Johnston bags five as Souths crush Penrith
A scintillating five-try effort from Souths winger Alex Johnston – equalling a club record most recently earned by Nathan Merritt – has headlined a crushing 42-14 win against a sorry Penrith outfit at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Halfback Adam Reynolds had his best game of the season, kicking brilliantly to help set up four of his team's tries to go with a perfect afternoon at the tee, nailing a series of sideline conversions in his seven from seven.
Lock Sam Burgess was immense, back-rower Angus Crichton continued his stunning run of form and bench prop Zane Musgrove put in a huge stint as the Souths pack completely dominated the Panthers.
The freewheeling Bunnies racked up the offloads as they ran rings around a listless Penrith side that had actually dominated the early stages in running out to an early 8-0 lead.
An eighth-minute penalty goal became 8-0 through skipper Matt Moylan after some lovely ball movement on the right edge in the 11th minute.
But a huge flare-up, instigated by a big Sam Burgess hit on Nathan Cleary, saw Burgess and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak sent to the sin bin and the momentum switched to the home team in a big way.
An awful Matt Moylan pass on the attack hit the ground shortly after and allowed winger Johnston to scoop it up and streak the length just two minutes after the double-binning.
Right-side winger Braidon Burns latched onto a perfect Adam Reynolds cross-field bomb to claim the lead in the 31st minute and when John Sutton was allowed to mark another Reynolds bomb uncontested shortly after, his pass to Cody Walker allowed the fullback to fire a perfect cut-out pass for Johnston's second in the 38th minute.
With seconds to go until the break, a huge Sam Burgess charge and offload put Walker in space and his pinpoint chip ahead saw Johnston bag his hat-trick on the break with Reynolds' perfect afternoon on the tee making it a 24-8 advantage.
Souths made it three tries in five minutes of game time either side of half-time when a monstrous Crichton charge kicked off one of the team tries of the year which was eventually finished off by Johnston for his fourth of the afternoon.
Sam Burgess got on the score-sheet in the 49th minute when he timed his chase perfectly to a pinpoint Reynolds grubber and at 36-8 the only questions remaining were 'how much will Souths win by' and 'will Johnston equal the try-scoring record'.
The answer to the latter question quickly became 'yes' as some brilliant work out of dummy half from bench hooker Damien Cook, fresh on the field, sent Johnston on a run down the left flank for his fifth of the afternoon to send the 14,103-strong crowd into raptures.
Despite some late attacking opportunities – including a no-try to Johnston for what would have been a record-breaking sixth of the afternoon due to a knock-on in the lead-up – the only addition to that score was a late Josh Mansour try.
The 42-14 result all but ends Penrith's season, now four points adrift of eighth-placed Parramatta, who still have a bye in hand.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 42 (Johnston 5, Burns, S Burgess tries; Reynolds 7 goals) defeated Penrith Panthers 14 (Moylan, Mansour tries; Cleary 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Rabbitohs 24-8. Crowd: 14,103.
NRL.com's unofficial votes: Adam Reynolds 3, Alex Johnston 2, Cody Walker 1