The South Sydney Rabbitohs have retained the Charity Shield after a strong 32-14 victory over the Dragons at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With the Rabbitohs hooking role up for grabs, Robbie Farah played the first 40 minutes for his new side and looked solid in his combination, but was upstaged by an electric try set up by team-mate Damien Cook in the second-half, who brought the crowd to their feet with his blinding speed and creativity.
Cook split the Dragons defence up the middle before producing a banana kick into the hands of rookie winger Braidon Burns who scored out wide – a play which will only create more headaches on who starts in Round 1 for coach Michael Maguire.
As was the case in 2016, the Dragons struggled to get into any real groove with their attack and lacked direction. The performance was compounded by the loss of prop forward Will Matthews, who will undergo scans following a suspected dislocated hip sustained in the first half.
Souths started the stronger side with Cody Walker going close on two occasions before Farah threw a dummy to open the scoring in the 10th minute much to the delight of his new South Sydney team-mates.
St George Illawarra lock Jack de Belin showed some footwork to almost make his way to the line, before Josh McCrone put interchange prop Russell Packer over for the Dragons' first four-pointer of the game midway through the first half.
It was an unhappy start for Dragons recruit Nene McDonald, who dropped a spiralling Adam Reynolds kick which enabled Alex Johnston to go over from the scrum win. Johnston showed too much pace off the scrum to beat his outside man and go over untouched, extending the Rabbitohs' lead.
Former Gold Coast winger McDonald made up for the error later in the half with a try of his own after some slick hands from fullback Josh Dugan, who delivered a skilful around the corner pass for the flyer to cross in the corner.
South Sydney were quick to respond though, with Walker again in the action, putting left-centre Siosifa Talakai into a huge gap out wide.
Tempers began to flare before halftime after a big shot from Sam Burgess on Gareth Widdop created a number of players coming together.
Widdop showed glimpses of control with his kicking game, creating three repeat sets, however struggled to put any real pressure on Souths' back three.
Just as the Dragons looked to bounce back, an 80 metre run from Walker handed the Rabbitohs back the momentum before he was given a breather.
The game was all but over when Reynolds found Angus Crichton who steamrolled his way over, before the halfback placed the ball on a dime with a pin-point kick for Burns to get his second shortly after.
Dragons winger Jason Nightingale scored off a Widdop cut-out pass with a minute to go, but it was South Sydney who head into their Round 1 clash against the Wests Tigers with all the momentum.
Rabbitohs 32 (Braidon Burns 2, Robbie Farah, Alex Johnston, Siosifa Talakai, Angus Crichton tries; Adam Reynolds 4 goals) def. Dragons 14 (Russell Packer, Nene McDonald, Jason Nightingale tries; Gareth Widdop 1 goal). Half-Time Rabbitohs 16-10, Crowd: 12,516.