Sam Burgess and Aaron Woods get up close and personal. Photo: Getty Images
Wests Tigers players believe they have earned respect from rival teams after refusing to be bullied by an aggressive South Sydney team they accused of resorting to "nasty" tactics because they were losing Friday night's match at ANZ Stadium.
Motivated by talk about how their forwards would be no match for the monster Souths pack, the Tigers were determined not to let their rivals intimidate them - and skipper Robbie Farah and fullback James Tedesco said they had sent a message to the rest of the NRL competition with their 25-16 win.
Rabbitohs shocked by Tigers
An injury to Greg Inglis put the Rabbitohs on the back foot early against an impressive Tigers side. Photo: Anthony Johnson
"It wasn't us that got nasty," Farah said after a game in which five players were placed on report and three, including Rabbitohs superstar Greg Inglis, failed to finish due to concussion.
"There was a bit of emotion involved, we didn't want to take a backward step and I don't think we took a backward step all night. That is why we won the game. Everyone talks about their pack but I would like to give my pack some credit, they were enormous tonight.
"We came here tonight not to get bullied. We knew tonight we needed to come out and earn some respect and I thought we did that. They are an intimidating pack, that is the way they play and in the past that might have got the better of us but again credit to our pack. We matched them and that is why we won the game.
"I think it probably got a little bit out of control because they weren't happy about losing the game. I guess they are not used to losing, they are a successful side and it did get a bit fiery."
Tedesco, who was the victim of a several high tackles, said the Tigers had wanted to make a statement by refusing the let the Rabbitohs outmuscle them.
"When we were on top, they got a bit angry towards the end there and there were a few high shots," he said. "Our forwards sort of stuck it to them and they weren't used to that. Everyone talks about their pack and how big they are and our pack is doing awesome.
"We talked about that, this was going to be the benchmark, Souths is a good team at the moment and if we could come out here and stick it to them like we did then teams are going to start taking us seriously. We did that so a lot of teams are going to be worried about us at the moment."
Despite centre Tim Simona (high tackle) and forward James Gavet (kneeing) being placed on report, Wests coach Mick Potter said: "It's a contact sport and sometimes you have to sail close to the wind, and I don't think I would want it any other way".
The Tigers completed 36 of their 42 sets, while Souths failed to get to the last tackle on 15 occasions and had to make 295 tackles compared to 230 by Wests.
"I thought our defence was very good," Potter said. "I thought we met them on the advantage line and I thought we matched them in the middle with metres when we've got the ball. It gave us a little bit of room for our backs to play a little bit more. I thought our forwards outplayed their forwards tonight."
Potter said he was surprised Simona had been placed on report for a tackle that forced Inglis from the field after just five minutes, while he could not understand how winger Pat Richards was not awarded a penalty try after being hit high by Ben Lowe as he dived for the line.
"The only reason he didn't score was because he got head-highed so for me it seemed logical you award a [penalty] try," Potter said. "I am disappointed that wasn't ruled like that. Another disappointing thing is that you lose your player [Richards] because he was head-highed.