Rabbitohs gain a massive win against the Warriors. Video / Sky Sports
Forget all the talk about the Warriors getting additional home games in New Zealand next year, or other initiatives to repay their sacrifices over the last three seasons.
Here’s a better suggestion: can they just not face South Sydney at all in 2023?
The Rabbitohs have been a perennial nightmare for the New Zealand team over the last decade, and that pain continued on Saturday with a stinging 48-10 defeat.
The Warriors had only beaten the Sydney side once in the last 12 encounters – dating back to 2013 – and never looked likely on the Sunshine Coast, after an awful start, that was almost a carbon copy of the Magic Round clash in May, where they trailed 26-6 at halftime before an improbable comeback.
On Saturday, Souths led 36-6 after 40 minutes, although the Warriors at least showed some heart after the interval to restrict too much further damage on the scoreboard.
This was the fifth consecutive encounter that the Rabbitohs put on 30 points or more against the Warriors, a run that South Sydney haven’t managed against any opponent since before World War II.
It was a disaster from the start.
The Warriors conceded four early tries to trail 24-0 after 21 minutes, as nothing went right in the first quarter, with almost no ball, unconvincing defense and cheap penalties.
An Ed Kosi try stemmed the tide briefly, before two more South Sydney touchdowns extended the halftime advantage to 30 points and left the Warriors playing for pride in the second half.
Young hooker Freddie Lussick, in just his second NRL start, was one of the few Warriors to emerge with credit, with a big defensive workload, while Reece Walsh, Wayde Egan and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak never stopped trying.
The Rabbitohs are a fearsome team when they get in the groove, but it’s the kind of result that leaves more questions for the Warriors hierarchy.
Although Te Maire Martin is a quality recent signing, issues remain in the forwards. There is a distinct lack of quality or variety in the second row and there is also a shortage of impact in the middle, as Matt Lodge – for all his off field issues – left a vacuum that has not been filled.
But Saturday was a team-wide problem.
South Sydney fed on momentum, and they had a buffet from the start. The first quarter was a procession, as the Warriors constantly invited pressure. And unlike the last three weeks, there was a lack of starch in defence. They couldn’t shut down the second phase play and too often tacklers were isolated one on one close to the line.
After Lachlan Ilias and Damien Cook had found gaping holes to score early, Cameron Murray grabbed his third assist in traffic to set up Tevita Tatola, before Egan couldn’t stop a close range charge from Keaon Kolomatangi.
Kosi’s try was a well worked backline move – with a crisp pass from Egan – but was swiftly followed by the Rabbitoh’s fifth, which was a low point. First Jai Arrow was allowed to offload despite the presence of three tacklers, before Latrell Mitchell beat a series of ineffective arm grabs in a 35 meter run to the line.
Those Warriors fans still watching in the second half would have been fearing the worst, especially when Izaac Thompson scored after three minutes.
But Watene-Zelezniak showed great determination to bundle Alex Johnston out near the corner flag, before Shaun Johnson ran a double round off Jack Murchie to score. Mitchell scored another soft try, then a debatable forward pass call scratched what would have been a deserved brace for Kosi.
But the Warriors held the Rabbitohs out for the final 24 minutes, which was a small consolation.
Warriors 10 (Ed Kosi, Shaun Johnson tries; Shaun Johnson con)
Rabbitohs 48 (Lachlan Ilias, Damien Cook, Tevita Tatola, Keaon Kolomatangi, Latrell Mitchell (2), Alex Johnston, Izaac Thompson tries: Mitchell eight cons)