South Sydney was coming off six straight wins.
Canberra was coming off three straight losses.
Josh Hodgson, Jarrod Croker, Josh Papalii, and George Williams could only watch from the sidelines.
It was the perfect storm for a classical backs-against-the-wall Raiders victory. But South Sydney were a class above.
When the half-time siren sounded and Canberra lead 16-14, the game was evenly poised.
Lead changes frequented early, with Adam Reynolds making use of the Rabbitohs’ first penalty in the second minute to take a two-point advantage.
Jordan Rapana made it 4-2 off the back of Caleb Aekins’ pass. With Croker injured and back-up goalkicker Williams going down in the warm-up, Rapana was trusted with goalkicking duties, but his first attempt was unsuccessful.
Souths regained the lead through a Benji Marshall bullet that exposed Bailey Simonsson’s early tactic of rushing the inside man, Alex Johnston waltzing over.
Canberra didn’t trail for long though, Elliott Whitehead forced his way over the stripe minutes later, and Rapana converted his first NRL goal at 31 years of age.
Standing in at fullback for the Rabbitohs, Jaxson Paulo failed to kill a Jack Wighton grubber that Sebastian Kris pounced on, with the Raiders pulling away to an eight-point lead.
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Campbell Graham ensured the half-time margin remained slim, some short Souths passing sending him into the in-goal.
Souths had sputtered through the first-half, but looked a new outfit in the second.
Having kicked into gear, they were piercing the Canberra defence at ease on their way to a 34-20 triumph, surviving a spirited Raiders finish.
The Rabbitohs claimed a lead they would never relinquish in the 44th minute when a smart running and passing chain saw Dane Gagai score in the left corner, putting them ahead 20-16.
More electric Souths passing culminated in another try, this time courtesy of Johnston’s strong finish.
When Jaydn Su’A crossed in the 59th minute, we were reminded why the Rabbitohs entered this fixture 6-1.
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Trailing by 16, the Raiders didn’t go down without a fight.
Curtis Scott held his composure as the men in green streamed down the right edge, a perfectly timed pass allowing Rapana to score and pull the margin back to 12.
Rapana crossed the line again, this time in vain after an ambitious Whitehead pass was ruled forward.
It would prove a recurring theme, with disallowed tries haunting the Raiders for the night’s remainder.
Twice Jack Wighton’s individual magic filled the Canberra faithful with hope, and twice he was denied through an obstruction ruling.
The Raiders are now in a precarious position at 3-5, having lost four straight.
South Sydney on the other hand are flying high, they look potent in attack and their emphatic scoring run sees them on their highest ever points total after eight rounds. Not to mention they’ve won seven on the trot.