Hot Bunnies beat struggling Raiders in NRL

·3-min read

Dynamic winger Alex Johnston scored two tries for South Sydney who outclassed and outlasted Canberra 34-20 at GIO Stadium.

Johnston starred for the Rabbitohs in Thursday night's clash alongside fullback Cody Walker, veteran playmaker Benji Marshall and captain Adam Reynolds, who crucially kicked five conversions and two penalty goals.

The Raiders, who suffered a fourth loss in a row for the first time since August 2018, made a late surge but two tries by five-eighth Jack Wighton were denied by the bunker, to the dismay of the majority 14,260 crowd in Canberra.

Canberra winger Jordan Rapana did score a try in the 65th minute to help the Raiders break their scoreless second-half drought in recent games.

But Souths were far too strong and hit full throttle mid-way through the second half with a try by versatile second rower Jaydn Su'A in the 59th minute.

While Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett was satisfied with the win, he raised concerns about the team's overall performance.

"I was disappointed in the way we played. We only played for 25 minutes," Bennett said.

"We are not strong enough at the moment, we've gone back into the old habits."

In a major show of strength during the second half, Johnston scored his second try out wide following a pass from Walker and the play also involving Marshall.

Halfback Reynolds was outstanding and did not miss in front of goal, earning praise from Bennett.

The Raiders, who again struggled to score in the second half, managed to maintain their cool after halfback George Williams was a late withdrawal due to a hamstring injury suffered during the warm-up.

The injury forced Jordan Rapana to take on kicking duties and other changes to the line-up including Elliot Whitehead playing five eighth.

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said: "I thought they overcame that really well, the way they played."

Stuart said it was "anyone's game" at halftime and he applauded the team's second-half effort.

"I was happy with a big part of our game. I was pleased we got back into it and it should've been a lot closer in the last 10 minutes."

However, Stuart also raised concerns about the lop-sided penalty count, which was 8-1 in favour of the Rabbitohs.

"I just think that needs a discussion."

In a see-saw first half, Canberra slightly out-muscled Souths.

A mistake in the Raiders end-zone by winger Jaxson Paulo, following a Wighton sixth-tackle kick, allowed centre Sebastian Kris to score an unexpected try in the 25th minute.

But a bursting try by centre Campbell Graham saw the Rabbitohs hit back late in the first half as they led 16-14 going into the break.

The Raiders had scored an impressive try from stand-in five-eighth and captain Elliott Whitehead in the 21st minute after a strong set.

After an early fumble by rookie full-back Caleb Aekins, the Rabbitohs capitalised with a try by Johnston after taking a wide pass from five-eighth Marshall.

It was also a fiery encounter early in the match with a penalty awarded against Bailey Simonsson, who was reported for a dangerous lifting tackle.

Canberra scored the first try with winger Rapana completing a strong sweeping move from the Raiders in the sixth minute, including a bullet pass from Wighton.