It wasn’t enough to prompt another jig but Wayne Bennett is satisfied with the momentum South Sydney are building ahead of the NRL finals after their 31-10 drubbing of the Warriors.
Outstanding lock Cameron Murray bagged two of their four tries in Auckland on Friday as the Rabbitohs climbed to third place provisionally, boosted by two straight wins after three losses.
A crunch showdown against the red-hot Sydney Roosters next week should determine the top-four fate of Bennett’s men but, on current form, he believes they can threaten the premiers.
The master coach performed an eye-popping changing shed dance after last week’s thrilling win over his former club Brisbane.
A clinical performance at Mt Smart Stadium prompted satisfaction rather than jubilation, enhanced by solid returns from injury for captain Sam Burgess and Alex Johnston.
“They way we kept (the Warriors) out of the game for most of the game, it’s not something I think we’ve been good enough at,” he said.
“We’re doing a lot more things right than we were doing wrong when we went through a bit of a tough streak.
I couldn’t be much happier going into where we’re going now, with the Roosters on Thursday night and then going into the semi-finals.”
After a committed first half and trailing just 14-10, the Warriors fell away badly as their propensity for simple missed tackles reared its head.
Coach Stephen Kearney’s night was further spoiled by a probable broken wrist suffered by Chanel Harris-Tavita, which will prematurely end the impressive rookie season of the young five-eighth.
Kearney said his team were more resilient than their heavy losses to the Roosters and Cronulla and felt the final scoreline flattered Souths.
“There was probably a bit of class difference tonight and that gets accentuated when we’re not at our best in terms of confidence. I thought our group tried really hard,” he said.
The Warriors looked sharp early but Murray swung momentum by stepping and fending his way past three defenders before sliding across for the opener.
In his first appearance for 11 weeks, Johnston scored in the corner before an Adam Reynolds penalty made it 14-0.
Warriors centre Adam Pompey responded with a maiden NRL try before Ken Maumalo completed a sensational score after Kodi Nikorima’s line break and pinpoint grubber.
Souths dominated the second half, aided by an alarming Warriors error count and ill-discipline.
Two more penalty goals were followed by a charging Murray’s second try, put through the middle when Reynolds and Cody Walker combined sweetly.
A Campbell Graham 60m burst set up a try to fellow-centre Dane Gagai before Reynolds’ left-footed field goal was the final play of the game, giving the halfback 15 points and a perfect night with the boot.
Fifita’s set-up gets Broncos over the line
Securing David Fifita’s future has always been a priority for Brisbane. But it seems the Broncos can’t re-sign him soon enough after the young back-rower’s bullocking run set up Jamayne Isaako’s field goal that sealed a thrilling 17-16 golden point win over Parramatta that kept their finals quest on track.
Fifita proved the difference in a see-sawing Suncorp Stadium clash, surging through six defenders over 30m before Isaako nervelessly potted the match-winner in the opening minute of extra time in front of 33,020 fans on Friday.
It was clear to see why Fifita – not off contract until next year – is expected to have 10 clubs queuing up for the 19-year-old from November 1.
“He had a stormer of a game in attack and I thought defensively he is getting better – he came up with the big play when it mattered,” said Broncos coach Anthony Seibold.
Remarkably Isaako almost claimed victory with 39 seconds left in regular time, only for his monster 45m field goal attempt to hit the post.
Still smarting from a 38-10 round 14 thrashing from the Eels, the Broncos moved provisionally to seventh spot while also denting Parramatta’s top-four hopes.
It was gutsy stuff after Brisbane overcame the 47th minute sinbinning of hooker Andrew McCullough for a professional foul to clinch the victory, ensuring they will lock in a finals berth if they overcome Canterbury in the last round.
But sixth-placed Parramatta’s top four aspirations are all but gone with their second straight loss.
Fullback Anthony Milford was inspirational for Brisbane but his 76th minute knock-on proved a turning point.
A few plays later Eels prop Kane Evans crashed over in the 77th minute to lock up the scores 16-16.