Crichton-inspired Rabbitohs rally to beat Titans
South Sydney back-rower Angus Crichton scored a hat-trick in a dominant display as the Rabbitohs ran in five unanswered tries to come from behind and beat an injury-ravaged Gold Coast Titans outfit 32-20 at ANZ Stadium.
Michael Maguire's side were dealt a blow pre-game with skipper Sam Burgess a late omission after a glute strain suffered at training on Tuesday, however the ongoing form of Crichton was enough to help the Bunnies snap a three-game losing streak.
The 21-year-old made four line breaks and ran for 172 metres in the 16-point win.
It was a shaky start for the hosts as the Titans ran in two converted tries and a penalty goal to lead 14-0 inside 20 minutes.
The visitors opened the scoring when prop Nathaniel Peteru got a handy offload away close to the line for Pat Politoni to burrow his way under the sticks in his first NRL game since 2015 and his first since linking with the Gold Coast from the Sharks.
South Sydney were their own worst enemy as the Titans immediately forced a repeat set of six through Ash Taylor, only for Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds to kick the ball out on the full and allow the Titans to take their lead out to eight with a penalty goal.
Things got worse for the home side when Crichton was penalised for a strip that later allowed Politoni to place a grubber into the legs of Tyrell Fuimaono that ricocheted into the hands of the returning Kevin Proctor to stroll over untouched.
The Titans could have extended their lead further but rampaging centre Konrad Hurrell was ruled to have spilled the ball in an attempt to regather a Taylor kick in-goal.
South Sydney needed to be the next to score and Crichton made up for his earlier error by busting through the defence of William Zillman and former Rabbitoh Chris McQueen.
Hurrell was then lucky not to be sent to the sin bin after being penalised for dissent by referee Ashley Klein. The Bunnies took advantage of the penalty with Walker producing a pinpoint cut-out pass for Alex Johnston to go over untouched in the corner.
While South Sydney did well to get back into the contest, they slipped up again in the final play before the break when Englishmen Joe Greenwood carried four defenders over the line to take the lead out to 10 heading into the sheds.
It took five minutes for the Bunnies to jag a four-pointer back in the second half when Crichton again busted through and allowed for Walker to end an eight-game try-scoring drought by weaving his way to the line.
Former NSW rake Robbie Farah made his first impact on the game when he ran a blindside play shortly after that enabled Johnston to break up the field, and Crichton was there to score his second try of the night on the following play.
The Titans' injury woes have been well-documented in 2017 and continued when Greenwood left the field after some friendly fire with James that ended his night early, before Politoni succumbed to a leg complaint and Taylor went off for an HIA assessment at the backend of the contest.
Skipper Ryan James suffered a knee injury in the opening five minutes of the game but returned for a solid 60-minute effort.
Fresh after signing a new three-year deal at Redfern, Johnston went over for his second with Farah finding the former Australian international on the left edge with the winger showing some acrobatic skill to seal the game for the Bunnies.
The icing on the cake came with just over a minute remaining as Crichton broke past four defenders to go over for his third of the night and his seventh try in his last seven games to ensure the Rabbitohs secured a much-needed win.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 36 (Crichton 3, Johnston 2, Walker, Goodwin tries; Reynolds 4 goals) defeated Gold Coast Titans 20 (Politoni, Proctor, Greenwood tries; Taylor 4 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Titans 20-10. Crowd: 7163.
NRL.com unofficial votes: 3 points: Angus Crichton. 2 points: Cody Walker. 1 point: Robbie Farah.