Adam Reynolds 20% conversion rate nearly came back to haunt the Bunnies as a Benji Marshall inspired comeback revived the dead and buried contest.
Dane Gagai and the Rabbitohs feasted on the fractured Tigers left edge all night, Gagai waltzing over in the 56th minute with the nearest defender 15 metres infield to highlight the severity of their issues.
That try South Sydney’s fourth and final, all of which against Wests left edge defence.
It took the Tigers over an hour to notch their first points, a feat which didn’t look like happening until Benji Marshall – a 50th minute inclusion – established himself.
When Harry Grant was reintroduced to a lineup now packed with playmakers, Wests were as potent as ever. With two quick tries in five minutes they had their tails up and hounded the Souths line at the death, but had been left with a deficit too great to overcome.
The opening half hour didn’t provide much action in terms of scoring or threatening plays, but there was plenty of theatre.
A mad scramble culminated in Josh Reynolds trying to kick the loose footy but instead collecting Campbell Graham’s head. Latrell Mitchell took exception and charged in, cleaning up Reynolds with a swinging arm – both could find themselves in hot water.
The Josh Reynolds kick that set the tone for a heated night
Plenty of push and shove followed and the fuse of hatred between Mitchell and Reynolds was lit – the two lining each other up and sharing heated verbal exchanges throughout the night.
The Rabbitohs gradually won the prolonged field position tussle, and were starting to become a handful for the Tigers. Adam Doueihi foiled Adam Reynolds first raid at the line with a try saving tackle, not long after it was a Tiger pack utilising the slippery surface to drive Graham into touch.
Wests couldn’t keep the Bunnies out forever, and a Latrell Mitchell run opened the door for their spine to unite in a passing chain that put Gagai over in the corner for his first of three.
On the cusp of half time, the Tigers were made to pay for back to back errors. In dangerous field position, Latrell Mitchell shrugged off Moses Mbaye and steadied himself to launch a pinpoint cutout to Gagai in his favourite corner.
James Roberts hit the gas and flew 30 metres down the wing to open the second half scoring, leaving a dazed and flustered Tigers left edge in his wake.
Inside the hour mark, the Rabbitohs had four and Dane Gagai his first NRL hattrick, strolling into an open in-goal without a defender in sight
After his short sideline stint, Harry Grant’s reintroduction bought immediate results. He darted right out of dummy half then looked back inside and put it in Josh Aloiai’s lap to bust to the line.
Minutes later they struck again, off the back of a set restart Marshall linked Luke Brooks who threw a bullet to Mbaye. With precision timing Mbaye drew the defender in Gagai and put debutant Reece Hoffman over for his maiden career try.
This Latrell Mitchell high shot the second incident of the night that could see the Bunnies fullback in trouble
With all the momentum Wests looked every chance of pulling off a brazen Bankwest robbery but a big coach killer dashed their hopes. Receiving the kick-off, Chris Lawrence tried to control the ball with his foot, but it skipped away and into the path of a stampeding red and green army.
The Tigers still had chances, Mitchell and Gagai were forced to lay courageous try saving tackles. Michael Chee-Kam pounced on a loose footy and forced a Bunker review, but it was nothing more than wistful thinking.
South Sydney the better side for three quarters of the game, hung on as deserved winners. Adam Reynolds celebrated his 30th Birthday with two line break assists, a try assist and 572 kick metres. Latrell Mitchell also picking up two line break assists and a try assist. Hat-trick hero Dane Gagai walked away with three tries, four line breaks and 181 metres.
Benji Marshall bought plenty to the table for Wests Tigers and should earn himself a starting jumper next week, young gun Harry Grant continued to impress.
South Sydney earnt a valuable two points, clinging on to their spot in the eight. On the other hand Wests have fallen to that dreaded ninth position, with serious concerns over the vulnerability of their left edge which conceded every Souths try.