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The South Sydney Rabbitohs remain undefeated for the opening three rounds of the 2013 Telstra Premiership, knocking over the Penrith Panthers 44 points to 32 in the heat at Centrebet Stadium today (Sunday).

The Rabbitohs ran in eight tries, including another career hat trick to winger Nathan Merritt, in front of a crowd of 12,940 Members and supporters.

The Rabbitohs started the game on fire, scoring their first try in the fourth minute through powerful five-eighth John Sutton. The Rabbitohs had strong field position from a penalty, and from the ensuing set had the ball five minutes out from the Panthers' line to the right of the posts. The ball found Sutton at first receiver, who picked out two big forwards between which to run, dragging them both over the line to score under the posts. Halfback Adam Reynolds converted from in front to take the score to six-nil in as many minutes.

From the kick off the Rabbitohs attacked the Panthers' defence, with Sutton again dragging defenders up field on his back. The Rabbitohs shifted the ball to the left, and again deep in Panthers territory, put on a blind side play that went from Sutton to Bryson Goodwin, who found Nathan Merritt, who danced his way through the defence to score in the seventh minute of play. Reynolds converted to take the lead out to 12-nil.

The Panthers struck back in the 13th minute, making the most of a Rabbitohs' error 30 metres out from their own line. The Panthers worked the ball forward, with prop Sam McKendry charging onto the ball from close range to score under the posts. Halfback Luke Walsh converted from in front to reduce the deficit to six points.

Penrith scored back-to-back tries when Brad Tighe turned the defence inside-out on a 50 metre run to score under the posts. Walsh converted from in front to level the scores at 12-all.

The Rabbitohs re-established their lead with a 21st minute try to Andrew Everingham. Panthers winger David Simmons made a simple error ten metres out from his own line, in front of the posts, giving South Sydney prime field position. The Rabbitohs worked the ball up around the middle, before Issac Luke put on a run-around play to make extra numbers on the right. Greg Inglis chimed into the back line, finding Dylan Farrell who drew the defence before putting Everingham away in the south-west corner of Centrebet Stadium. The video referee agreed that the try was scored, and Reynolds' sideline conversion gave the Rabbitohs a six-point lead.

Five minutes later, South Sydney scored again, this time through centre Bryson Goodwin. Goodwin managed to get himself into position to take on opposite number Wes Naiqama, putting on some footwork to get outside him and race 20 metres to score. Reynolds converted from a difficult position again to take the score out to 24-12 with 12 minutes left in the half.

It was only a handful of tackles later, from the kick off, that the Rabbitohs mounted their next attacking raid. The men in red and green shifted the ball to the left, finding Inglis who put two perfect fends on Luke Walsh and Sika Manu to make a huge line break. Inglis raced 60 metres up the left edge, before passing outside to Merritt who finished off the try in the left hand corner, taking the scores to 28-12.

The Panthers struck back with a highly-unusual try in the 35th minute to right winger David Simmons. Second rower Lewis Brown broke the line down the left side of the field, finding Brad Tighe in support. Tighe kicked into the open back field, but the bounce of the ball evaded the Panthers, landing in the arms of Dylan Farrell. Farrell appeared to be out-of-sorts as he collected the ball, and in the one-on-one tackle by James Segeyaro, was stripped of the ball. The Panthers swung the ball to the right, to see Simmons score in the right corner. Walsh's conversion attempt hit the posts and the Rabbitohs remained in the lead by 28 points to 16.

The Rabbitohs were not finished scoring for the half, with Greg Inglis racing away to score the 99th try of his career in the 39th minute of the game. Around half way, Issac Luke popped out of dummy half to the right side of the ruck, switching the play back to Sutton on the left. Segeyaro raced out of the line to put a hit on Sutton, but Sutton popped a ball inside to an at-pace Inglis who hit the hole perfectly, racing 40 metres to score adjacent to the posts. Reynolds converted giving South Sydney a 34 points to 16 lead at the half time break.

The Rabbitohs were working very hard in the heat in Penrith, putting on a solid defensive display sparing the two line breaks made down the western touchline.

The forward packs were sorting each other out, but the Rabbitohs backline looked too classy in the first forty minutes.

The Rabbitohs made the most of their 57% share of possession in the first half, scoring six first half four-pointers.

Unfortunately for the Rabbitohs, a majority of the second half saw them drop off their intensity in defence, and loose carries were killing off chances to post points.

The Rabbitohs were mounting plenty of pressure in the opening ten minutes of the second half, but a those loose balls were thwarting opportunities to pile on more points.

The Panthers were the first to register points in the second half, with Simmons scoring his second try in the 52nd minute. A long break from replacement forward Adam Docker set up the field position, and a repeat set of six on the Rabbitohs' goal line gave the Panthers an opportunity to score. The Rabbitohs were caught short in defence on the left hand side, giving Simmons a four-pointer in the right corner. Walsh missed the conversion to take the scores to 34-20 in favour of South Sydney.

Dylan Farrell sent the kick off over the dead ball line on the full, giving the Panthers ideal field position straight after scoring points, but am obstruction penalty finished off that chance, relieving the pressure from the red and greens.

The pressure remained on Souths however, with loose handling hurting the Rabbitohs.

The Panthers scored next when former Rabbitohs players James Segeyaro spun out of a tackle under the posts in the 65th minute, and Walsh's conversion brought the home side within eight points with less than 15 minutes remaining on the clock.

The Rabbitohs defended a couple of sets on their own line, but they could not make it a third as Wes Naiqama scored a try in the 70th minute of play. The ball came out to the right, Naiqama getting outside his opposite number to score in the right hand corner. Walsh converted from the western touch line to take the score line to 34-32 in favour of the Rabbitohs.

The Rabbitohs perservered and put the pressure on the Panthers with their defence, forcing two errors. The second error, committed by Brad Tighe, would prove to be costly.

On the third play from the scrum, the ball was swung to the right. Sam Burgess stood in a tackle and offloaded to Reynolds, creating the opportunity. Reynolds passed to Ben Te'o on the right, who set a course for the line, bumping off defenders to score his first try for South Sydney in the 76th minute of play. Reynolds converted, taking the score line to 40-32 in favour of Souths.

The Rabbitohs were not finished there, with Merritt scoring his third try for the afternoon in the 79th minute of play. Sam Burgess switched the play back behind the ruck to the blind side, finding John Sutton. Sutton tipped the ball on to Ben Lowe who found Merritt on the left wing, giving him a saloon passage to the try line, finishing the scoring at Rabbitohs 44 - Panthers 32.

The Rabbitohs' defence and ball control was severely depleted in the second half, areas in which the side will need to improve before next week's Good Friday clash with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

The Rabbitohs did however run in a mountain of points, displaying their attacking prowess on numerous occasions.

South Sydney Rabbitohs 44 (Nathan Merritt 3, John Sutton, Andrew Everingham, Bryson Goodwin, Greg Inglis, Ben Te'o tries; Adam Reynolds 6 goals)


Penrith Panthers 32 (David Simmons 2, Sam McKendry, Brad Tighe, James Segeyaro, Wes Naiqama tries; Luke Walsh 4 goals)