Alex Johnston became South Sydney's greatest ever tryscorer as a second-half surge gave the Rabbitohs a 44-18 win over Wests Tigers at Accor Stadium on Saturday night.
Johnston's hat-trick and a double to Cody Walker were the catalysts for the Bunnies' win, avenging a loss to the Tigers just five weeks ago.
Hat-trick hero Johnston becomes Rabbitohs all-time leading try scorer
As the game celebrates Indigenous Round it was fitting that Johnston and Walker stood tall and steadied Souths' season after three losses in their previous five games.
The Tigers got away to a flyer when Asu Kepaoa intercepted a Lachlan Ilias pass and raced 90 metres to grab the opening try of the night in the sixth minute.
Veteran Tigers winger Ken Maumalo then made it a double strike when he touched down in the left hand corner after Jackson Hastings launched a bomb which Brent Naden tapped down to Daine Laurie who found his skipper.
A penalty goal to Luke Brooks in the 15th minute extended the Tigers' lead to 12-0 before the Rabbitohs hit back in the 24th minute through prolific winger Alex Johnston, finishing off some slick lead-up work by Cameron Murray, Cody Walker and Campbell Graham.
Johnston try took his career tally to 145, just short of Nathan Merritt as the Rabbitohs' greatest ever tryscorer.
With six minutes remaining in the first half the Rabbitohs drew level when Siliva Havili crashed over from close range and Kodi Nikorima knocked over the conversion.
Havili crashes over
The Tigers regained the lead on the stroke of half-time when Laurie produced a superb cut-out pass to put Maumalo over for his second try of the night and 10th of the season.
A spilled bomb by Nikorima early in the second half put the Rabbitohs under pressure but they hung on and went up the other end to lay on another try for Johnston - equalling Merritt's record of 146 tries.
Four minutes later Graham forced his way over from dummy half and the Rabbitohs had the lead at 22-18.
Graham catches Tigers off guard
When Brooks kicked out on the full in the 59th minute the Rabbitohs pounced, Graham getting an offload away to Johnston for his record-breaking 147th try for the club.
Another of the Rabbitohs' Indigenous champions Walker got in on the action with 15 minutes to play, scooping the ball up and diving over after Luciano Leilua had fumbled an Ilias grubber.
Walker made it a double in the 71st minute before a runaway intercept try to Jaxson Paulo heaped more pain on the Tigers and made it 44-18.
Walker gets his double
After trailing 18-12 at the break the Rabbitohs ran riot in the second term, piling on 32 unanswered points to notch their sixth win of the season.
Match: Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
Round 12 -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
- The Rabbitohs have won five of their past six games against the Tigers at Accor Stadium.
- Daine Laurie returned in great style for the Tigers with 116 metres, two try assists and three line break assists.
- Damien Cook racked up nine tackle breaks and ran for 112 metres in a perfect tune-up for State of Origin.
- Tigers forward Joe Ofahengaue left the field in the 33rd minute for a HIA which he passed and returned to the fray early in the second term.
- Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook played his 150th game for the club.
- Siliva Havili enjoyed a night out for the Rabbitohs with the sixth try of his 113-game career to go with 175 running metres and six tackle breaks.
- Tom Burgess produced a barnstorming 52-minute performance with 235 metres from 19 runs.
Play of the Game
Alex Johnston's place among Rabbitohs royalty was already assured but his third try of the night in the 60th minute took him into a whole new stratosphere. In his 178th career game the 27-year-old racked up his 147th try to surpass Nathan Merritt as the foundation club's greatest every tryscorer. A premiership winner for Souths in his debut season in 2014, Johnston has gone on to carve out a great career and the all-time premiership record of 212 tries held by Ken Irvine may be within reach if he continues at his current strike rate. Johnston also became the highest tryscorer at Accor Stadium with 72 tries in 76 games at the Olympic stadium.
NRL Press Conference: Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers - Round 12, 2022