Souths stop the rot with victory over Dragons
South Sydney marked John Sutton's record appearance for the club with a much-needed NRL win over St George Illawarra at the SCG on Saturday evening.
Sutton ran out for the 212th time for the Rabbitohs, surpassing Bob McCarthy's milestone, and helped his side to a comfortable but scruffy 26-6 victory over the Dragons in front of a crowd of 24,368.
The result ended a run of three straight losses for Michael Maguire's side with three of his giant pack getting on the scoresheet.
Luke Burgess and Jason Clark crossed from close range in the first period and the outstanding Sam Burgess punched a hole through the Dragons' overworked defensive line midway through the second.
It was frustrating night for the Dragons with the penalty count weighted in Souths' favour to the tune of 11-6, preventing Steve Price's men from maintaining any sustained spell of attacking pressure.
Adam Reynolds opened the scoring after 10 minutes with a close-range penalty before Luke Burgess lunged over for his second try of the season.
The returning Josh Dugan almost reduced the deficit for the Dragons when he latched onto a Gareth Widdop kick under the posts, only for the officials to rule he failed to ground the ball correctly.
Souths' dominance continued before halftime when Clark went over with Reynolds adding the extras to open up a 14-0 lead at the break.
The second stanza followed a similar pattern with the Dragons continuing to incur the ire of the referees as Souths looked the more likely to score, without ever really looking clinical in attack.
Dragons wingers Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale were both placed on report for shoulder charges on Clark and Apisai Koroisau respectively before Sam Burgess went over for a deserved four-pointer just before the hour mark.
Jack De Belin crashed over for a consolation effort for the joint-venture, with Widdop adding the extras, but Greg Inglis had the final word with a well-worked try that was converted by Reynolds, who finished with five successful kicks.
Dragons coach Steve Price said his side were left confused by some of the refereeing decisions and claimed the ruling out of Dugan's try was a huge turning point.
"I couldn't understand a few of those penalty decisions, particularly in the first half where it was 7-1 in the penalty count," Price said.
"Parts of our discipline let us down ... but when your fullback gets over the stripe and they say the ball came away from his hand and that he didn't ground it when he cleary did is something I am going to have to talk about with (referees coach) Tony Archer."
Skipper Ben Creagh said the new ruling that only allows captains to approach referees during a break in play or when a try has been scored was hugely frustrating, with penalties awarded for reasons he was unsure of.
"He told me to tell my players to work on discipline," Creagh said.
"But they gave a variety of different penalties and I am not sure what we are to work on.
"The players are asking me to speak to the referees but I am not allowed to. It was hard."
Souths coach Maguire said his side ended a poor run of form by simply getting back to what they do best.
"The energy the boys put in after what they have been through for the last three weeks and how they trained ... it allowed us to get through that performance," he said.
"We learned a lot from tonight's game and we have to be consistent with it."
South Sydney Rabbitohs 26 (S Burgess L Burgess J Clark G Inglis tries A Reynolds 5 goals) St George Illawarra Dragons 6 (J De Belin try G Widdop goal) at Sydney Cricket Ground. Referee: Gavin Badger, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 24,368