Wests Tigers held a handy 22-10 lead with 20 minute remaining, but Souths came back with two tries against the run of play, and capped it off with a tremendous field goal from winger Nathan Merritt with zero time left on the clock.
Played as part of the National Rugby League's Heritage Round, the two sides met pre-match alongside some of the game's greats that competed when underdogs Balmain Tigers downed a powerful South Sydney team in the 1969 grand final.
But the Tigers struck back with two tries to winger Taniela Tuiaki to put Souths on the back foot.
Despite the lack of possession and field position, Souths kept in touch with winger Fetuli Talanoa scoring in the 39th minute to make it 10-all at the break.
Wests continued to dominate after the break and successfully kept Souths out of the match during the next 20 minutes, racing away to a 22-10 lead courtesy of a standout performance from Robbie Farah. Farah bamboozled the defence from dummy half and made a wonderful break on top of scoring a try in the 47th minute.
South Sydney's woes deepened when halfback Chris Sandow was forced from the field with a knee injury in the 59th minute.
But in a reversal of fortunes, Souths came back through Talanoa who leapt high enough to get the points. Centre Beau Champion then ran through a huge gap to make it 22-all with under four minutes remaining.
Merritt's field goal in the 80th minute from 30 metres out brought the 30,000-strong crowd to their feet, capping off an exciting afternoon of football.
Match Details South Sydney Rabbitohs 23 def Wests Tigers 22 Round 10 - Sunday :: May 17th, 2009 3:00pm Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground Referee: Jason Robinson & Ashley Klein Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis & Paul Holland Video Referee: Sean Hampstead Crowd: 29,970 Half time: 10 all
Wests Tigers 22 Tries: Taniela Tuiaki (2), Robbie Farah, Tim Moltzen Goals: Benji Marshall (3/3) South Sydney Rabbitohs 23 Tries: Fetuli Talanoa (2), Beau Champion, David Fa'alogo Field Goals: Nathan Merritt (1/1) Goals: Chris Sandow (1/2), Issac Luke (2/2)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
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TIGERS: 1. Tim Moltzen 2. Taniela Tuiaki 3. Dean Collis 4. Dene Halatau 5. Beau Ryan 6. John Morris 7. Benji Marshall 8. Bryce Gibbs 9. Robbie Farah 10. Keith Galloway 11. Gareth Ellis 12. Chris Heighington 13. Todd Payten Interchange: 14. Rhys Hanbury 15. Corey Payne 16. Rocky Trimarchi 17. Daine Laurie; Reserves: 18. Danny Galea RABBITOHS: 1. Luke Capewell 2. Nathan Merritt 3. Beau Champion 4. Colin Best 5. Fetuli Talanoa 6. Craig Wing 7. Chris Sandow 8. Luke Stuart 9. Isaac Luke 10. Roy Asotasi 11. David Kidwell 12. David Fa'alogo 13. Michael Crocker Interchange: 14. Jamie Simpson 15. Jaiman Lowe 16. Eddy Pettybourne 17. Scott Geddes; Reserves: 18. Shannon McPherson
A few team changes including Isaac Luke to the bench, Jamie Simpson to start. Gallant to fullback, Moltzen to centres, Trimarchi to the front row. Mataka to debut off the bench, replacing the injured Galea.
Great atmosphere at the SCG, and an excellent advertisement for the NRL Heritage Round as two old rivals face off against other. Chatter around the ground with fans reminicsing about the South Sydney Rabbitohs v Balmain Tigers grand final in 1969.
National Anthem done. Players lining up to play. Tigers to kick off.
4 min: Rabbitohs under the hammer early on but survive.
5 min: Souths lock Michael Crocker hit high and ready to go the biff. Rabbitohs get the penalty, and launch a raid down the Tigers' end.
14 min: TRY Wests Tigers Taniela Tuiaki runs over the top of Nathan Merritt to score for the Wests Tigers. Follows a charge down. Conversion attempt by Benji Marshall hit uprights and is unsuccessful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 6-4
30 min: INJURY NEWS - Confirmation that Galloway will not be returning.
39 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Fetuli Talanoa scores a beaut try courtesy of a Craig Wing pass that put Colin Best into space. Scored against the run of play. Talanoa follows the try with a some impressive threatrics of tumbles and hurdles. Conversion attempt by Sandow unsuccessful. 10 all
Half time: 10-all Plenty of errors from both sides but a very entertaining match. Tigers enjoying 56% possession and a greater completion rate, but have allowed Souths back into the match. Up for grabs!
Second half underway...
44 min: Tigers with an overlap. Tuiaki looks to be in for a hat trick but couldn't handle an ordinary pass from Marshall.
50 min: TRY Wests Tigers Tim Moltzen scores. A chip over the top, and speculator pass from Beau Ryan, sets up an extraordinary try. Wide conversion attempt by Marshall is a ripper as it just clears the crossbar. Wests Tigers 22-10
52 min: Farah makes a great break, but it ends with what looks like a head clash with a defender. Farah goes down and the Medicab is called. But Farah is sitting up and should be OK. In fact, the Medicab is sent away minus its patient.
59 min: INJURY NEWS - South Sydney's Chris Sandow looks to have twisted his knee and he is going off. Huge blow to the Rabbitohs. They've seen very little ball and have been under the pump for the most of the second half thus far.
64 min: Tuiaki just short as the Tigers through Marshall attack on the last tackle, and come within a whisker of scoring.
65 min: Now it's the Rabbitohs' turn as Merritt chips ahead and threatens the line. End-to-end stuff.
70 min: Souths on the attack, Jamie Simpson knocks on and Tigers are off the hook.
71 min: Counterpunch from Tigers as Tuiaki makes a huge bust downfield. Great if not desperate defence from Souths saves the day but they look out on their feet.
72 min: Tigers setting up for a field goal but a breakdown in communication sees an end to that. Souths still in this.
76 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Centre Beau Champion goes through a yawning gap to score next to the posts! Marshall seems to be the one fooled by the step. Conversion attempt by Luke successful and we're all locked up with three minutes to go! 22 all
Full time: Rabbitohs 23-22 Amazing scenes here at the SCG as Souths have snatched a win against the odds. Tigers players and fans are shattered, Rabbitohs fans are ecstatic. A more thrilling encounter that the 1969 grand final, and a reversal of fortunes for the South Sydney side.