Manly’s minor premiership aspirations took a turn on Friday night after succumbing to an unyielding South Sydney outfit at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The 23-4 defeat still has the Sea Eagles nicely placed at the top of the ladder, but the Rabbitohs sent a loud message to the rest of the competition with a comprehensive victory.
Despite being first to cross the line, that would be all the Sea Eagles celebrated. The Rabbitohs scored two tries in each half to move just two competition points behind the ladder leaders.
The Sea Eagles were forced to play the majority of the match without Steve Matai, who left the field clutching at his left shoulder following a suspicious chicken wing tackle from Souths hooker Issac Luke.
Sea Eagles winger Peta Hiku opened the game’s account as he polished off a slick backline move to score in the corner and take his try-scoring tally to 16 for the season.
However, South Sydney’s lively left edge were able to conjure up a try courtesy of a fine pass from Adam Reynolds, who sent Kyle Turner through a yawning gap to take the lead.
The Rabbitohs then extended their lead shortly after when they went on the counter following an intercept from winger Lote Tuqiri.
The 70-metre run had Manly’s defence back peddling as Souths went wide from the ensuing tackle to score through Kirisome Auva'a.
Trailing 12-4 at half time, Manly were unable to crack the Rabbitohs defensive line as they searched for a way over the line.
But a resolute Souths outfit overcame a Sea Eagles assault to work their way up field and score through Alex Johnston.
Union bound forward Sam Burgess then ended any hopes of a Manly comeback when he scored underneath the posts to take his side’s lead out to 22-4.