That Makes Five
Fan favourite Nathan Merritt was always a noted try-scorer for the Grand Old Club. But on a brisk night at ANZ Stadium at the back end of the 2011 season, Merritt created history and put his name alongside some of the Club's most famous legends.
Deputising at fullback for the injured Rhys Wesser, Merritt had a night to remember, putting to bed all the drubbings of the past by humiliating the hapless Parramatta defence all night all while scoring a Club record 5 tries.
Buoyed by their miracle comeback against the reigning premiers St George Illawarra the week before, the Rabbitohs were on the hunt for back-to-back wins, and came against the lowly Eels on a brisk Monday night in August.
Halfback Chris Sandow, who had signed a lucrative offer to head west at season's end, was up against his future side for the first time. In a big boost for the side, forward Dave Taylor returned from suspension, spending the previous five weeks on the sidelines.
Despite the winter chill coming in, the Rabbitohs were red-hot and shot out of the blocks as Greg Inglis sliced through the Eels' defence with ease and brushed off fullback Luke Burt seamlessly. Six-nil after two minutes? Not bad.
In the eighteenth minute Nathan Merritt crossed over off an Eddy Pettybourne offload.
Four minutes later Souths were back at the Eels end, and once again Merritt was the recipient of a pass from a teammates – this time Issac Luke providing the try from dummy half.
The Red and Green tsunami continued to crash over the feeble Eels defence, as GI went over for his second in the 27th minute, leaping above the pack to catch a Sandow bomb. 22-nil after half an hour.
The Rabbitohs continued to run riot as soon after five-eighth John Sutton broke through the line at halfway, with Inglis on his outside and Merritt on his inside. In what turned out to be one of the most defining moments of the night, Sutton threw the ball inside to Merritt, who touched down under the posts. Thirty minutes gone and the Eels had nothing. 28-nil.
Closing out the half, Sandow had his say as he took a Jason Clark inside ball, making a clean break and sidestepping Burt to put the boot in his future teammates. The lead extended to 34-nil as the sides went into the sheds, with Inglis taking a first half double and Merritt with a hat-trick.
Just four minutes into the second stanza, Dylan Farrell crossed over in the corner thanks to a cut-out pass from Merritt to make it 38-nil. The Eels hit back thanks to a lucky bounce of the ball over the crossbar, but the scoreboard still read that Souths were dominating their opponents.
With just over ten minutes to go, it was on again, as Sutton put Taylor through a yawning gap on the left hand side of the field. With Burt looming in, Taylor threw a pass to – you guessed it – Nathan Merritt.
It was the first time in his ten-year career that Merritt had bagged four tries in a match – but the foot wasn't going to be taken off the pedal just yet.
Five minutes from fulltime, an Issac Luke break up the middle, sent Merritt through, offloading to Inglis who gave young gun Chris McQueen a free pass to the line, bringing on the half century.
And if that wasn't enough, with less than two minutes left, Luke Burgess put the mercurial fullback through a gap, finishing the night on a high.
That makes five.
Souths had recorded their biggest ever win against the Eels, downing them 56-6 on what was a cold Monday night in August.
The proud Redfern local and Souths Junior became the seventh player in Club history to record five tries in a match, ironically against the same opponents both Ian Moir and Eric had in separate games in 1957.
But Merritt's effort is a different story. He became the first man in Red and Green to put on five tries against an opposition in the professional era, after the Eels had giving us numerous hidings and treated us with disrespect. He was the first to do so in over half a century.
Some may cite Merritt's speed, his natural ability or his anticipation as his best traits. But it was his post-match interview that showed the attribute worth noting most – his honesty.
"It's a great achievement for me personally," he said.
"It's something that I'll probably look back on when I'm retired.
"I'll probably soak it in then, but I'm just soaking in the win tonight."
After 237 matches, 154 tries scored, as well as Club record 145 for the Rabbitohs, Merritt very well may be soaking it in right now.
Match Report supplied by Michael Curin
Five tries from fullback Nathan Merritt helped a rampant South Sydney humiliate a woeful Parramatta by 56 points to 6 in a one-sided match at the ANZ Stadium. Merritt became the seventh Souths player to score five tries as the Rabbitohs chalked up their biggest win over a Parramatta team, who are in danger of claiming the wooden spoon for the first time in 39 years.
Harold Horder achieved the same feat twice (both in 1917), Alan Quinlivan did in 1936, Don Mason in 1937, Johnny Graves in 1949, and Ian Moir and Eric Sladden both did in 1957. John Lang's men were also boosted by barnstorming performances from Queensland State of Origin pair, David Taylor, back from a five-game suspension, and Greg Inglis, who scored twice, as the Rabbitohs outscored the sorry Eels by 10 tries to one. Souths are now just four points off a top-eight spot, but must play high-flying North Queensland in addition to visiting Brisbane and Newcastle in three of their last four matches.
However, they will head into Sunday's clash with Canberra full of confidence after following up last week's comeback victory over St George Illawarra with a blistering display. Inglis opened the scoring after three minutes, brushing aside feeble challenges from Casey McGuire and Luke Burt to breeze his way to the line. Merritt then ran in two tries in three minutes, before Inglis hauled in a Chris Sandow chip-kick to effectively end the game as a contest in the 28th minute as the Queensland centre and Taylor continued to destroy the Eels' left side.
Merritt completed his hat-trick in the 31st minute following some terrible defending from the Eels, and matters got worse for Stephen Kearney's side five minutes before the break when Sandow added a sixth try as the Rabbitohs dominated in every aspect of the game and take a 34-0 lead at the break.. Sandow, who will join the Eels next season, gave their long-suffering fans some encouragement for 2012, with a 40-metre burst, sidestepping Burt to score, before kicking his fifth goal of the opening half.
The Rabbitohs picked up where they left off in the second half with David 'the Coal Train' Taylor almost crossing for a try, only to be denied by the video referee in the second minute of the half. Three minutes later the Rabbitohs kept the scoreboard attendant busy, scoring another try, this time through right winger Dylan Farrell. The Rabbitohs missed another chance to score in the 52nd minute when a high ball went begging, and three minutes later the Eels scored their only four pointer of the match through their fullback, Luke Burt.
The lucky try, after the ball bounced off the crossbar into Burts hands, was converted by the try scorer, taking the scores to 38-6 after 56 minutes. Second-bottom Parramatta are now just a single point in front of Gold Coast and their clash with the Titans in round 26 is shaping up as a battle to avoid finishing last.
South Sydney 56 (N.Merritt 5, G.Inglis 2, C.Sandow, D.Farrell, C.McQueen tries; Sandow 8 goals)
Parramatta 6 (L.Burt try; goal)