The South Sydney Rabbitohs have quashed doubts over their premiership credentials with a commanding 51-10 win over a disappointing Wests Tigers outfit at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night.
Thursday night's game was critical in the context of the Rabbitohs' season as they headed into the fixture on the back of three-straight defeats. A win, by any margin, was crucial in restoring much-needed confidence in the playing group and the eight-try rout was exactly what Anthony Seibold would have hoped for.
The 41-point defeat brings to an end a promising 2018 campaign for the Wests Tigers, although coach Ivan Cleary would have been bitterly disappointed with his side's lack of commitment in defence, particularly given that they lead the Rabbitohs 10-8 early.
In fact, the Tigers were the first to open the scoring in the 3rd minute when Chris Lawrence pounced a cheeky chip kick by Benji Marshall.
Wests were showing plenty of energy in attack, but their right-side defence was struggling to contain South Sydney's lethal left edge and the Rabbitohs eventually made them pay in the 16th minute when Robert Jennings sliced over out wide.
Only minutes later a penalty saw the Rabbitohs extend their lead by two, only for the Tigers to regain the lead in the 22nd minute when Marshall set up another try, this time showing great vision to kick through for a surging David Nofoaluma.
However, ill-discipline quickly invited Souths back into the contest and they took advantage in the 30th minute when Angus Crichton barged over.
A penalty goal in the 36th minute extended their lead to six before fancy footwork from Cody Walker saw the five-eighth cross over on the buzzer for the Rabbitohs' fourth try of the half.
The Tigers offered very little resistance in the second half, with the first points coming in the 49th minute after a right-side raid ended in Campbell Graham racing over in the corner.
South Sydney did present Wests with plenty of opportunities to hit back, making three errors in the space of ten minutes, but the Tigers were a shadow of the side that came out in the opening twenty minutes.
Instead, they were conceding tries at will with Adam Reynolds, Alex Johnston, Thomas Burgess and John Sutton all bagging four-pointers in a nine-minute blitz by the Bunnies.
It was a dejecting finish to the season for the Tigers, who came agonisingly close for qualifying for the finals for the first time since 2011.
They now finish with the worst attacking record in the club's history and will finish the season in ninth place.
Meanwhile, the 41-point romp means that the Rabbitohs temporarily move into second position, with a home final guaranteed if the Roosters fall to Parramatta on Saturday night. They'll be keeping a keen eye on back-rower Sam Burgess, who left the game early with a hamstring complaint.