The South Sydney Rabbitohs have stormed into the Preliminary Final with a thumping 32-12 victory over the North Sydney Bears at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday.
It was a ruthless attacking display from the foundation-club in an ominous warning to the rest of the competition with a polished performance from start to finish.
Jaxon Paulo set the game alight with a hat-trick, including a stunning 60m dash for his second try, while Mawene Hiroti crossed for two tries of his own.
South Sydney were relentless in the opening half as they secured a comfortable 18-2 lead, although were made to work hard for their rewards as the Bears defence held strong for a large part of the first stanza.
They spent a majority of the first-half camped inside enemy territory and it wasn't until the 25th minute when Connor Tracey produced a moment of brilliance to break the game open.
Tracey took the ball to the line and fooled the defence with a dummy before slicing through and evading Kieran Moss to score adjacent to the uprights.
The Bears remained committed with their brutal defensive efforts but they could only withstand the pressure for so long, and Paulo eventually took the game by the scruff of the neck with two rapid-fire tries to finish the first-half in style.
He strolled over for his first in the 33rd minute before finding open space down the left-hand touchline and evading Moss and the scrabmling Bears defence with a lethal step back on the inside for a crucial try on the stroke of half-time.
Tries on either side of half-time cruelled any chance of a comeback for the Bears as Mawene Hiroti supported a Levi Dodd break to cross for their fourth unanswered try in the 42nd minute.
Hiroti found his second when he barged his way over from close-range to set a 28-2 lead with just 20 minutes remaining in the contest.
Egan Butcher crossed for a consolation try in the 68th minute when he stormed onto a deft pass on the right-edge before Bernard Lewis strolled over with just five minutes remaining.
Paulo completed the hat-trick in the dying stages of the contest to all but seal a spot in the Grand Final Qualifier.
Written by NSWRL.COM.AU
Egan Butcher 66'
Bernard Lewis 74'
Lachlan Lam 1/2