On the back of a starring effort from Sam Burgess and a cameo role from Luke Keary, South Sydney have recalibrated their NRL finals push with a 32-12 win over Parramatta.
A game after one of their worst performances during coach Michael Maguire’s three-season reign – a 14-10 round-17 loss to Gold Coast – the Rabbitohs controlled the game better in the back end for the six-tries-to-two win at Pirtek Stadium on Friday before 16,125 fans.
Burgess bustled his way over just before halftime and again minutes before the final whistle, constantly surging forward all night and tackling stoutly on the edges.
With the game in the balance and Souths leading 16-12, on his first touch of the ball, a Keary high ball found Kyle Turner for a four-pointer to put the Rabbitohs further ahead in the 65th minute.
Winger Alex Johnston burned Vai Toutai on the outside in the 74th minute with the match-sealing try, before Burgess claimed his double from dummy half four minutes from time.
Parramatta toiled away conscientiously all night and responded well to their 48-0 thrashing to the Warriors but fell apart somewhat towards the end of the game.
The home side failed to make the most of their chances with Toutai dropping the ball over the line in the 45th minute and a Dylan Walker intercept after a Chris Sandow 40/20 just before halftime costing them dearly.
Underdogs Parramatta struck first in the 10th minute when Tepai Moeroa – the man dubbed “the next Nathan Hindmarsh” – crashed over off a Corey Norman short ball and Chris Sandow converted for the early 6-0 lead despite Souths enjoying the better of field position.
Weight of possession told when Souths scored their first try in the 27th minute. After repeated sets on the Eels’ line, winger Lote Tuqiri strolled over untouched after Souths created numbers on their left side to leave winger Semi Radradra stranded.
Burgess then scored his first try just before halftime for the visitors to lead 10-6.
Weight of possession also told late in the contest when Souths scored 16 points in the last 15 minutes.
Tuqiri was put on report by referee Jared Maxwell for a 22nd-minute ‘crusher’ tackle on Willie Tonga.
Eels halfback Chris Sandow was put on report for striking Souths centre Dylan Walker and Joseph Paulo for a 62nd-minute high shot on Tom Burgess.
Fullback Greg Inglis, who had a relatively quiet game, wore No.16 for Souths as a tribute to Alex McKinnon as part of the Rise for Alex Round.
Parramatta rival fullback Jarryd Hayne, who tried hard but failed to break the game open, also wore jumper No.16.
Souths coach Michael Maguire was pleased with his side’s strong effort in finishing off the match.
“That is something we have been talking about for quite some time,” he said.
“We probably set that game up in the first half the way we built a lot of pressure and, in the second half, we pulled them apart with our big men and our men on the edges.
“I have a big belief in this team and how they are applying themselves and we just have to stick to it.
“That’s not how we hold our standards, that last game, and we looked pretty deep into what we are doing.”
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur bemoaned the Eels’ lack of polish.
“I thought we tried really hard tonight; we were beaten by a better team,” he said.
“They probably just controlled the game a bit better than us in the second half.
“We lacked a bit of polish and some finishing touches.
“I was really happy with their effort but that’s what we have to learn is that, while we tried hard, it is not good enough. We have to find a way to execute better and make the most of our opportunities.”