The Dragons stunned the Rabbitohs 32-12 at WIN Stadium on Thursday night to ensure veteran hooker Andrew McCullough celebrated his 300th NRL game in grand style.
In his second season at the Dragons after 260 games at Brisbane and eight in Newcastle, the 32-year-old got through a team-high 37 tackles and made 38 running metres in his milestone match.
The win was the Dragons' seventh of the season and carries them into the top eight for the time being at least.
The signs were bad for the Rabbitohs early when Lachlan Ilias spilled the kick-off and they continued to make errors through the opening 15 minutes as the Dragons took control.
First to cross was skipper Ben Hunt, who chipped over the top for Zac Lomax to regather before taking the return pass from his centre to score in the fifth minute.
Seven minutes later the home side were in again when winger Mikaele Ravalawa celebrated his return from a hamstring injury by finishing off superb lead-up work by young playmaker Talatau Amone and the score was 12-0.
Come the 15th minute and Jack de Belin had the WIN Stadium faithful in raptures when he powered through a Tom Burgess tackle to cross for his third try of the season and the Dragons were keeping pace with the clock.
Ravalawa had a double by the 19th minute when he took a flick pass from Lomax and turned Alex Johnston inside out to make it 20-0.
Hunt sets up another one
With Hunt's kicking game on song the Dragons dominated field position and the No.7 had a second try assist in the 24th minute when he launched a bomb and Moses Suli produced a fingertip catch to plunge over for his team's fifth try.
Cody Ramsey got in on the action three minutes later when he ran onto a Jack Bird pass and shrugged off Jaxson Paulo to grab his fifth try in six games at WIN Stadium.
Ilias was taken from the field by Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou after an unhappy 29 minutes, forcing a reshuffle which saw Kodi Nikorima shift to the halves and Blake Taaffe go to fullback.
The Dragons went down a man in the 38th minute when Amone was sent to the sin bin for holding Cody Walker back as he tried to support a Mark Nicholls break.
A spilled bomb by Ramsey in the 58th minute opened the door for Souths to finally get on the board when Damien Cook snuck over from dummy half to make it 32-6.
Murray goes over
Bunnies skipper Cameron Murray exposed some sloppy defence to cross under the sticks in the 62nd minute to cut the margin to 20 but an intercept by Hunt in the next set steadied the ship for the Dragons.
Although the home side were unable to find another try the damage had been well and truly done in the first half as five tries in 22 minutes put their arch-rivals to the sword.
Match: Dragons v Rabbitohs
Round 15 -
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
- The Dragons' 32-point first half haul is the equal highest by any team in the opening half in 2022, matching Cronulla's 32-0 blitz against Manly in round seven at PointsBet Stadium.
- The last time the Dragons beat the Rabbitohs at WIN Stadium was round nine, 2005.
- The Dragons had 63 per cent of possession in the opening half and completed 19 of 22 sets at 86 per cent.
Hunt kicks Lomax chases Hunt scores
- Dragons prop Blake Lawrie produced a barnstorming 28-minute stint to start the game, making 124 metres from 11 hit-ups. He finished the night with a game high 206 metres.
- Mark Nicholls was a shining light in a beaten side with 148 metres from 15 runs in 47 quality minutes of game time.
- Cody Ramsey continues to make the No.1 jersey his own for the Dragons, breaking six tackles and running for 132 metres to go with his four-pointer.
- The Rabbitohs completed just 27 of 39 sets at 69 per cent.
McCullough talks about the 300 game milestone mark
Play of the Game
In a first half packed with highlights for the Dragons it was the 19th minute try to Mikaele Ravalawa second try that took the gold medal for skill. After a blistering run down the left hand side by Mat Feagai, the ball was swung back to the right where Tariq Sims found Talatau Amone who sent the ball to light stepping centre Zac Lomax. After skipping through Campbell Graham's tackle, Lomax conjured a no-look flick pass to Ravalawa who looked was hemmed in against the sideline but found a way to turn Alex Johnston inside out and plunge over for the Red V's third try.
What a try!
What They Said
"Last week was one of our worst performances of the season so it showed a lot of character to bounce back like that. I was really happy that they played like that for Macca, that's part of the night, sort of encapsulated everything Macca has done in his career - they played for each other and they were all good team-mates tonight. It's great for him and it also points to what's possible for our guys. In the NRL you don't ever expect to lead 32-0 at half-time but you could feel it all week the way we prepared, it was important we responded to a disappointing performance last week." - Dragons coach Anthony Griffin
Dragons: Round 15
"It's not on him, it's about trying to get a response for the team. Blake [Taaffe] gives us some energy and I was trying to get a response out there. Kodi Nikorima's got experience in that position, probably needed some experience out there, and that was the thinking. That first half wasn't on Lachlan Ilias, no doubt. It's part of his learning. I don't think he's the first bloke who's had a bad day at the office, he wasn't on his own. He's got great resilience, he's got good temperament, he'll learn from it no doubt." - Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou
Rabbitohs: Round 15
The Dragons are at home again in Round 16 on July 3, hosting the Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium. That is followed by back-to-back road trips to face the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium and the Roosters at Central Coast Stadium.
The Rabbitohs will be hoping to welcome back Latrell Mitchell for their clash with the Eels at Accor Stadium after rep round next weekend. The last time the sides met it was the Bunnies cruising to a 38-20 victory in round 12 last year.