Two form sides were first up in Round Sixteen as the Paramatta Eels took on the South Sydney Rabbitohs. It was third against fifth as the two sides jostled for play-off places. An Eels victory would lift them to second in the table and within a point of the league leaders but of the Bunnies could beat the odds and register the win then they would find themselves in fifth place and knocking on the door of a top four finish.
Brad Arthur made one change to his Eels side bringing in Andrew Davey to replace Marata Niukore. Wayne Bennet, back in the ground with his players for the first time since his lockdown indiscretion, had Corey Allen and Liam Knight in his Rabbitiohs side in place of Alex Johnston and Kurt Dillon.
The Bunnies grabbed the first try through Corey Allen on five minutes as the Eels defence were caught leaden footed and the winger went outside the last tackler to score on the overlap. Adam Reynolds goaled from wide on the touchline for a 6-0 lead.
On eighteen the Rabbitohs were over on the other wing. A Stephen Marsters offload found Jaxson Paulo who scored an acrobatic one-handed try by the corner flag. Uncharacteristically, Reynolds missed the conversion from the touchline.
A Cody Walker solo try on thirty extended the score in the Rabbitohs favour as he took a delayed pass from Reynolds forty from the line and zig-zagged his way over. Reynolds kicked a simple goal for 16-0, the Eels already looking a distinct second best.
Two minutes and they were in again after great pressure on the Paramatta line. A grubber got a perfect bounce into the hands of Jaydn Su’A who took the ball just short of the line, spun out of the tackle, and grounded. Reynolds added the conversion for 22-0 at the interval.
The Rabbitohs lost Lattrell Mitchell ten minutes after the restart to what looked like a pulled hamstring. Two minutes later and the Bunnies further extended their lead as fast hands to the left with Campbell Graham being the beneficiary to walk in on a big overlap. Reynolds added the goal for 28-0.
There were just over ten minutes left when the Rabbitohs hit thirty when Reynolds was on hand to take a Paulo pass and go in from a few metres. Reynolds missed the conversion, showing he’s human after all.
The one-way traffic continued on seventy with Allen stepping in off his wing to wrongfoot a couple of Eels defenders and smash the ball into the ground. Reynolds found a little space inside the far post for 38-0, a drubbing.
As NRL games go, this was a thrashing. The team that were in seventh place walloped the side in third, as the Eels registered a terrible day at the office. The Rabbitohs put in one of their most complete performances of the season just as we are getting into the business end. Who’d bet against Bennett’s side having a tilt at the Grand Final.
Paramatta Eels: Guntherson, Sivo, Jennings, Blake, Ferguson, Brown, Moses, Campbell-Gillard, Mahoney, Paulo, Lane, Matterson, Brown. Subs: Stone, Davey, Evans, Kaufusi.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: Mitchell, Allen (2T), Graham (T), Marsters, Paulo (T), Walker (T), Reynolds (T, 5G), Tatola, Cook, Burgess, Su’A (T), Sironen, Murray. Subs: Nicholls, Knight, Mago, Koloamatangi.
Referee: Gerard Sutton.
Ground: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney.