Latrell Mitchell is facing a lengthy suspension ahead of the NRL finals series after the South Sydney fullback was sin-binned in the Rabbitohs’ dramatic 54-12 defeat of the Sydney Roosters in Brisbane.
In Friday night’s earlier match in Mackay, Canberra kept its finals hopes alive with a 28-16 comeback win over the Warriors.
Mitchell’s high shot on Joey Manu in the second half left the Roosters centre with potentially season-ending facial injuries.
Manu was furious as he twice attempted to approach Mitchell while leaving the field at Lang Park.
With loading from previous incidents — he missed four matches earlier this year on a dangerous contact charge and copped a grade-two striking charge last season — Mitchell could miss at least the first three weeks of finals if handed a grade-two dangerous contact charge.
The contest between the traditional rival clubs was mild in the first half, with Mitchell’s first try against his former side giving South Sydney a 24-6 lead at the break.
It afforded the Rabbitohs the luxury of replacing halfback Adam Reynolds, who had earlier hyper-extended his knee after an innocuous slip.
But with Reynolds off the field, the injury-hit Roosters lifted, with Sam Verrills’s try making the score 24-12 and sparking the contest to life.
Then came Mitchell’s effort on Manu, before Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett brought Reynolds back onto the field in a move that immediately dashed any hopes of a Roosters comeback.
It did not douse the flames though, with Mitchell slamming the ball to the ground close to a prone Roosters player after his second try.
Dane Gagai and Sitili Tupouniua were both then sin-binned for a scuffle in the final minutes to cap a turbulent second half that also included a nasty concussion to Ben Thomas and potential knee injury to Roosters teammate Siosiua Taukeiaho.
Thomas’s first tackle of the second half went awry, while Ben Knight was also reported for his role in the tackle that awkwardly rolled Taukeiaho’s knee.
Amid all the drama, Alex Johnston scored three tries for the Rabbitohs, taking his season total to an NRL-high 27.
Forward Mark Nicholls also scored a double inside five minutes in the first half.
The Roosters had entered the match with 11 players on their injury list. Their valiant fight to remain in the top four appears vulnerable with Manly able to replace them if they beat Canterbury on Sunday.
Raiders win to stay in finals race
The Raiders fought back from a 16-0 first-half deficit against the Warriors to score five unanswered tries, including two in the final two minutes of the match.
Canberra is provisionally in eighth position on the ladder ahead of its regular-season finale against Sydney Roosters.
But the finals dream is over for the Warriors, who could not back up the blistering start they made to the match.
They clearly struggled after losing Chad Townsend to a shoulder injury in the 48th minute.
With the scores locked up at 16-16, both sides appeared to squander chances to ice the result.
Canberra’s Jordan Rapana missed a 72nd-minute penalty kick, while Warriors star Reece Walsh sprayed a field-goal attempt five minutes later.
But in the end the Raiders triumphed after Rapana (78th minute) and Hudson Young (80th minute) crossed for tries, snapping Canberra’s two-match losing run.
Sebastian Kris scored two tries for the Raiders earlier in the second half, while Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad posted their first four-pointer just before half-time.
Sean O’Sullivan, Rocco Berry and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak scored the Warriors’ tries, all coming inside the opening 23 minutes of the match.