Three tries to winger Alex Johnston has lifted the South Sydney Rabbitohs to a 46-28 win over the Gold Coast Titans at Robina Stadium.
After a shaky start defensively, the Rabbitohs leaked first points as Tanah Boyd busted the line open from close range and put a short ball onto the chest of Iszac Fa'asuamaleaui to cross in the seventh minute.
The poor start was compounded with a controversial penalty from the next set, with Chris Randall then going on to score out of dummy half to push the lead out to 12-0 after 11 minutes.
South Sydney finally got a chance to have some quality ball, and took full advantage as a rampaging Keaon Koloamatangi carried four defenders over the line to get his side on the board.
Momentum was well and truly on their side as they marched down the field from the kick-off, with a lovely backline movement seeing the ball spread through the hands on the left-hand side and ending with Johnston scoring in the corner.
The Rabbitohs made full use of an early penalty to start the second half, with Blake Taaffe taking advantage of the rushing defence to put a perfect grubber in for Campbell Graham to bring scores back to level.
Just minutes later they had their first lead of the game, courtesy of quick hands from Cody Walker and an acrobatic finish from Johnston to bring up the 13th hat-trick of his illustrious career.
The points continued to flow in the 21st minute as the Titans found space on their left to put Alofiana Khan-Pereira into a hold and to push the lead back out to 18-10.
Just as time was starting to wind down in the first half, the left edge came to the fore again, with Isaiah Tass getting an offload away with three defenders on him to put Johnston over for his second and cut the margin back to two.
An error just before half-time proved costly, as Jojo Fifita crossed with the last plat of the half to push the lead to 22-16.
A piece of eyes-up brilliance from Damien Cook saw him scoot from dummy half near the line, catching defenders off-guard and finding a surging Walker, who got past a couple to stretch the score to 32-22 in the 57th minute.
After a string of forward passes from both sides, a penalty from Taaffe gave the Rabbitohs a 12-point buffer heading into the final nine minutes.
A failed short kick-off gave South Sydney good territory to start their set, and they finished it off with a try to seal the match, as they spread the ball wide on last tackle to give Richie Kennar a try in his first game of the season.
The party was well and truly on after front rower Hame Sele used his size and strength to extend the margin to 46-22 with just minutes to play.
Two quick tries to the Gold Coast had the Rabbitohs on the back
foot early, as they trailed 12-0 through 11 minutes of play.
Keaon Koloamatangi breaks through four defenders to get Souths on the board in the 13th minute.
The Rabbitohs go back-to-back as Alex Johnston finishes off a trademark backline movement.
The Gold Coast extends its lead to eight through Alofiana Khan- Pereira in the 21st minute.
Alex Johnston crosses for his second on the back of a miracle offload from Isaiah Tass to cut the score back to 18-16 in favour of the Titans.
On the stroke of half-time, Jojo Fifta scores to give the Titans a six- point lead at the break.
A perfect grubber from Blake Taaffe finds Campbell Graham to open the scoring in the second half.
Johnston's third try of the night gives the Rabbitohs their first lead of the night at 26-22 in the 50th minute.
Damien Cook scoots from dummy half, linking with Cody Walker to push Souths’ lead out to 10 points.
Richie Kennar's first game of the season is capped off with a try that sealed the win for the Rabbitohs.
Play of the Game
With momentum on South Sydney's side, quick hands from Cody Walker found Alex Johnston on the run, where the winger raced for the corner with an incredible diving effort to give the Rabbitohs their first lead of the night after 50 minutes.
The Rabbitohs face off with the St George Illawarra Dragons at Kogarah next weekend in their final outing before their first bye of the season. It is shaping up as a must-win clash to go into the week off with a crucial two points.