The Rabbitohs massacred the home side in an eight-tries-to-two rout – their biggest ever win over Brisbane – that suggested the red-and-greens might make the top eight while the home side, co-competition leaders after 12 rounds, might not.
With five-eighth John Sutton still wielding the baton he used to wreak destruction on the Panthers last week, Souths punched huge holes in the Brisbane defence out wide and close to the line.
Their players were energetic, supportive and displayed a hunger for the ball; by comparison the Broncos were lethargic and lacked direction.
The opening exchanges were scrappy with plenty of dropped ball and limited completions. Souths posted first points with a try to Beau Champion (his first of three) after repeat sets in the 17th minute, but a soft four-pointer to Corey Parker in the 20th minute, with the Brisbane skipper diving on a deft Peter Wallace grubber behind the defensive line with fullback Nathan Merritt out of position, calmed the home fans.
Then Sutton took the game by the scruff of the neck.
In the 25th minute he took on the Broncos up the centre of the park, dummied at the line and delivered a wonderful left-handed round-the-corner offload to second-rower Eddy Pettybourne, who hot-potato passed to winger Jamie Simpson who drew fullback Karmichael Hunt and put support Nathan Merritt away on a 30-metre sprint under the posts.
Souths continued to press and were rewarded with more points shortly before halftime when Merritt fed a short ball to Champion, who exposed for a second time – and not the last in the night – a poor defensive positioning by Broncos left centre Steve Michaels.
At 16-6 at oranges the home fans were worried. And they should have been.
The Game Swung When… The Rabbitohs ran out for the second half. They scored five dazzling tries after halftime.
It took them just three minutes after the resumption to strike: Sutton sought out Michaels in the defensive line, popping Pettybourne a saloon passage over on the right edge for a 22-6 scoreline.
That try saw the befuddled Michaels swap places with winger Antonio Winterstein. But it mattered little: three minutes later Sutton charged from close range again, sucked in Winterstein and offloaded to Champion for yet another telegraphed four-pointer and more embarrassment for the home side.
A minute later the score ballooned when Fetuli Talanoa scored following a sweeping left-side movement, with second-rower Ben Lowe popping an around-the-corner pass to Colin Best, who offloaded to his winger. Talanoa’s quick thinking saw him drop the ball onto his boot and high-tail it into the Brisbane in-goal where his determination and Karmichael Hunt’s lack of urgency saw Talanoa win the race for the ball.
Souths-bound prop Dave Taylor hit a Hunt short pass to make it 32-12 after 57 minutes before Souths closed out the annihilation with tries to 20-year-old Dave Tyrell (70th minute) and Merritt (his second, 75th minute).
While the Brisbane side will want to forget this display, pocket referee Tony De Las Heras was left with no choice in the matter, smashed unconscious by an accidental knee from Tony Carroll in one of the most bizarre sights to unfold on the field in years (see HTBSTBB).
Who Was Hot… The Broncos had no answer to John Sutton (16 runs, 145 metres), the towering five-eighth toying with his rivals all night.
With the play breaking open often Nathan Merritt (149 metres) was in his element, as was halfback Chris Sandow who showed an excellent variety of skills and some improvement in defence (although he still missed seven tackles).
Colin Best made three line breaks and ran for 184 metres, Champion made four line breaks and scored a hat-trick and winger Jamie Simpson ran straight and hard all night.
Who Was Not… Stand-in skipper Corey Parker had a night to forget, trying too hard to get things happening for his side.
Karmichael Hunt had a mixed night. Most of his involvement appeared half-hearted and poorly executed. He’s playing like his mind is elsewhere… as in not in rugby league.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… South Sydney’s blistering attack and confidence and Brisbane’s woeful attitude and defence. Truly a tale of two cities.
Up 34-12 with 16 minutes remaining, Souths opted for a safe two points from a penalty goal. Seriously.
Also, Nathan Merritt and Chris Sandow sported weird-looking, tattoo-like hairstyles that looked resembled the product of a couple of toddlers being thrown electric hair clippers.
Colin Best took out a Channel Nine camera after turning the ball back inside to a team-mate, then surging with momentum over the sideline. Watch for it on endless replay loops.
Souths coach Jason Taylor discarded his Armani suit to zip up in a Souths tracksuit.
In the 65th minute referee De Las Heras found himself in the way of a Jamie Simpson bust. He was bumped to the ground by the Souths speedster and as he tried to get up he was hit across the side of his head by the knee of Tonie Carroll dashing back in cover. Sickening stuff.
And with five minutes left in the first game of the special Friday night double header, the Bulldogs trotted out to warm up for their game with the Titans around the perimeter of Suncorp Stadium. But a surly Broncos official ordered them from the ground. Much pointing and raised voices, while the bemused Bulldogs stood silent. With 40 points put on his side we don’t think the official was in the happiest of moods.
Injuries… Ref Tony De Las Heras – concussion.
Refs Watch… A couple of contentious decisions that may have warranted further scrutiny had the game been close. But it so wasn’t.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – John Sutton (Rabbitohs): In unstoppable form; 2 points – Nathan Merritt (Rabbitohs): Scored two good tries and was always a threat in attack; 1 point – Chris sandow (Rabbitohs): Exuded great skill and confidence on the back of a hefty lead.
Rabbitohs 44 (B Champion 3, N Merritt 2, E Pettybourne, F Talanoa, D Tyrell tries; C Sandow 5 goals, I Luke goal) def Broncos 12 (C Parker, D Taylor tries; P Wallace 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 50, 109.