South Sydney continued their unbeaten run in the 2019 Telstra Premiership with a 28-20 win over the Titans on Sunday, but the Rabbitohs are now down two starting centres.
Skipper Greg Inglis (shoulder) never took to the field after withdrawing on match eve, then left centre Braidon Burns lasted only 24 minutes at ANZ Stadium before he came off with a hamstring strain. The 22-year-old was hobbling so badly in front of the eastern grandstand the medi-cab was needed to ferry him to the dressing sheds.
Coach Wayne Bennett had already shuffled his backline shifting Dane Gagai to right centre and Broncos recruit Corey Allan to the wing to accommodate the loss of Inglis. Now he will have to do some more head scratching before he names his team on Tuesday to face Manly at Lottoland on Saturday.
Kyle Turner came off the bench for Burns against the Gold Coast.
The Titans now remain the only team in the NRL not to register a win so far, after round three contained upset 'away' wins for the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Dragons. But they were far from disgraced against South Sydney, able to hold their heads much higher than the 21-0 drubbing by the Raiders or the 20-6 loss to the Sharks last week.
And Anthony Don's one-on-one strip in the 64th minute gave him his 68th try for the Titans – to become the club's highest scorer passing David Mead (67).
Match: Rabbitohs v Titans
Round 3 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Despite all the positive news, it is hard to defend some of the pinpoint kicks and passes that Souths pair Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds come up with. Lanky Rabbitohs winger Campbell Graham scored two tries on Sunday off the back of a 20-metre pass from Walker and then a gem of a corner kick by the No.6. That was all after Walker received on-field treatment by trainers for a left shoulder complaint in the 14th minute.
Souths followed the script of a top-four side playing a bottom four with a comfortable 18-8 lead at halftime.
After Walker's heroics early, Reynolds sent a long-range pass to his right-side winger Allan for was the 20-year-old's first try in the NRL. Throw in former Cowboy Ethan Lowe charging over for his first try in Rabbitohs colours in the first half and it was celebrations all round.
But the Titans didn't go into their shell – it ended up four tries apiece.
Brian Kelly burrowed over in the 24th minute and on the stroke of halftime winger Dale Copley intercepted a Damien Cook pass to race 40 metres untouched. Cook was hit late by Titans forward Keegan Hipgrave and left the field for an HIA test. He returned at the start of the second half.
Kelly scored his second in the 58th minute, which reduced the Rabbitohs lead to 10 points at 24-14 before Don got the visitors within four at 24-20.
But two penalties to Reynolds, plus the unfortunate Titans figures of 39 missed tackles and the 9-1 penalty count against them, sealed their fate.
Get caught up: Round 3