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AJ hat-trick propels Souths to big win amid injuries to Origin stars

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.

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.

Koloamatangi steamrolls his way to the line

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.

Jojo Fifita gets over on half-time

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.

Cook sees the space and Walker finishes it

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.

Match snapshot

  • Rabbitohs prop Tavita Tatola continued to press for NSW Origin selection after running a game high 173 metres with the ball;
  • Souths five-eighth Cody Walker finished the match with a try, a try assist, 2 line-breaks, 1 line- break assist and 5 tackle breaks;
  • Titans playmaker Jayden Campbell made 26 tackles after moving from fullback to five-eighth;
  • The loss was the fifth time the Titans have scored 20 or more points in the first half and been run down by opposition sides;
  • The Titans have not defeated the Rabbitohs at Cbus Super Stadium since 2009;
  • The Rabbitohs have now won their past eight games against the Titans;
  • Rabbitohs winger Alex Johnston has now scored 12 tries in 13 matches this season and is just two tries behind Steve Menzies as the third highest tryscorer in premiership history;
  • Souths five-eighth Cody Walker has produced 18 try assists in nine matches.

Play of the game

The Rabbitohs trailed 22-16 at half-time and only took the lead for the first time in the match in the 48th minute but when they did Souths did in style with Cody Walker firing a perfectly placed long ball to Alex Johnston to score his third try.

How about the hands from Walker!

What they said

"It was obviously disappointing. Again we were in a great position at halftime, and then went out and made some errors and couldn't defend our line. There are no excuses for it. I think we are defending really well in the first half. When we are clear what we want to do we are doing it well. I think we sit second in the comp at halftime defensively. It is what's happening when we aren't winning moments and we are not thinking clear we are making different decisions and that hurts us. We had some inexperience out there and we came unstuck in that area. They had key guys like Damien Cook and Cody Walker that we did a great job on for the majority of the first half and then they stepped up and we couldn't stop them," - Titans coach Justin Holbrook.  

Titans: Round 14

"I felt like the first half we were playing like a team that was happy to go try for try but we got back to some defensive resolve in the second half. We defended our tryline and scored points off the back of it so that was the difference. I was really pleased how we owned that second half, we got back to playing that Rabbitohs footy that we spoke about at halftime and that was through our defence," - Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.

Rabbitohs: Round 14

What's next 

The Titans host Wests Tigers on Friday night at Cbus Super Stadium, while the Rabbitohs take on the Dragons at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Souths are expected to have the services of superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell (calf) and Cook Islands prop Davvy Moale (knee), but they will be sweating on the results of scans for forwards Cameron Murray (groin) and Jai Arrow (ankle).

Acknowledgement of Country

Gold Coast Titans proudly acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout South East Queensland.