Rabbitohs winger Nathan Merritt (second left) becomes South Sydney's greatest try-scorer by notching his 145th four-pointer for the club against Penrith on Friday night. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos Credit: Robb Cox/NRL Photos Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos
Another torrential downpour greeted South Sydney when they arrived at the foot of the mountains on Friday night, which meant tries were going to be rarer than that mythical black panther.
In the end, three tries were scored in the 18-2 win
. All by the Rabbitohs. All in the second half. And all with a little bit of significance.
The first was a drought-breaker. The crowd of 11,764 that braved the wet arrived in anticipation of a blockbuster, but it took an agonising 45 minutes for the first try of the game. As Penrith pounded South Sydney's line time and again for the majority of the first half, it took debutant centre Kirisome Auva'a just five minutes into the second half to notch his first career try.
The third was a match-sealer. Holding onto a slender 12-2 lead, Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire went to his bench in search for some youthful exuberance and he found it in the form of another rookie – Kyle Turner – who ran straight from the sideline onto a Greg Inglis offload and next to the posts.
But it was the history-maker that was the second try of the night – the try that broke Benny Wearing's 81-year-old record – that carried the most weight. A try that was two months in the making. A try that – of the 144 he'd tallied before that - had Nathan Merritt admitting was too hard to score.
"Just, it was a bit frustrating at times. The harder I tried to score a try, the less I was going to score a try I guess. The more I relaxed, I got a try tonight. I relaxed and the try came to me," he said.
It came in the 55th minute off a quick play-the-ball that allowed a surprise blind side play and ended in the second-most capped Rabbitoh of all time to pat the Rabbitoh stitched to the centre of an Aboriginal flag in the north-east corner of the stadium.
So, did it feel like history?
"I guess so," he shrugged post-game. "It was just a great buzz. All the boys come over and jumping all over me was an awesome feeling. Just one bunch of boys there, I wouldn't score a try without any of them boys being there.
"It's a great feeling at the moment. It's great to get the reward now - waited a good two months that I had to score a try. I'm just happy about the way we defended tonight."
And that was the other part of the night. Merritt's historic four-pointer wasn't the only record-breaker. According to Champion Stats, the Rabbitohs missed just six tackles for the entire game.
"I heard the stat that I don't think we had a missed tackle until the 60th minute or something like that. As a coach, I was pretty proud of that one," said coach Michael Maguire.
"I guess that's the hard work that the players are prepared to put in for each other and the energy they showed for each other right through that game," he said. "Obviously we didn't get our way in the first half when we had the ball. But they came together on many occasions and they're committed to each other and defended really well. And now they're breaking records."