A first half hat trick to Alex Johnston has been the highlight of today’s clash with the Penrith Panthers, with South Sydney going into half time with a 24 points to eight lead.
The Rabbitohs kicked off and met the Panthers with some solid defence in the opening set but it was the mountain men who would get the upper hand on the scoreboard early in the piece.
The Panthers were the first to post points from an eighth minute penalty goal to Nathan Cleary, followed three minutes later when Matt Moylan scored from a dubious long ball from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. Cleary converted to take the Panthers’ lead out to eight points.
A fracas broke out in the 16th minute of play which saw South Sydney captain Sam Burgess and Penrith winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak both sent to the sin bin for slapping.
The Rabbitohs struck almost immediately when an errant Moylan pass was scooped up by Alex Johnston who raced 90 metres to score adjacent to the uprights. Adam Reynolds converted from close range to reduce the deficit to two points midway through the first half.
Both side through everything at each other for the next ten minutes, but it would be the men in red and green who would snatch the lead in the 32nd minute through a try to rookie winger Braidon Burns. Reynolds targeted his former under 20s team mate, Josh Mansour, with a pin-point cross field kick, allowing Burns to fly above Mansour’s head to score against his former club. Reynolds slotted the conversion from the eastern touch line to give the Rabbitohs a 12-8 lead.
The Rabbitohs would extend that lead just before the half time break with another super-accurate cross field kick from Reynolds finding the arms of John Sutton who threw a cut-out pass for Alex Johnstone to touch down for his second of the afternoon. Reynolds converted from the western touch line this time to take the score lien to 18-8 in favour of South Sydney.
Souths were not finished yet for the half with Alex Johnston crossing for his third try of the half in the 40th minute of play. Sam Burgess popped a miracle offload to Cody Walker who charged through a hole and kicked into the open space, Johnston winning the foot race to score. Reynolds converted to take the half time scoreboard to 24-8 in favour of the good guys.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 (Alex Johnston 3, Braidon Burns tries; Adam Reynolds 4 goals)
Penrith Panthers 8 (Matt Moylan try; Nathan Cleary 2 goals)