Bunnies credentials debateable: Bennett
His captain said they were blown off the park but Knights coach Wayne Bennett has questioned whether South Sydney have the necessary variety in their arsenal to break through for a 21st premiership that will be 43 years in the making.
The Rabbitohs' exciting array of young talent tore the Knights to shreds in Cairns on Sunday as they posted 50 points for the first time since Round 10 last season but Bennett insisted that nothing they threw at his side came as a surprise.
The criticism of the Rabbitohs in falling one game short of the Grand Final the past two seasons is that they haven't asked enough questions of the defence of the top sides outside their renowned power game and Bennett says it is still an aspect of their credentials as a premiership team that is up for debate.
"Well it didn't work for them last year in the end, so it's debateable," Bennett said when asked whether South Sydney have all the tools necessary to win a premiership. "They were good today so that's all you can take and the other team's got to stop that.
"There's not a coach in the NRL that doesn't know how they're going to play and you've got to be able to stop that, that's the key to them. If no one can stop them then they can certainly win the premiership. They've got enough strike power and enough ability in that team and they've got a pretty hardened footy team that's been doing it for three or four years now so there's a fair bit of confidence in them when they play like they did today."
Taking a 26-0 lead into half-time on the back of a perfect completion rate and a pinpoint kicking game from halfback Adam Reynolds, the Rabbitohs refused to allow the Knights into the game and in the second half continued their assault.
Dylan Walker, Alex Johnston and Kirisome Auva'a all scored spectacular tries that only the youthful and exuberant can conjure but Newcastle captain Kurt Gidley said it was the dominance in the middle that proved most irresistible.
"We knew what was coming. They've got a big forward pack, renowned for that and we were ready for that, we thought," said Gidley.
"We didn't have a great deal of field position in the first half at all, we had some decent kicks but the kick-off sets after tries, they were making 60 metres. Even when we were kicking into corners they were making yardage past halfway and we know as a team when we're playing well we're defending well, we've got good line speed and we're keeping them in their own half in that set and we wouldn't have achieved that a great deal today."
The Rabbitohs spent 50 minutes of the match in Newcastle's half on the back of an additional 805 running metres than their opponents but will face a much stiffer proposition against the ladder-leading Sea Eagles at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday night.
According to Bennett, South Sydney will bring the same game-plan to tackle Geoff Toovey's men and if their execution is close to what it was on Sunday, will set up a thrilling minor premiership showdown over the final month.
"Souths aren't going to change. As Kurt alluded to, there wasn't one of us in that changeroom that didn't know at any stage what they were going to throw at us and how they were going to do it, and that's their challenge," said the seven-time grand final-winning mentor.
"They do it every week the same way, if a team's good enough to stand up to them well that puts them under pressure; we couldn't stand up to it and we couldn't handle their pressure, another day we might have.
"They play similar to the Roosters and we handled the Roosters OK last week, believe it or not. They run hard and they tackle in numbers and they'll keep doing it for the full 80 minutes."