The return of Sam Burgess has taken the South Sydney Rabbitohs up a level to defeat the St George Illawarra Dragons 24-10 at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Dragons conceded two tries in the first 10 minutes and were held scoreless in the first half, despite owning 57 per cent of possession.
Angus Crichton looked to benefit the most from Sam Burgess' return, as he was arguably man of the match in an affair where he wasn't talked up as one of the potential State of Origin players for Brad Fittler's New South Wales side.
The first half started poorly for the Dragons.
On their first touch of the football, Nene Macdonald dropped a bomb from Adam Reynolds and points followed on the other side of the field through Hymel Hunt.
John Sutton was playing inside Hunt and his skilful tap on created space for the try in the second minute for a 4-0 lead.
It was 10-0 by the 8th minute when Angus Crichton's late offload at halfway got the Rabbitohs rolling up the full length of the field.
Reynolds passed Crichton the ball 12 metres out and his diagonal line run towards the posts pierced the gap and four defenders.
For the next 20 minutes the Dragons dominated possession but for the first time this season struggled to sync in attack.
South Sydney defenders rushed off their line to crowd the playmakers in most sets and it lead to errors or sets that had a goal line dropout as the best result.
Penalties were given away by the Rabbitohs close to their line, but not enough in succession to draw a warning from the referees.
Once Ben Hunt tapped on the ball for Nene Macdonald that was knocked-on in the 29th minute, the Dragons conceded back-to-back penalties which allowed Reynolds to convert a penalty goal in the 32nd minute for a 12-0 lead.
Straight out of half-time South Sydney looked fitter and faster.
Ben Hunt picked up a cork on his leg in the 42nd minute and was noticeably limited for the rest of the match.
With more possession, the Rabbitohs were threatening to put a big score on the Dragons.
Cody Walker amassed five errors, mostly in the second half in dangerous attacking situations which was a saving grace for the away side.
A successful penalty goal in the 59th minute was the only points they got from their early second half dominance.
Tyson Frizell gave the visitors some hope of a comeback when he pounced on a loose ball from a Reynolds pass and ran 90 metres to score a try to make it 14-4 with 12 minutes to go.
Three tries in the last five minutes came to Campbell Graham (75th minute), Frizell (77th minute) and Greg Inglis (79th minute) once the result was out of the question.
As for State of Origin implications; the Dragons' forward pack didn't hurt their chances, Damien Cook and Cameron McInnes were excellent, there was not much between Euan Aitken and Greg Inglis, Reynolds was solid.
Jack de Belin left the field in the 76th minute with an injury.
St George Illawarra take a home game next Sunday to Mudgee where they will play the Canberra Raiders. South Sydney travel to Townsville for a match against the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday.