The Rabbitohs have beaten the Warriors 32-30 on the back of a masterclass from Cody Walker, while Shaun Johnson and the Warriors defence were again found wanting, despite an epic comeback.
Cody Walker marked his first game as captain in style with a try assist for Taane Milne to cross in the corner and give Souths a 4-0 lead.
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Milne made it two tries in 14 minutes after he finished off an assist from fullback Blake Taaffe to make it 8-0.
Walker had his second try assist of the afternoon when he produced a brilliant cutout pass for Alex Johnston to stroll over untouched.
Damien Cook then finished off a long-range movement from Souths with a barnstorming run to the line carrying several Warriors with him.
Marcelo Montoya finally got the Warriors on the board with the last play of the first half to score in the corner and make it 26-6 at the break.
Souths picked up where they left off in the second half with Lachlan Ilias, who was denied an earlier try doing just enough to dot down and make it 32-6.
The Warriors gave themselves a faint hope of a comeback with Adam Pompey finishing off a pinpoint kick from Reece Walsh to cut the deficit to 32-12.
Jazz Tevaga dived over from close range to cut the lead to 32-18 and set up a nervy finish for Souths.
Daejarn Asi produced a brilliant solo try to make it an eight point game with five minutes to play.
Montoya scored his second to make it a two point game with a little over a minute on the clock as the Warriors stormed home.
Johnson tried for a two point field goal in the last play of the game, but a charge down and an accidental off-side was enough to get Souths home in a thriller.
Here are the key takeaways from the match.
WALKER SHINES WITH CAPTAINCY
Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Cody walker was named as Cameron Murray’s captaincy replacement, but he repaid Jason Demetriou’s faith in a stunning return to form.
Walker put his frustrated performances of late behind him with three linebreak assists and three try assists in one of his best games of the season.
Michael Ennis praised Walker for taking ownership of the kicking game and believes his passing game flowed off the back of it.
“What a first half it was from Cody Walker,” Ennis said.
“He was absolutely outstanding. He looked terrific today. I really enjoyed Cody’s mindset today.
“He was happy to kick to the corners and really stepped up and took pressure off Ilias.”
Benji Marshall believes the added responsibility suited Walker, who underplayed his hand perfectly and took the right option on most occasions.
“It was a great start from Cody Walker,” Marshall said.
“There has been a lot of talk about Cody not being himself and not playing like himself, but I thought the responsibility of being captain has really settled him down.
“I thought he was really patient today and direct and has taken some great options.
“His kicking game has been outstanding. With Cameron Murray out someone had to stand up and Cody Walker has done a great job.
“Cody Walker playing on the front foot is just so dangerous.”
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JOHNSON GOES MISSING AGAIN AS WARRIORS DEFENCE CAPITULATES
For the second week in a row Shaun Johnson failed to stamp his authority on the game and lead the Warriors, who were again woeful in defence against Souths, despite a spirited comeback in the second half.
The Warriors desperately need to address their starts to games and their at times paper thin defence after Damien Cook the smallest man on the field carried five Warriors over with him in the first half.
Michael Ennis blasted the Warriors’ feeble defence, particularly in the first half.
“Shocking first half from the Warriors,” Ennis said.
“It seems to be another one of those Warriors type performances.
“The Cook try summed it up. He ran through five Warriors defenders. He was more desperate and hungry and there is more intensity about the Rabbitohs.
“They just had the Warriors on the rack.”
To their credit the Warriors fought back in the second half but it was too little too late and Corey Parker was critical of Johnson for failing to take control for his side.
“The Warriors defence was diabolical in the first half,” Parker said.
“We saw Johnson’s stats in the first half and he had one run, 11 metres and one tackle bust.
“But all those stats are irrelevant. He needs his hands on the ball and he needs to dictate to his team. He needs to get the ball in his hands on fifth play and kick them into the corners.
“He needs to play to his strengths. He hasn’t done that. His team needs him.”
Johnson has 72 run metres, but no try involvements and his kicking game was poor as he took the wrong options on a number of ocassions.
His inability to score what could have been a match winning try summed up his clunky display.
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MILNE AND PAULO SHINE IN RESHUFFLED BACKLINE
The Rabbitohs reaped the benefits of a backline reshuffle with Taane Milne shining on the wing and Jaxson Paulo having his best game at centre.
Souths have missed Dane Gagai’s influence this year, but after chopping and changing their centre pairings, they appear to have settled on the right combination.
Benji Marshall believes the backline changes took the pressure off Cody walker and allowed him to use the right options as Souths’ clunky attack improved dramatically albeit against some poor Warriors defence.
“They have changed their edges up,” Marshall said.
“Campbell Graham has looked outstanding on the left side. Jaxson Paulo has had some really nice moments on the right side.
“South Sydney would be very happy with the way they played. When they hold the footy they are such a dangerous team to stop.”
Milne had 117 run metres, seven tackle busts, two linebreaks and two tries, while Paulo had 130 run metres, two offloads and a linebreak assist in both players’ best games of the season.
The Rabbitohs will be without captain Cameron Murray for their huge Magic Round clash against the Warriors.
Murray will undergo a minor shoulder surgery, with the club confirming the Origin star will miss up to a month of football.
Jai Arrow will slot into lock in his absence, with Jacob Host taking a spot in the back row.
Meanwhile, the Warriors have made a raft of changes after last week’s poor performance against an understaffed Sharks.
At one point, the Cronulla side only had 11 players on the field after Will Kennedy was sent off and Jesse Ramien was sent to the sin bin.
Wade Egan has been ruled out with an elbow injury, bringing Jazz Tevaga into the hooker spot, while Aaron Pene will slot in at lock.
After being at the club for only four days, former Roosters rake Freddy Lussick will take a spot on the bench to make his debut for the New Zealand club.
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