Try as they might, the Canberra Raiders were just not able to overcome both the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the obstacles put in front of them.
Already without several big-names heading into the clash, a cruel blow ensued when George Williams was ruled out in the warmup.
Forced into a re-shuffle, the Raiders dug deep early and were able to score the first try of the game.
Winger Jordan Rapana was the beneficiary of some quick hands down the left and was able to coast over.
The Benji masterclass from last week continued when he executed a perfectly weighted cut-out pass for Alex Johnston to score.
Not to be overawed by their lack of troops, the Raiders would retake the lead through fill-in half Elliott Whitehead.
After some persistent offloading, the ball shifted left and Whitehead dummied, hit a gap, and powered his way over.
The Raiders would then have a quickfire double after Jack Wighton’s grubber was fumbled by Jaxson Paulo, as Seb Kris pounced to score.
Cody Walker then showcased his silky skills with a lovely pass at the line to narrow the deficit to two at the break.
Campbell Graham was the man on the receiving end as he burst through the line untouched to score.
The Souths left edge continues to be potent in 2021 and Dane Gagai’s try was no different.
Taking the line on yet again, Walker pushed the Raiders defence backwards before finding the veteran centre who had a simple passage to score.
A further raid would take them down the left edge with Walker and Johnston combining for the winger to score his second.
Not to be overshadowed, the right edge got into the act when Keaon Koloamatangi made a break.
On his outside was Jaydn Su’a who was able to evade Raiders defenders to score.
At 32-16, the Raiders were not about to die wondering.
An attack of their own on the right edge saw Curtis Scott break free before he found Rapana on the outside for his second.
With seven minutes to go, the Rabbitohs were down to 12 men after Jacob Host was sin-binned for a professional foul.
The Raiders would then have two tries disallowed, both scored by Jack Wighton, for obstruction.
It was these decisions that drew the ire of coach Ricky Stuart post-game.
“Anybody with common sense in regard to rugby league knows that they were two tries but while that type of interpretation is in the game it’s going to be a blight on the game, we’ve been talking about it for years,” Stuart said.
“You can’t run forward and tackle somebody who’s in front of you and not try and tackle the person with the football.
“I was pleased we got back into it, there was a lot of fight to get back into the game and it should have been a lot closer in the last 10 minutes.”
Not one to mince his words, Wayne Bennett was displeased with his side’s lack of mental toughness.
“We are just mentally not strong enough, we were good for a month there, but we’ve just gone back into the old habits,” Bennett said.
“I’m not worried about next week, I’m just trying to get through tonight, I’m just disappointed with the way we played,” he said.
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Cody Walker (SOU)
2. Keaon Koloamatangi (SOU)
1. Elliott Whitehead (CAN)