Tom Burgess of the Rabbitohs is tackled by David Klemmer and Aiden Tolman of the Bulldogs.
Tom Burgess of the Rabbitohs is tackled by David Klemmer and Aiden Tolman of the Bulldogs. DEAN LEWINS

Fired-up Burgess twins inspire Rabbitohs against Dogs

HE'S done it before, maybe it's time for Russell Crowe to get Mark "Spud" Carroll on the pay roll yet again.

Crowe's former bodyguard may have accidentally found the formula to get the best out of the Burgess twins after his media criticism of the underperforming duo resulted in a power-packed performance as the Rabbitohs rolled to a 28-14 win over the hapless Bulldogs.

Spud was this week forced to douse the flames he ignited by calling for Tom and George to drop some weight and add mobility if they want to regain their status among the NRL's best forwards.

While Carroll was trying to patch up a strained friendship with the Burgess clan, the twins got another couple of whacks from the likes of Matthew Johns who told them to stop sooking and listen to Spud's advice.

You could almost see the smoke coming out of the fired-up twins' ears as they answered the criticism with interest on Thursday night with standout performances that obliterated the highly rated Bulldogs pack.

It started with Tom, who looked a man possessed in the opening 20 minutes, running for 100 metres from his nine runs before he was called to the bench to be replaced by his brother George.

George didn't have as many carries, but they had just as much impact as he continued in the same vein, putting his head down and pumping his legs to bend Canterbury's line with every carry.

On the back of the Burgess twins' strong start, Souths led 14-2 at half-time but it could have been anything after they had their way with rival Englishman James Graham and the rest of the Bulldogs pack up the middle.

Both ran with the kind of purpose and intent Bunnies fans have been crying out for all year, simplifying their game and cutting out the errors that tend to come with a flood whenever they start thinking offload.

By the end of the match Tom had 138 metres from 13 carries. George had 120 from 10. More importantly, both were free of the handling errors that have dogged their season and driven their supporters mad.

If that's how they react to a bit of constructive criticism from a legendary player who knows a thing or two about playing in the front-row, then Crowe could do worse than to put Carroll in the sheds pre-game every week to light a fire under the temperamental twins.

The Bulldogs look dejected after Alex Johnston of the Rabbitohs scored one of his two tries.
The Bulldogs look dejected after Alex Johnston of the Rabbitohs scored one of his two tries. DEAN LEWINS

THE BUNNIES ON THE UP

The headlines that surround the Burgess boys always makes them a focus but perhaps a bigger lesson from the Bunnies' consecutive wins has been the development of their young players.

Angus Crichton has been the find of the season, and in a different role coming off the bench he was excellent again, making an instant impact when he first came on to the field to bust the Bulldogs' defensive line with his pace, only to let himself down with a misdirected pass.

Had he hit Damien Cook, the speedy hooker would have gone over for a try that would have given Souths a more fitting reward for their first-half dominance.

Perhaps even more impressive was 19-year-old Cam Murray, who lightened the load for Sam Burgess in the back-row with a tireless performance in the middle.

Promoted to the starting side in the shuffle that put Crichton back to the bench, Murray ran for 113 metres from nine runs and made a team-high 36 tackles playing lock, allowing the elder Burgess brother to move to an edge.

Campbell Graham impressed for the second week in a row, despite having just turned 18, and with a trial HSC exam to sit on Friday morning.

Add the classy Alex Johnston to the mix, who at just 22 has played for Australia and leads the NRL's 2017 tryscoring ladder as the shining light of a miserable season, and you've got a good young core regenerating a side that has been sliding since the 2014 premiership.

Aaron Gray of the Rabbitohs scores a try against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
Aaron Gray of the Rabbitohs scores a try against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. DEAN LEWINS

Johnston was untouchable once again on Thursday night, scoring his 18th and 19th tries for the season with the No.1 on his back, a position he's starting to make his own.

While not the most comfortable ballplaying fullback, Johnston is arguably the most lethal finisher in the competition and Souths look a more balanced side with him at fullback and Cody Walker at five-eighth.

Walker was one of the standout players of the competition in the early rounds this year and he rediscovered some of that form against the Bulldogs, with a try assist for Johnston and some deft kicks to force dropouts and ensure Canterbury were never able to get a foothold.

LAST GAME FOR REYNOLDS?

Enough's been written about Canterbury's crisis over the past six weeks and arguably the beginning of the end of the Bulldogs' season was the announcement that Josh Reynolds would be leaving at the end of 2017 to join the Wests Tigers.

A Belmore favourite, nothing has aggravated the Bulldogs fanbase as much as the five-eighth's departure and he may well have played his last game in blue and white in the sorry loss to the Rabbitohs.

After just 21 minutes Reynolds winced and held his calf and by half-time it was clear he wouldn't be coming back on, as he cut a forlorn figure in the dressing room.

With just three games remaining, a calf tear would likely force a player who's bled blue and white over a 136-game career to sit in the stands and watch the season draw to its miserable conclusion.

News Corp Australia


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