Club legend Alex Johnston's 11th career hat-trick led the Rabbitohs to a 30-16 win over the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday.
Johnston crossed for the 150th try of his career as the Rabbitohs racked up their seventh win of the season while Blues reps Damien Cook and Cameron Murray put the disappointment of Wednesday night's loss behind them to lead from the front.
The Bunnies' big guns got into the game early with Cody Walker floating a long cutout pass over to Johnston who cut back in on his left foot and crossed for his 12th try of the season.
In the 15th minute the home side hit back when powerhouse winger Greg Marzhew steamrolled Jaxson Paulo and evaded Taane Milne to cross in the left corner. Jamayne Isaako missed the conversion so Souths led 6-4.
Paulo made amends six minutes later when he grabbed a try of his own, soaring high to pull down a Lachlan Ilias bomb and the Rabbitohs were out to 12-4.
Wizard Walker finds Johnston
The identical play almost paid dividends again for Souths in the 36th minute when Paulo tapped an llias kick down to Keaon Koloamatangi who got over the line but was denied by good scramble defence from Isaako and Brian Kelly.
After leading 12-4 at the break it took the Bunnies just three minutes to extend their lead when Johnston made it a double courtesy of slick hands by Walker and Campbell Graham.
Down 18-4 and with the game slipping away from his team it was skipper Tino Fa'asuamaleaui who got the Titans back into it when he stormed onto a Tanah Boyd pass from close range to score and the margin was back to eight.
Quick-hands sees speedster Johnston score his second
With 19 minutes to go Cook who stamped his class on the game when he jumped out of dummy half and turned centre Milne underneath for a try which took Souths out to a 24-10 lead.
Bunnies coach Jason Demetriou took Cook from the field in the 68th minute with 46 tackles, a try assist and 61 running metres to his name.
Nine minutes from full-time Johnston made it 11 career hat-tricks when he collected a perfectly timed pass from Walker and the Bunnies were home and hosed at 30-16.
Fa'asuamaleaui crossed for his second try late in the game to add some respectability to the scoreline but the damage had been done.
The Rabbitohs' win gave prop Tom Burgess the perfect gift in his 200th game and the Englishman contributed in a big way with 177 metres from 15 runs.
Big Tino can't be stopped
- Tom Burgess played his 200th game for the Rabbitohs. The Englishman sits seventh on the list of games played all-time for the foundation club. Burgess' fellow 2014 premiership winner John Sutton sits atop that list with 336 games.
- Maroons rep Tino Fa'asuamaleaui entered the fray in the 34th minute after starting the game on the bench and ripped in all day for the Titans with 177 run metres and two tries.
- Greg Marzhew produced a stunning first half for the Titans, running for 156 metres and breaking eight tackles to go with a try. He finished with 236 metres and 13 tackle breaks.
Match: Titans v Rabbitohs
Round 14 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
- Alex Johnston became the 15th player in premiership history to score 150 tries.
- The Rabbitohs have won their past seven games against the Titans.
- Campbell Graham made another case for a possible Blues Origin call-up with 18 runs for 203 metres.
- Cameron Murray played 46 minutes backing up from Origin, making 32 tackles and running for 78 metres.
Hat-trick hero Johnston continues to sparkle
Play of the Game
Alex Johnston gets plenty of headlines for his incredible tryscoring feats and rightly so, but young flyer Jaxson Paulo is putting together a nice highlight reel of his own and he added to it in the 21st minute, climbing high to pull down a Lachlan Ilias bomb and plunging over for his 16th career try in just his 33rd NRL game. The 22-year-old has good size and speed and knows how to sniff out a try, making him the perfect foil for the club's all-time greatest tryscorer on the other wing.
Paulo takes flight
What They Said
"Tonight we did what we needed to do. There was a period in the second half where we upped our intensity in defence and that led to Alex Johnston and Taane Milne's tries and as I said to the players that's a pretty good sign of the level we are at when we are able to go up a notch when we need to. It's always tricky when you come in after a bye and a week off to get that energy level where you need it be straight away." - Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou
Rabbitohs: Round 14
"We tried hard, we just lacked a bit of class out there. Doesn't help losing AJ [Brimson] yesterday, we just needed an extra spark out there, whether it's AJ or Jayden Campbell or Dave Fifita ... we competed hard, the forwards were enormous, Tino was unbelievable, Greg Marzhew fantastic. We had a lot of guys that tried hard but we just couldn't come up with a lot. I know we got beaten but I feel there's definitely improvement but we just missed one of our better players to spark us in the end." - Titans coach Justin Holbrook
Titans: Round 14
The Titans travel down to the NSW north coast for a clash with the Sharks, who have taken a home game to Coffs Harbour. Winger Corey Thompson is expected back after he was rested from today's game with a knee injury. Kevin Proctor is also a chance to return from a triceps injury. The Titans faced the Sharks a month ago at Cbus Super Stadium and went down 25-18 in a tight contest.
The Rabbitohs are in Wollongong to renew their rivalry with old rivals the Dragons. The first meeting between the sides in round five resulted in a 24-12 win to the Rabbitohs with nine players racking up more than 100 running metres, led by Taane Milne with 173m. Star fullback Latrell Mitchell could be in the frame for a return after he was struck down by COVID after getting back from the USA.