The Rabbitohs' premiership chances have been dealt a cruel blow with news on Friday that Latrell Mitchell will miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury.
It was initially hoped Mitchell would miss just six weeks but Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett confirmed on Friday that the star fullback had ruptured a hamstring tendon.
The club released a statement saying Mitchell had ruptured the proximal hamstring tendon in his left leg and would be assessed by a surgeon with a view to repairing the tendon.
They said Mitchell had played his last game for 2020 but it was too early to determine whether it would impact his preparation for the 2021 season.
Mitchell's injury occurred when teammate Jaxson Paulo landed on him in a tackle and forced his left leg back, putting enormous strain on the hamstring.
Early reports indicated a grade three strain, one that could keep him out until the finals but scans on Friday afternoon confirmed the worst and the Rabbitohs will be left to chase finals glory without Mitchell.
"He's done his hamstring. We're just not sure of the seriousness of it," Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett had said post-match
"It probably won't be anything under a month, but hopefully he'll be back in a month."
Mitchell leaves field with suspected hamstring injury
Prior to the injury, the former Rooster was absolutely immense with a try assist and some powerful runs.
Rabbitohs halves Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker toyed with their opponents while their patched-up forward pack easily outpointed the Eels big men.
"The most important thing is to play our brand of football and keep at that and not get bored by it," Bennett said.
"That's our best chance of getting results and getting wins against any team. Top four or bottom four."
The Eels' edge defence was a rabble, repeatedly conceding breaks and half breaks, with the right-side combination of Waqa Blake and Blake Ferguson particularly vulnerable.
As has been a trend in recent weeks the team's execution in its rare attacking chances was clunky and failed to threaten the Rabbitohs line.
The Eels started the match much as they did the previous week against the Storm, pushing unnecessary passes, while Souths also started the match the way they did the previous week against Manly – absolutely on fire.
A forced pass from Mitch Moses was dropped by Ryan Matterson to give Souths their first chance and a brilliant Mitchell catch-and-pass sent Corey Allan over untouched in the sixth minute.
A forced Moses offload dropped by Nathan Brown handed Souths their next chance and a lovely Steven Marsters flick pass put Jaxson Paulo over for his maiden NRL try in the 18th.
Cody Walker burst onto a perfect Reynolds short ball to streak 30 to score in the 30th minute and Souths went the length off the next set as Walker ran over the top of Waqa Blake and into space to start a movement eventually finished by a Reynolds grubber for Jaydn Su'A to score.
Mitchell copped a horror bounce from a bomb late in the half that he had to retrieve from near his own dead ball line and produced one of the best kick returns of the season. The Eels were lucky to hold on to only be down by 22 at half time.
Dylan Brown looked to have finally got the blue and golds on the board in the 50th minute but an impressive solo try was overturned due to Clint Gutherson getting in the way of the defensive line.
On the same play, Paulo landed on Mitchell's leg as the pair attempted to prevent the try, causing the hamstring injury.
Paulo scores his first try in the NRL
Instead, it was Souths who went further ahead, with Corey Allan slotting in at fullback and Cam Murray (now at left centre) throwing a perfect catch-and-pass for Campbell Graham to cross on the left wing for a 28-0 lead.
Reynolds supported on a play he started to score in the 66th minute and Graham ran his second try through the Eels' ragged right side in the 71st.