Souths shut down Penrith Panthers in victory
South Sydney's watertight defence laid the foundations for a comfortable 18-2 win over Penrith at a rainswept Sportingbet Stadium on Friday to end the Panthers' unbeaten home run.
On a night that saw debutant Kirisome Auva'a score his first try in Souths colours, Nathan Merritt etched his name in the club's history books when he crossed for the 145th four-pointer of a stellar career.
Merritt's 55th-minute effort was greeted with great delight by his teammates as he finally usurped Benny Wearing's club try-scoring record that had stood since 1933.
But it was the first-half defensive effort that set up the win for Michael Maguire's side.
An early penalty from Adam Reynolds broke the deadlock, but it was one of the few occasions Souths spent any time in Penrith territory as the home side dominated possession.
Some poor handling in sodden conditions didn't help the visitors's cause, but they simply repelled everything the Panthers threw at them with some brilliant goal-line defence.
All Penrith had to show for their efforts was Jamie Soward's penalty and their inability to cross the line galvanised the Rabbitohs in the second half.
Former Melbourne junior Auva'a crossed just after the restart before Merritt went over in the left corner when he latched onto Dylan Walker's pass.
Penrith continued to probe, but they were frustrated by Souths defence who didn't miss a tackle until the 65th minute of the game.
Young back-rower Kyle Turner iced the game with a try under the posts nine minutes from time to ensure a second straight win for Maguire's side.
Maguire hailed his side's effort and commitment with the stats sheet reading just five missed tackles for the whole game - the best since records started being collated in 2002.
"I don't think we had a missed tackle until after the 60th minute, as a coach I was pretty proud of that one," Maguire said.
"I guess that is the hard work the players show for each other and the energy they showed throughout the game when we didn't have the ball.
"They came together for each other and that is how you need to be to break records."
Merritt admitted it was a relief to finally break Wearing's record and said he was pleased to get it out of the way, having not crossed since last year's preliminary final defeat to Manly.
"It's a great feeling, I've waited two months to do it," Merritt said.
"It was a great buzz, having all the boys jump all over me, we are like brothers and I wouldn't have wanted to do it without any of them there."
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said the scoreline was unjust on his side but paid credit to the defensive effort of the Rabbitohs.
"I didn't think we deserved to lose by that much," he said.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win. But we were a little bit unlucky as when we had a lot of the ball the conditions were horrendous and that helped them a bit.
"But hats off to them, it doesn't matter who you're playing against. If they're your defensive numbers you're going to be happy."
South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 (K Auva'a N Merritt K Turner tries A Reynolds 3 goals) Penrith Panthers 2 (J Soward goal) at Sportingbet Stadium. Referee: Ashley Klein, Adam Gee. Crowd: 11,674