St George-Illawarra 6 South Sydney 26
South Sydney have shaken off their early season funk. After three consecutive defeats, a slide to near the cellar of the NRL ladder and even speculation of discontent in the camp, it is not before time.
Rampaging Rabbit: Souths' Sam Burgess attacks the Dragons' defence. Photo: Getty Images
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||de Belin||Tries||1||Tries||4||Players||Burgess, Clark, Burgess, Inglis|
|Players||Widdop 1/1 (100%)||Conversions||1||Conversions||4||Players||Reynolds 4/4 (100%)|
|Players||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||1||Players||Reynolds 1/1 (100%)|
|Players||Field goals||0||Field goals||0||Players|
What Michael Maguire's men dished up wasn't excatly pretty in a 26-6 defeat of the Dragons on Saturday night but the coach will care little for aesthetics. Returning to the power game that thrust them to within a match of last year's grand final the Rabbitohs shook off the cobwebs the only way they know.
Englishman Sam Burgess might be departing the club and the country at season's end but no one can argue his mind is not on the present job at hand. He was a force to be reckoned with 28 runs and 202 metres under his belt, and topped off a dominant personal display with a try.
Thirteen days after the Major League Baseball began their season at the SCG, Souths had lobbed at the redeveloped grand old lady intent on starting theirs over again. And after three weeks of being more rocks than diamonds this was a result they desperately needed, no matter how it arrived.
The red-and-green won't be immediately re-installed as premiership favourites; they weren't overly slick, but there were good signs they may not be too far from regaining the mojo that went horribly amiss after their 28-8 hiding of the Roosters in round one.
The decision to abort captain John Sutton's early season switch to the back row looks a shrewd one for a start. With Burgess restored at lock the Rabbitohs had a full complement of fully fledged forwards at their disposal, and time and again they were able to trample their way up the ground.
Burgess led the way, and it was no surprise that when they found their way over the line it was via route one. The Englishman and his older brother Luke crossed for tries either side of half-time in similar fashion: thrown flat balls from dummy-half with the line beckoning and smaller opposition tacklers unable to withstand the tide.
The return to the halves of Sutton - in his 212th match breaking Bob McCarthy's club record - also allowed him to share some of the creative load with No.7 Adam Reynolds.
Souths were given a significant leg-up, too, via a lop-sided penalty count, which at one point early in the second half had stretched to 8-1 in their favour, leaving Dragons captain Ben Creagh somewhere between flumomoxed and furious as he approached referee Gavin Badger.
It forced Steve Price's side to cope with a weight of possession and field position against them that made life difficult and ultimately, as they tired from the task, threatened to see them opened up.
Inglis, well contained for much of the Heritage Round contest, put the finishing touches on Souths' second win of the season thanks to some smart play from hooker Apisai Koroisau, and moments later burst through into clear pastures again only for the movement to break down soon after.
There has been plenty made of the absence of the Rabbitohs' star No.9 Issac Luke and while they have certainly missed the New Zealand international - he is sidelined with a shoulder injury - the 21-year-old Fijian rep was another standout for Souths.
It was not the Dragons' evening and they will surrender their surprise spot on top of the premiership ladder, but they were able to ensure they didn't leave the famous venue scoreless when Jack de Bellin crashed over in the final six minutes.