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South Sydney winger Nathan Merritt finally became the most prolific try-scorer in the club's history as his side recorded an 18-2 win over Penrith on Friday night.

Having equalled Benny Wearing's 81-year record of 144 tries in last year's grand final qualifier against Melbourne, the Souths veteran celebrated his 145th with a pat of a Rabbitoh on an Aboriginal flag in the north-east corner of Sportingbet Stadium.

In slippery conditions, the crowd of 11,764 who braved the wet were treated to a masterclass in defence as the Rabbitohs shut out the home side despite a lopsided possession count in the first half.

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It was the visitors who opened the scoring, showing no hesitation in shooting at goal after earning an early penalty.

But it was their brave goal-line defence that was the feature of the opening 40 minutes, turning away the Panthers' attack time and again as the home side struggled to turn their dominance of the football – and the 8-5 penalty count - into points.

Such was the home side's control of possession, at one stage the visitors were limited to just one set inside opposition territory over a 26-minute period midway through the half, forcing Sam Burgess into a game-high 27 tackles for the opening period. He was ably supported by hooker Apisai Koroisau (22) and second-rower Ben Te'o (22).

In the end, a botched Adam Reynolds line drop out that sailed over the sideline in the 30th minute – bizarrely greeted by high-fives from his giddy teammates - became Penrith's only source of points for the game as both side went into the sheds locked at 2-2.

It took 45 minutes, but it was South Sydney debutant Kirisome Auva'a who crossed for the first four-pointer of the night, sliding over after the Rabbitohs shifted left. Reynolds' attempt missed but their lead extended to 6-2.

By then momentum was well and truly with the visitors, who took full advantage of the turn in possession by setting up for Merritt's historic try.

Having forced a line drop out of their own, the Rabbitohs charged through the middle before surprising the Panthers on a blindside play that ended with Dylan Walker passing to his winger.

And while it was a night to remember for South Sydney's second most capped player, it was youngster Kyle Turner who sealed the win with a try set up by fullback Greg Inglis in the 71st.

Reynolds was put on report in the 28th minute for putting Jamal Idris' arm in a dangerous position, while Jamie Soward will also face the wrath of the match review committee for making contact to Nathan Merritt's head in a tackle in the ninth minute.

South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 (Auva'a, Merritt, Turner tries; Reynolds 3 goals) def Penrith Panthers 2 (Soward goal). Crowd: 11,764. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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