Rabbitohs and New South Wales hooker Damien Cook made the home of the Maroons his personal playground as South Sydney closed out the first Magic Round with a 32-16 win over the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium.
A Sunday crowd of 34,564 pushed the total Magic Round attendance across the four days to 134,677 with the Rabbitohs using a blistering start inspired by Cook to register their eighth win of the season and move to second on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
Winless in his four previous visits to Suncorp Stadium, Cook laid on the opening three tries of the game with a mix of lightning-fast feet and growing belief, and then went a long way to sealing the two competition points with his first try of the year nine minutes into the second half.
As the build-up to Origin I on June 5 intensifies and injuries to key men create selection headaches, Cook’s form will give Blues coach Brad Fittler some sense of peace and provide Maroons mentor Kevin Walters with a problem to solve.
Match: Rabbitohs v Cowboys
Round 9 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
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On the back of two repeat sets on the Cowboys line, Cook darted to the right and found a rampant Sam Burgess, who burst through for his sixth try of the season in the 12th minute. Nine minutes later he hopped out to the left to give Cameron Murray a veritable valley to run through to score beside the posts.
Cook made it 12 try assists for the season, when he escaped the clutches of the North Queensland markers, out-paced Mitch Dunn, and burst into the back-field, with Kyle Turner the third Bunny to prosper from the Cook bounty.
The Cowboys were forced into an early reshuffle when fullback Jordan Kahu had to leave the field for a HIA in the sixth minute. But the injection of hooker Jake Granville from the bench – and a more even share of possession – in the 25th minute turned the red-and-green tide.
A sublime short ball from Dunn put Justin O’Neill across wide out on the right five minutes from half-time.
But it was Michael Morgan who produced the most audacious kick of Magic Round, channelling the kicking game of Andrew Johns with a sliced kick off the outside of his right boot that hit O’Neill on the chest - the Cowboys centre almost as perplexed as the South Sydney defence.
The Rabbitohs lost Turner four minutes after the resumption due to a head knock but went further ahead shortly afterwards courtesy of the class of Cody Walker.
The Rabbitohs five-eighth showed fingertip control to catch the ball just centimetres from the turf and then waltzed through a disbelieving Cowboys defensive line to extend South Sydney’s advantage to 24-10.
A run by George Burgess reminiscent of his 2014 grand final performance was stopped bravely by Kahu but the damage was done, Cook diving over from dummy-half to score his first try of the season.
A heavy collision from the following kick-off signalled the end of Granville’s evening and Souths back-rower John Sutton left clutching his ribs 25 minutes from full-time with the score at 30-10.
Cowboys centre Tom Opacic pushed away from a Dane Gagai attempted tackle to bridge the gap somewhat eight minutes from full-time but that was the last time the Rabbitohs defence would relent.
Morgan was sin-binned with 90 seconds to play for interference after a Reynolds kick.