South Darwin can lay early claim to Premiership favouritism after defeating Casuarina 24-21 in a torrid encounter at Rugby Park on Saturday Night.
Casuarina dominated possession and field position for the first twenty minutes but were unable to bridge the Souths defence with ball control frequently letting them down.
The first quarter also saw Souths Prop Peter Pauli and his Casuarina counterpart Eric Erickson leave the field with injuries that will rule them out of Saturday's Country of Origin clash.
When Souths finally got the ball out of their half Rhys Mulholland was able to score a few phases later.
Quincy Ulugia added the extras for a seven point lead.
A turnover by Casuarina gave the Rabbitohs only their second opportunity to apply pressure in 30 minutes of football with Tight Head Prop Tom Wright showing surprising dash to score out wide.
The conversion was unsuccessful and Souths went to the break leading 12-0.
The Cougar’s scrum was strong and ten minutes into the second period Joe Albert peeled off the back of one five metres out from the Rabbitohs line to score.
Zac Phillips converted at the score was 12-7.
Momentum was lost when Casuarina coughed up the ball from the restart and two phases later Wright was in for his second try.
Casuarina worked the ball downfield and in a carbon copy of his first try Albert was in again.
The Phillips conversion had the Cougars trailing 17-14 before a spectacular passage of play from Ryan McMurray.
The young full back drove the ball downfield from just outside his 22 metre line and was the recipient of a freakish bounce of the ball and then sent the supporting TJ Norris in under the posts and with Phillips third conversion a lead for the first time in the match.
However more dropped ball presented Souths with field position and after a string of penalties at the breakdown Tim Atkinson found a gap for Tom Hiramatsu to score and with the conversion a 24-21 victory.
The conversion by Tuaine Mamanu would be the final score of the gripping match.
Despite several periods of time-off for injuries the match was played at a frantic pace.
Casuarina’s scum was dominant but their lineout was almost a liability.
Toby George had a powerful game for the Rabbitohs as did 2013 Eric Johnston Medallist David Boyle despite the fact that 14 points were scored against his side during a ten minute period in the sin bin for a professional foul.
Albert and Bobby Nurse were outstanding for the Cougars.
University had a battle on their hands against Palmerston at the University Oval.
The Pirates won 20-17 with a penalty goal late in the game breaking a 17 all deadlock after they led 17-12 at half time.
South Darwin 24 T Wright 2 T Hiramatsu, R Mulholland Tries Q Ulugia 1 Conv T Mamanu 1 conv def Casuarina 21 J Albert 2, T Norris Tries Z Phillips 3 Conv
University 20 W Robinson S Wauchope R Venturin Tries A Heal Pen A Hean Conv def Palmerston 17 P Williams G Svanfelds M Ross Tries T Gersch-Mizen Conv
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of NT Rugby.