Cameron Murray and Latrell Mitchell led South Sydney to an emphatic 48-10 defeat of the Warriors on Saturday that keeps the Rabbitohs top four hopes alive.
Murray set up the first three tries of the match, while Mitchell scored two and laid on two others as a ruthless Souths side leapfrogged the Broncos and Roosters into sixth position on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
So dominant was Murray that the Rabbitohs captain had run more than 100 metres by the time second-rower Keaon Koloamatangi scored his side's fourth try in the 21st minute and he finished with a game high 191 metres.
Mitchell was at his entertaining best and treated fans to a Wallaby ears try celebration after scoring his second, while laying on tries for wingers Alex Johnston and Izaak Thompson, who made his NRL debut at the age of 25.
Mitchell's 24 point haul from two tries and eight goals was the most by a South Sydney player since 1979 when Terry Fahey scored four tries (then valued at three points) and kicked six goals in the round five 39-9 defeat of Penrith.
"I just said in there [the sheds] that it is looking good for the back end of the year when some of our key players are starting to hit form," Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou said.
Souths play Parramatta next Friday night in a match with likely ramifications for the make-up of the top eight and potentially the top four, as the Storm play the Panthers and the Roosters face the Cowboys next weekend.
However, the Rabbitohs have a tough run home after the Eels clash, with the result of matches against the Panthers, second-placed Cowboys and the Roosters to determine where they finish.
Warriors interim coach and club legend Stacey Jones said it was difficult for his players "living out of a suitcase" as they train continue to be based at Redcliffe while playing home games in Auckland, but that wasn't an excuse.
"I just want to see some real care in the jersey. I saw that for a month before ... and tonight I didn't," Jones said.
"I just said [to the players] that next week starts now for us. We are on the road so we don't have a lot of time to train together, so it is really important what we do away from the field to get yourself up and ready for next Friday."
Match: Rabbitohs v Warriors
Round 21 -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
- The first sign of what was to lie ahead came in just the third minute when Souths halfback Lachlan Ilias sliced between Warriors second-rower Bayley Sironen and five-eighth Wayde Egan to score off a Cameron Murray pass.
- Murray laid on a second try for hooker Damien Cook just six minutes later after busting through the defensive line 40 metres out, dummying and pushing off Aaron Pene to send his NSW Origin team-mate racing away to score.
Cook on the boil early
- The Rabbitohs third try was also laid on by Murray, who this time slipped a ball for Tevita Tatola to score, despite the attention of Sironen, Tohu Harris and Jack Murchie, in the 16th minute.
- When Ilias put second-rower Keaon Koloamatangi over for South Sydney's fourth try in the 21st minute, the Rabbitohs were scoring at better than a point a minute.
Koloamatangi finds the fourth
- The Warriors finally got on the scoreboard in the 26th minute when winger Ed Kosi, who scored a hat-trick against Parramatta last weekend, finished a backline movement.
- Regular service resumed four minutes later when Rabbitohs superstar Latrell Mitchell received a late off-load from Jai Arrow and pushed aside Warriors Bunty Afoa to score.
Latrell explodes into the game
- Mitchell stripped the ball one-on-one from Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson and the defence cracked again under sustained pressure when the Rabbitohs fullback shovelled a pass to Alex Johnston to score his 159th NRL try.
Breaking news: Alex Johnston scores
- Leading 36-6 at halftime, Souths started the second term where they had left off, with Mitchell putting winger Izaack Thompson over for a try on debut in the 43rd minute.
- The Warriors hit back when Johnson passed to Sironen and performed a run-around to create an overlap against the Rabbitohs' left edge defence to score.
Johnson scores on the wrap around
- Mitchell quickly put paid to any thought of a late comeback like the Warriors mounted during the Magic Round clash with Souths when he strolled over to score in the 56th minute.
- He was then given an early mark by Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou after a 66 minute performance which featured his trademark Wallaby ears try celebration.
Latrell gets his second
Play of the game
Former Dragons lower grade winger Izaak Thompson was handed his NRL debut with Souths after returning to the game following a four year lay-off and the 25-year-old couldn't have asked for more than to score a try.
Thompson's 43rd minute try set the tone for the second half and featured a perfectly placed rocket ball from superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell before the winger pushed off Reece Walsh to score.
Dream debut for Thompson
What they said
"We have got some big games and we have got some aspirations about how we want to finish the season. Everyone talks about the draw but the beauty of what we have got in the back end is that teams aren't going to influence where we finish. It is on us and every two points decides where we finish at the end of the year. I said to the boys before the game that at this time of the year it becomes about levels. Teams step up a level and other teams fall out the back door so it is up to us every week to step up our levels and make sure that when we get to finals we are playing the footy we know we are capable of," - Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.
Rabbitohs: Round 21
"Since I have taken over in this role that is probably the most disappointed I have been. I thought our attitude to defence was terrible. That first half - and even the second half - we just didn't wan to get physical with them and that is an attitude thing. We are in a tough situation because we are living out of a suitcase and we have got four weeks to go, and we need to show a lot more that what we showed tonight," - Warriors interim coach Stacey Jones.
Warriors: Round 21
The Rabbitohs travel to CommBank Stadium next Friday night to take on Parramatta in a clash with a bearing on the finals ambitions of both clubs, while the Warriors host the Bulldogs at Mt Smart Stadium.
Souths coach Jason Demetriou will welcome back England prop Tom Burgess from suspension, and he said centre Campbell Graham was likely to be available the following week after surgery for a facial fracture sustained a month ago.
A win against Parramatta will see the Rabbitohs leapfrog the Eels into fifth place on for-and-against.
The Warriors will be hoping for another good performance in front of their home fans after beating Wests Tigers and suffering a narrow loss to the Storm in their only two matches in New Zealand since 2019.
Playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita (shoulder) and centre Jesse Arthars (quad) may be available for selection.