Alex Johnston etched his name into South Sydney folklore tonight when he equalled the Club’s try scoring record for one match, scoring five tries in the Rabbitohs’ 42-14 victory over the Penrith Panthers at ANZ Stadium today (Sunday).
14,103 Members and fans watched Johnston put his name in lights next to Club champions such as Harold Horder, Alan Quinlivan, Don Manson, Johnny Graves, Ian Moir, Eric Sladden and modern day hero Nathan Merritt with his five-try effort today in round 17.
It was Adam Reynolds who controlled the game for the Rabbitohs as the forwards laid the platform for the Rabbitohs backs to tear apart the Panthers’ defence.
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 line 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.
The Rabbitohs started the second half the way the finished the first, with Alex Johnston scoring his fourth try of the game in the second minute of the half. Angus Crichton made a huge bust up the right edge and some hot potato footy led Braidon Burns to get an offload away in traffic. The ball made its way to Reynolds who kicked to the left, finding Sam Burgess who offloaded to Johnston, who strolled over for his fourth. Reynolds converted from out wide to establish a 22-point lead.
Another left side try to the Rabbitohs came in the 49th minute when Adam Reynolds made a break up the middle, then on the next play changed the angle of the attack and put in a perfect short kick behind the line for Sam Burgess to score.
In the 60th minute, Alex Johnston equalled the Club record for the number of tries scored in one match, crossing for his fifth try of the match, which started from a Damien Cook offload. Reynolds converted from in front to establish a 42-8 lead.
The Rabbitohs’ attack was on song in the second stanza, but their defence was equally as strong, holding out the Panthers who were consistently attacking in South Sydney’s half for over 15 minutes.
The Panthers managed to score a consolation try in the penultimate minute of the match with Josh Mansour scoring off a grubber kick from Waqa Blake. Cleary converted to take the final score line to South Sydney 42 – Penrith 14.
Adam Reynolds performed close to his best today, controlling the tempo of the game and the position of the ball with his kicking accuracy. He played a major hand in more than half of the Rabbitohs’ seven tries either with his boot, his pass selection or his running game.
The Rabbitohs now have a short turnaround before taking on their traditional rivals and neighbours, the Sydney Roosters, on Friday night at Allianz Stadium.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 42 (Alex Johnston 5, Braidon Burns, Sam Burgess tries; Adam Reynolds 7 goals)
Penrith Panthers 14 (Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour tries; Nathan Cleary 3 goals)