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Can Rabbitohs bury the infamous '50-point' stat?

It's one of the more notorious statistics in rugby league – in 113 years, no club has conceded 50 or more points in a match and gone on to win the grand final in the same year.

On the one hand, it makes sense. The premiers are almost always one of the top two or three defensive teams in any given season and a club whose defensive systems are weak enough to let in 50 points in 80 minutes is likely to get exposed in a finals campaign.

On the other hand, it's somewhat surprising that a good defensive team has never had that one really bad day at the office – possible while missing players through the Origin period – in an otherwise good season and gone on to take the title.

In a very high-scoring 2001 season, the Newcastle Knights set the current record, going down 49-30 to the Sharks in round 22 barely a month before embarking on an ultimately successful finals campaign.

A separate 46-18 loss to the Bulldogs in the same season was the joint second-highest of all time, matching the total conceded by 1947 premiers Balmain against the Rabbitohs. All up the Knights that year conceded four separate 40-plus totals.

The 1953 Rabbitohs have two separate entries in the top 10 while the 2005 Wests Tigers, 2015 Cowboys and 2003 Panthers all had significant scores racked up against them at one point in their premiership seasons.

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If the Bunnies go on to beat Penrith on Sunday, they would be the first premiers in history to have conceded 50 or more points in a game on their way to a title.

Their 56-12 loss to that same team back in round 11 would become the single highest score ever conceded by eventual premiers, with their 50-0 loss to the Storm in round nine taking second place.

With the Panthers only narrow favourites heading into Sunday, the sides evenly matched and Souths having won 16-10 in week one of finals, there is every chance the 50-point stat is broken this year.

Perhaps the biggest factor making that outcome more likely is the Rabbitohs' defence since that round 11 loss.

Coach Wayne Bennett refuses to reveal what changes were made but has said significant changes to the defensive structures happened after that game and the results are there for all to see.

Souths haven't conceded more than 25 points in a match since then; that 25-12 loss to Penrith in round 23 is their only loss since round 11.

From round 12 to round 25, Souths conceded just one more try (36) than Penrith (35) and two more than the Storm (34) – so from round 12 through to the grand final the Rabbitohs are one of the top three defensive sides of the year.

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