One of the highest-profile Indigenous players in rugby league South Sydney skipper Greg Inglis landed the final blow against Dragons on Sunday to give the Telstra Competition competition leaders just their second loss of the year.
It was an impressive 24-10 effort at ANZ Stadium and being the seventh match of the NRL's Indigenous round it seemed fitting Inglis scored the last try of the afternoon - and Souths' fourth - off a Dragons fumble.
The Bunnies repelled a stack of ball at their own line while doing well to capitalise on the chances they created as their forwards more than matched the potent Dragons pack.
Back-rower Angus Crichton had his best game of the year while Sam Burgess's first game back from his second two-week suspension was a powerhouse effort in the middle.
His brothers George and Tom were also very strong and dummy-half Damien Cook just edged the battle of the NSW hooking hopefuls against Cam McInnes, who was close to his team's best behind double try-scorer Tyson Frizell.
Match: Rabbitohs v Dragons
Round 10 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
It was an off day for the Dragons halves with Ben Hunt looking less than 100% fit.
Paul McGregor for the first time this year has a few injury headaches with lock Jack De Belin (ribs) and bench utility Kurt Mann (concussion) failing to finish the game.
A powerful opening from Souths – aided by an error from Nene Macdonald from the Dragons' first play of the match – piled the early pressure on a stunned Dragons outfit.
With the big Bunnies pack pouring through the middle of the Red Vdefence, they shot out to a quick 10-0 lead courtesy of a John Sutton tap-on to Hymel Hunt in the third minute and a powerful charge into the in-goal by Crichton in the seventh.
The ensuing 20 minutes saw Souths forced to soak up plenty of Dragons attack in their own red-zone but Anthony Siebold's confident squad repelled everything the ladder-leaders threw at them, frustrating the Dragons into errors.
A rare foray back into Dragons territory resulted in a 32nd-minute penalty goal. By the time they went to the sheds holding a 12-0 half-time lead, Souths had less than 50% of possession and had to make more than four full sets worth of tackles than their opponents – many of those inside their own red zone.
It was just the second time in 2018 the Red V had been held scoreless in the first half, the previous one coming against the Warriors in round seven - their only other loss of the year.
The second half proved a try-less arm-wrestle for almost 30 minutes with another Reynolds penalty in the 59th minute the only scoring play in that period as the Dragons were continually frustrated by the Souths defence.
For the first time this year their halves looked a bit directionless with Hunt in particular below par as he looked to be struggling with a chest and leg injury.
Life was breathed into the contest when Frizell – his team's best on the day – swept up a loose pass knocked back by Sam Burgess and sprinted 90 metres to score in the 68th minute.
A curious passage of play followed in which Adam Reynolds hit the post with a penalty goal attempt which popped straight back into his arms. A couple of plays later he stabbed a short grubber from dummy half that deflected into the in-goal for Campbell Graham to score.
The Dragons – and Frizell – weren't quite done as they regathered a short kick off and McInnes produced a neat pass from dummy half for the Blues back-rower to bag his second.
With the clock winding down the Dragons needed a miracle to overcome their eight-point deficit. Instead it was the Rabbitohs that sealed an impressive win when Damien Cook's tricky kick down the sideline gave Matt Dufty a huge headache and Inglis cleaned up the scraps right on full-time.
The Dragons remain at the top of the table despite the loss while the Bunnies have stamped themselves as genuine contenders and now sit in fifth.
News & Notes.... The Rabbitohs have won 10 of their past 13 games against the Dragons... Crowd 13,062... next week Rabbitohs away to Cowboys... Dragons host Raiders next Sunday in Mudgee... today's match was the 150th for the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium and their 79th win at the venue to go with 70 losses and one draw.