TWL RD 19: RABBITS RUN ROUGHSHOD

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The Warriors apparently used up all their defensive resolve last week in their gallant, injury-ravaged showing against Penrith, leaking the second-most points in their history as South Sydney cruised to a 60-22 victory at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

Conceding a club-record-equalling 11 tries in the rout, the Warriors were saved from overtaking the Panthers 62-6 drubbing of Matt Elliott’s team back in 2013 as their biggest-ever scoreboard beatdown. Incidentally, the points bonanza was the highest-scoring match the Warriors have ever been involved in, the 82-point aggregate good for equal-15th in the history of the competition – and the equal-highest of this six-again-affected 2021 NRL premiership.

The Rabbitohs have made a habit of putting the hurt on the NRL’s weaker teams and capitalised on the Warriors’ lack of intent without the ball, particularly on their own line. None of Souths’ tries were overly impressive or require a great amount of game-breaking skill or power – soft four-pointers from close range were the order of the afternoon.

Scratching around for positives, the Warriors were able to put on four tries, with mid-season wing gain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and halves Kodi Nikorima and Chad Townsend especially prominent.

The Warriors enjoyed a dream start, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak streaking 50 metres to score in the fifth minute off a loose Cody Walker pass.

Reece Walsh converted from the sideline, but the rookie’s wayward boot would prove crucial in the ensuing period. Two kicks out on the full – a last-tackle bomb and a halfway restart – led to soft tries to Tom Burgess and Jaxson Paulo inside 12 minutes.

An avalanche of points continued as the Warriors consistently gave up set restarts and failed to offer any goal-line resistance, while Walsh was expertly exposed defensively by the Bunnies.

Only a freakish offload from Latrell Mitchell to put Cameron Murray over could not have been easily avoided. Burgess crashed over for a double, Cody Walker scored a neat solo try and Jaydn Su’A poured through a gap on the Warriors’ left edge as Souths scorched to a 34-6 lead.

But the Warriors rallied brilliantly in the last four minutes before halftime.

Kodi Nikorima – a defensive liability to that point – put Adam Pompey through a hole, the centre offload to Chad Townsend who linked with Marcelo Montoya for a miraculous juggling, back-pedalling try in the corner.

The struggling underdogs made further inroads in the shadows of the break with Watene-Zelezniak realeased down the sideline by Nikorima, who backed up on the inside to take a superb return pass and finish off a 50-metre movement.

34-16 at halftime.

Any notion of a premiership record-breaking comeback materialising was dispelled moments into the second half as Su’A crossed for his second.

A three-minute Josh Mansour double brought up the half-century after 56 minutes.

The Warriors stemmed the flow when Walsh latched onto a wonderful kick towards the Rabbitohs’ posts – the 19-year-old’s seventh in 10 NRL games.

But Souths had the final say, with boom back-rower Keaon Koloamatangi and Mitchell grabbing tries in the last 12 minutes.

The absence of defensive workhorses Tohu Harris and Wayde Egan – while they didn’t effect the Warriors’ resolve last week – is a significant concern going forward. The team’s resistance was threadbare throughout.

It was a performance that didn’t exactly enhance Nathan Brown’s sketchy reputation for instilling defensive backbone into his teams.

Yet leaking 60 points to Souths doesn’t seem the embarrassing disaster that it might. A dream run over the last six rounds, where they face the Tigers, Sharks, Bulldogs, Broncos, Raiders and Titans, must now be their focus. The likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Peta Hiku and Chanel Harris-Tavita will be back in the mix over the next couple of weeks as the 14th-placed Warriors attempt to stage a miraculous late charge for the playoffs.

South Sydney Rabbitohs 60 (Thomas Burgess 2, Jaydn Su’A 2, Josh Mansour 2, Jaxson Paulo, Cameron Murray, Cody Walker, Keaon Koloamatangi, Latrell Mitchell tries; Adam Reynolds 8 goals) defeated Warriors 22 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Marcelo Montoya, Kodi Nikorima, Reece Walsh tries; Walsh 3 goals) at Sunshine Coast Stadium

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