage his opportunity to coach Souths, but they hired him anyway.

"I will say publicly, they undermined me in their conversations with Souths," he said.

"They didn't do a little job on me, they did the best job they could.

"But to Souths credit, there was some people who had worked with me there before and they were happy to bite the bullet and give me the opportunity.

"I owe Russell Crowe, and hopefully tonight is part of the repayment."

A premiership would be even better.

Departing halfback Reynolds barely kicked a ball on Friday night but it didn't matter.

The skipper was clearly hampered with a groin injury that nearly ruled him out of the game.

Fullback Blake Taaffe assumed goal-kicking duties and five-eighth Cody Walker called the shots in general play as Friday night's Suncorp Stadium rout earned the Rabbitohs a grand final berth.

That pair, along with game-breaking hooker Damien Cook, ensured the No.7 will get a crack at a second premiership before leaving for Brisbane next season.

In just his seventh game, Taaffe was sublime in place of suspended Latrell Mitchell and Walker scored two first-half tries to set up a date with either Penrith or Melbourne in next Sunday's title decider.

The victory earned record-breaking Bennett a shot at an eighth title in a 10th grand final appearance.

He'll be the first to coach four different clubs in a grand final and could become the first to win with three different clubs.

Manly's bus was stuck in traffic in a delay that pushed the game back 15 minutes and their night didn't improve, Des Hasler's men denied two tries in a first half that saw them with just 36 per cent of the ball.

Walker scored after his own grubber kick after a pin-ball on the line and then, after Reuben Garrick had a try disallowed because of an obstruction, the Rabbitohs crossed again through Alex Johnston.

Tom Trbojevic had put Garrick over for the first disallowed try and the Manly fullback then had one of his own turned away, spilling the ball with three desperate Rabbitohs clinging on as he fell over the line.

Souths hooker Cook's bit of brilliance, grubbering on the run off his non-preferred left foot, set up Walker's second try before Jaxson Paulo's try made it 22-0 at halftime.

A Manly comeback was given life when winger Garrick scored first after the break, but that was snuffed out when Campbell Graham barged over in front of the 26,249-strong crowd in Brisbane.

Trbojevic did have some joy with a runaway try, his 28th this season, breaking Phil Blake's club record before Garrick and Johnston both completed try doubles at the death.

"We probably didn't do ourselves any favours in that first half, we afforded them to much field position and they capitalised on that," said Hasler.

"Those two disallowed tries, we probably needed one of those."

Australian Associated Press