A masterclass from fullback Latrell Mitchell has seen the South Sydney Rabbitohs claim an emphatic 50-16 victory over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on Good Friday.
The fullback marked his 150th appearance in the NRL with a memorable performance that saw him tally 26 points from three tries and seven goals as the Rabbitohs ran in a 34-point victory at Accor Stadium.
The match also marked the return of front rower Junior Tatola following a fortnight on the sidelines, with Taane Milne making his first appearance for 2023 as Campbell Graham joined Mitchell with a hat-trick of tries.
On a sun-kissed afternoon in front of a healthy crowd of 35,211, the Rabbitohs recorded their third win of the season on the eleventh annual Good Friday contest between the two clubs.
The Red and Green put their opponents on notice early in the contest with consecutive sets on the line, however, it was the Bulldogs touching down following a long-range effort that saw to Jake Averillo score from a scrum play.
A 40/20 kick on the following set saw the Rabbitohs needing to defend their line, but quick reflexes from Izaac Tu'itupou Thompson handed his side back possession.
Lachlan Ilias looked to employ some clever kicking of his own following a short-side raid, with Damien Cook and Tu'itupou Thompson both coming agonisingly close to scoring.
But it was Cook who had his hands on the Rabbitohs' first try of the afternoon, putting Captain Cameron Murray over close to the line, with Mitchell leveling the scores after 18 minutes.
Both sides became guilty of over-enthusiasm as errors proved costly in their search for points, and with twelve minutes remaining in the half, a penalty goal saw the Rabbitohs take the lead for the first time.
It wasn't long before that lead was extended, with a clever pass from Cody Walker sending Tu'itupou Thompson through with Mitchell in support as he marked his milestone match with a four-pointer.
Just as the heavens opened, the downpour of points continued, and Mitchell was in for his second in as many sets, with another right-side raid seeing Campbell Graham and Walker combining to send the fullback in.
The Rabbitohs weren't done yet, with Walker manufacturing the side's fourth try as he put Jacob Host through a gap as they took a comfortable 26-6 lead at the break.
The two sides went set for set in the opening exchanges of the second stanza, with strong contact from Campbell Graham a highlight in halting the Canterbury attack.
Hayze Perham looked to put the Bulldogs back in the contest following a linebreak from Matt Burton, but the Rabbitohs were let off the hook after the Bunker found an obstruction in the contest.
Unfortunately, ill-discipline invited their opponents back in, with Burton touching down soon after from a grubber kick, bridging the gap to fourteen points with just over a quarter of the match remaining.
A wayward pass on the following set gave the Rabbitohs a chance to return serve, and an audacious chip from Ilias saw Tu'itupou Thompson over the line once more, only to be denied by the sideline.
The bounce of the ball looked to favour the Bulldogs as the Red and Green were forced to defend their line, before a desperation play from Jed Cartwright saw the second rower dive on a loose ball.
Canterbury found themselves down a man following a hip drop from Jacob Preston that saw Tu'itupou Thompson taken from the field, and soon enough it was Host repaying the favour to Walker, sending an inside pass for the five-eighth to score.
Replicating their form from the first half, the Rabbitohs rolled downfield, with Cook and Ilias sending Cartwright through as Mitchell rounded off his milestone match with a hat-trick.
Graham scored a well-earned try moments later as the lead extended once more, and while Burton returned serve via an intercept try, Mitchell put the icing on the cake as he put Graham in for his second with a bullet pass.
A towering bomb from Ilias was regathered by Mitchell, who beat defenders to basketball a pass to Graham, capping off an emphatic 50-16 victory for the Rabbitohs.
Latrell Mitchell reached a personal milestone of 150 NRL games, following his debut in 2016. The two-time Premiership winner, NSW Origin, Australian and Indigenous All Stars representative was everywhere in the win, scoring three tries and kicking seven goals for a 26-point haul.
The victory marked the Rabbitohs' fifth consecutive over the Bulldogs, and Mitchell's tenth consecutive win over their opponents.
The 50-16 win was just the second time in history the Rabbitohs put on a half-century of points on their opponents, with the last occuring in 1953.
Junior Tatola returned to the side following a two-week stint on the sidelines, while winger Taane Milne made his first appearance in the Red and Green for 2023.
Since 2012 the Rabbitohs and Bulldogs have done battle on Good Friday, The Bulldogs touched down first in the 4th minute, with Jake Averillo scoring from a 90-metre effort.
Not deterred from their early deficit, Damien Cook put Cameron Murray through in the 17th minute with a clever pass at the line.
Latrell Mitchell's boot saw the Rabbitohs take the lead for the first time in the 27th minute following a penalty goal.
Mitchell found himself on the scoreboard soon after a right-side shift, marking his milestone with a try in the 32nd minute.
The fullback was in for his second on the very next set to turn the game on its head, backing up another raid on the right to extend the scores to 20-6.
The Rabbitohs continued their charge heading into half-time, with Jacob Host running off Walker to score his first try of the year, taking a comfortable 26-6 lead.
After being denied through an obstruction, the Bulldogs hit back first in the second half through Matt Burton, closing the gap to fourteen points with just over 20 minutes remaining.
A hip drop tackle from Jacob Preston saw Izaac Tu'itupou Thompson taken from the field following an ankle injury, which saw the Bulldogs second rower sent to the sin bin.
Host repaid the favour for Walker soon after, throwing an inside pass to the Rabbitohs' five-eighth to crash over and score in the 65th minute.
The roll-on continued just minutes later as Mitchell completed his hat-trick - his first as a Rabbitoh - following another break down the right side.
Campbell Graham was the next to score as he slide over on the right as the Rabbitohs extended the lead to 40 points with ten minutes remaining in the contest.
While Burton bagged a double from an intercept, Mitchell put the icing on the cake for the Rabbitohs with a bullet pass to Graham, handing the centre his second try of the night.
Mitchell wasn't done yet, chasing an Ilias bomb with minutes remaining to send Graham over for his hat-trick.
Play of the Game
Just minutes after scoring his first for the night, Latrell Mitchell was back on the scoreboard after another right-side raid from the Rabbitohs.
Looking to continue their roll-on, the Red and Green swung the Steeden right, with a clever offload from Keaon Koloamatangi sending Campbell Graham steaming downfield.
The rangy centre went inside to Cody Walker, who regathered the ball in time after bouncing off his chest to send it back into Mitchell, with the fullback touching down in emphatic fashion for the Rabbitohs' third try of the day.
It was the four-pointer that swung momentum in the contest, with the Rabbitohs kicking on to complete a dominant 50-16 victory, their third of 2023.
Round 7 marks a historic match in the Rabbitohs' first-ever game against competition newcomers the Dolphins at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium.