Rugby League

AJ hat-trick propels Souths to big win

June 3, 2023 8:02 pm

[Source: NRL News]

Alex Johnston moved closer to the all time tryscoring record with a hat-trick against the Titans but Souths paid a high price for their 46-28 win after injuries to forwards Cameron Murray and Jai Arrow.

Arrow hobbled from the field in the 20th minute with a suspected syndesmosis injury that has him in serious doubt for Queensland in Origin II after he watched the remainder of the match while holding a set of crutches.

NSW officials will be sweating on the fitness of Murray – the Rabbitohs captain – after he also failed to finish the match due to a groin injury.

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The Titans led 22-16 at half-time but conceded an unanswered 30 points after the break before captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui crossed for his side’s only second half try just two minutes before fulltime.

Johnston scored a hat-trick to move past Brett Morris into fourth on the all time try scoring list with 178 tries.

He now sits just two tries behind Steve Menzies (180), with Billy Slater (190) and Ken Irvine (212) now within sight.

The Titans started the first half points blitz through Iszac Fa’asuamaleaui after halfback Tanah Boyd shrugged off the attempted tackle of Hame Sele and put the younger brother of club captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui over for his first NRL try.

Titans hooker Chris Randall put the home side ahead 12-0 after just 10 minutes when he dived over near the posts but the Rabbitohs quickly hit back through second-rower Keaon Koloamatangi.

Souths halfback Lachlan Ilias put Koloamatangi into space and the Tonga international did the rest himself as he stepped and carried defenders to force his way over a 14th minute try.

Johnston then crossed for the first of his three tries just two minutes later but the Rabbitohs momentarily lost momentum when Arrow limped from the field midway through the first half.

Rookie Titans winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira put his side further ahead after finishing off a movement that featured quick hands from five-eighth Jayden Campbell and centre Phillip Sami.

Johnston’s second try kept the Rabbitohs within range of the lead five minutes before halftime after a cut-out pass by five-eighth Cody Walker but Gold Coast went to the break ahead 22-16 after a Jojo Fifita try just before the siren.

South Sydney’s big guns all stepped up after the interval, with Campbell Graham scoring after just four minutes and Murray, Ilias and Walker combining to send Johnston racing for the tryline to complete a hat-trick in just the 48th minute.

Walker then backed up a dummy half break by hooker Damien Cook and beat Gold Coast lock Isaac Liu before fending off rookie fullback Keano Kini to put the Rabbitohs ahead 32-22 in the 56th minute.

A Blake Taaffe penalty goal gave the Rabbitohs a 12-point buffer and winger Richie Kennar sealed the win when he crossed in 74th minute.

Hame Sele scored three minutes later before Tino Fa’asuamaleaui crossed for his side’s only second half try just before fulltime.