South Sydney have delivered another emphatic rebuttal to fears they’re a club on the decline with a record-breaking 48-6 smashing of Newcastle at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
The Rabbitohs have now racked up 90 points to open the 2016 NRL season, the most points the foundation club has scored in the opening two rounds in their 109-year history.
Even with halfback Adam Reynolds and back-rower John Sutton missing, the Rabbitohs hummed like a well-oiled machine to establish themselves as the early pacesetters.
They blew the Knights off the park early with playmakers Luke Keary and Cody Walker instrumental, while Aaron Gray bagged a hat-trick and inspirational lock Sam Burgess was back to his devastating best.
The Knights meanwhile were atrocious, particularly in the first-half, completing just 20 of 30 sets, missing 29 tackles and making 12 handling errors.
The Rabbitohs came into the year with question marks about whether they were on the slide, having dipped out first week of the finals in 2015 and with talk of player unrest.
A 42-10 first round defeat of the Roosters suggested otherwise, Saturday’s drubbing only confirming it.
But coach Michael Maguire was keeping a lid on any expectations, emphasising it was too early to get excited about his side’s premiership prospects.
“I’m pleased with how the boys are approaching the game at the moment, they’re very focused around what they want to do,” Maguire said.
“The boys were able to build a lot of pressure in that first half and by doing that it gives you opportunities throughout the game.
“They’re working hard and it’s pleasing but it’s only round two.”
The game was effectively over at halftime after the Rabbitohs opened up a 24-0 lead at the break.
Five-eighth Cody Walker, who was only in the side because of Reynolds’ (broken jaw) absence, was again a standout, throwing pinpoint long balls for two of Gray’s three first-half tries.
He is now locked in a battle with Keary to decide who will partner Reynolds on his return in five weeks.
Burgess was rampaging, producing a spectacular flick pass to Paul Carter to set up Keary after minutes earlier spiralling a sublime cut-out ball for Gray’s second.
On top of that he ran for 153 metres from 21 carries and made 25 tackles.
The loss piles immense pressure on the Knights who have now won just four of their last 22 dating back to round four last year.
Coach Nathan Brown controversially dropped veteran prop Kade Snowden and sent former Australian Test winger Sione Mata’utia back to under-20s for disciplinary reasons and will come under scrutiny after his young side looked out of their depth.
“Some of the young guys were good. Don’t get me wrong, they were far from perfect but some of those guys if they were on the opposition – like the (Jacob and Daniel) Saifiti boys – if they were on the bench for Souths then people would be saying what outstanding futures they’ve got,” Brown said.
“But at the moment they’re playing with a younger side and doing it a bit tougher.”
Meanwhile, Kieran Foran has celebrated his first game for Parramatta, with the Eels scoring a stirring 20-16 upset win over an error-riddled North Queensland.
The Cowboys on Saturday night were a shadow of the side who lifted last year’s trophy, producing one of their worst performances in 12 months with an uncharacteristically jittery outing with the ball and ill-discipline in defence.
They completed just 63 per cent of their sets, turned the ball over 10 times and gave away nine penalties.
A vocal crowd of 12,194 witnessed Foran’s first outing in club colours and, while he took more than an hour to take his first run with the ball, he finished strongly and played a hand in two of their three tries.
However, the victory was soured by a possible broken forearm to hooker Nathan Peats, who immediately left the field after a heavy collision with Jason Taumalolo in the second half.
– with AAP