Souths demolish Eels in real show of premiership intent
How do you beat a premiership heavyweight by 38-0 in a scintillating performance yet walk away feeling gutted?
When your star player is injured and told he may not play again this year.
South Sydney champion Latrell Mitchell sustained a grade three hamstring strain against Parramatta on Thursday night and will miss between four to six weeks.
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The Rabbitohs have just four regular rounds to play.
"He's done his hamstring. We're just not sure of the seriousness. It probably won't be anything under a month," said Souths coach, Wayne Bennett.
Mitchell's injury came as Souths embarrassed and buried a faltering Parramatta at Bankwest Stadium. The Eels were left red faced and green with envy by a team wearing red and green.
South Sydney finally made a powerful statement - they are ready to rock this year's NRL premiership. Almost overnight, the ad-lib Bunnies have transformed from also-rans to genuine contenders.
It was spectacular stuff. It's one thing to whack an injury-ravaged Manly 56-16 last week but something else to whack a premiership hot shot by 38-0. It was 22-0 at halftime.
"We came here with confidence tonight because we had won our last four games. That's what winning does for you," Bennett said.
"The most important thing is to play our brand of football and keep at that and not get distracted and get bored by it. That's our best chance of getting results and beating any team."
Parramatta was jeered from the field by some irate fans at a ground where they are virtually unbeatable.
It was the first time this year Souths have beaten a top four side and the first they have defeated a side above them on the competition ladder. Souths led Manly 38-0 at halftime last week - that's 60-0 in the opening halves of their past two games.
Mitchell came from the field in the 50th minute with a left hamstring injury.
Souths' Jaxson Paulo accidently dived on Mitchell in preventing a Dylan Brown try, the winger's weight landing on Mitchell's hamstring.
Mitchell stayed down and came straight from the field but he did walk off with a "stretch strain". He was expected to have scans on Friday morning.
Souths halfback Adam Reynolds enjoyed two assists in an eye-opening first half while scoring in the second half.
Mitchell and team-mate Cody Walker were also brilliant, Souths possessing the x-factor to worry any side.
The Rabbitohs scored four tries in the opening 32 minutes. Victory has pushed Souths to 20 competition points and enhanced their chances of securing a top four spot.
The win comes just days after Souths coach Wayne Bennett said: "We need to show everyone we can be a real chance in play-offs."
They certainly did that.
And Souths completed the rout without star backs Dane Gagai, Alex Johnston, Braidon Burns and James Roberts.
Souths had won five successive games, setting up a massive match against Melbourne next week at ANZ Stadium.
The Rabbitohs scored a try and made three line breaks down Parramatta's right side in the opening 22 minutes.
Parramatta's season is spluttering in late-August.
Their attack looks pedestrian and their defence, based on Thursday night, looked brittle against a side with a fearless flair.
"It was ordinary," said Eels coach Brad Arthur.
"We're not that team at the moment that is prepared to roll up our sleeves and build a game, or we weren't tonight. We can't say our defence is good if we're leaking 38 points."
"For me, it's an easy fix - go back to owning our effort areas."
And ensuring their night worsened, Dylan Brown came off in the second half with an ankle injury, possibly syndesmosis.
Phil Gould told Nine during the week: "(Parramatta) is not in the title race at the moment, they're kidding themselves if they think they are."
Too true, Gus.
Before his injury, Latrell Mitchell was a standout at the back for Souths. He looks fit, focussed and peaking at the right time.
During one spectator moment in the first half, Mitchell broke free from his on-goal area, ran 20 metres, beat three defenders and set Souths on a 50 metre movement up field.
Originally published as Souths demolish Eels in real show of premiership intent