South Sydney have clung on to a 24-18 win over a resilient Newcastle outfit at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
For the second time in three games, Newcastle impressed with their resolve only to fall just short of a win largely due to their own execution with the ball, however there were plenty of positive signs for Nathan Brown's team.
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire would have been furious at some fundamental errors from his own team to keep the Knights in the game, particularly from prop George Burgess, but another polished effort from halves Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker eventually proved the key difference.
Souths started in fine fashion, taking advantage of some ill-discipline and soft defence from the home team, racing in two early tries through Alex Johnston and John Sutton.
There was a huge momentum swing in the 23rd minute with Souths previously in control. Having just scored their second try, prop George Burgess dropped the ball from the restart in a big tackle from Mitch Barnett.
Some niggle ensued and Burgess elbowed Barnett in the head before following up with a back-fist to earn himself 10 in the bin (and was lucky it wasn't a send-off).
The Knights crossed twice against the 12-man defensive line in the ensuing 10 minutes through Trent Hodkinson and Pat Mata'utia to level at 10-all. A 39th-minute Hodkinson penalty goal courtesy of Zane Musgrove attacking the legs of kicker Brock Lamb allowed the home side to take a 12-10 lead to the break.
Burgess almost made amends following his return to the field but dropped the ball over the line in the final play of the half.
A huge error from Brock Lamb off the kick off to start the second half – intercepting a ball that was headed dead for what would have been a Knights penalty on halfway only to instead concede a line drop-out – allowed Cody Walker to grubber through for Bryson Goodwin to reclaim the lead for the visitors.
The Knights came up with a series of errors that ruined their attacking opportunities several times early in the second half before the Rabbitohs extended their lead via a beautiful cut-out pass from Adam Reynolds to rookie winger Braidon Burns to make it 22-12.
The Knights were forced into a major reshuffle for the final 20 minutes as first back-rower Sione Mata'utia then fullback Brendan Elliott were forced off with head knocks, leaving rookie Sam Stone to fill in at centre with Pat Mata'utia shifting to the back.
The Knights continued to be their own worst enemies on attack and when they lost a scrum against the feed to give up a vital attacking chance, skipper Trent Hodkinson's outburst at the referee – claiming the call not to reset the scrum just cost Newcastle the game – saw him sent to the bin for the final 10 minutes.
A Reynolds penalty goal shortly after extended the lead to 12 but a Ken Sio try in the 78th minute was impressively converted from the touchline by Lamb to hand the Knights a glimmer of hope of forcing golden point.
However a frantic set after points came unstuck with a Pat Mata'utia error as Souths clung on to a hard-fought 24-18 win.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 24 (Johnston, Sutton, Goodwin, Burns tries; Reynolds 4 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 18 (Hodkinson, P Mata'utia, Sio tries; Hodkinson 2, Lamb goals) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Half time: Knights 12-10. Crowd: 15,212.