South Sydney fear Latrell Mitchell won’t play again before the NRL finals after they made a premiership statement with a 38-0 flogging of Parramatta.
Mitchell hurt his hamstring in the demolition job, after his leg caught in a collision with a teammate, and will require scans on Friday.
The Rabbitohs don’t expect the fullback to return before the final round in four weeks time, with Alex Johnston likely to deputise at the back.
“He’s done his hamstring. We’re just not sure of the seriousness of it,” coach Wayne Bennett said.
“It probably won’t be anything under a month, but hopefully he’ll be back in a month.”
But Mitchell’s injury shouldn’t detract from just how good Souths were as they set up a blockbuster clash with Melbourne next week.
Yet to beat a top-six team before Thursday night, the Rabbitohs claimed their first big scalp of the year in style.
They didn’t just beat the Eels, they handed them their heaviest defeat at Bankwest Stadium and put a question mark over their title credentials.
A week after scoring 38 points in the first half against Manly, Souths were arguably even more impressive in the opening 40 minute on Thursday night as they set up a 22-0 lead.
“The most important thing is to play our brand of football and keep at that and not get bored by it,” Bennett said.
“That’s our best chance of getting results and getting wins against any team. Top four or bottom four.”
It all but assured Souths a finals spot and suddenly put them in the hunt for the top four.
Parramatta are now hoping to hold on to a place in the four themselves, with their form fading in the past seven weeks.
Brad Arthur’s men missed 53 tackles while five-eighth Dylan Brown finished the night getting scans on an ankle, amid concerns of a syndesmosis injury.
“It was ordinary,” Arthur said.
“We’re not a team at the moment that’s prepared to roll our sleeves up and build a game.
“It’s an easy fix, go back to owning out effort areas and go back to being a team that’s prepared to build a game.”
Souths were dynamite on their left and pretty dangerous on their right as they found the Eels wanting on their edges as they racked up seven unanswered tries.
And this was from a backline missing Dane Gagai, Alex Johnston, James Roberts and Braidon Burns.
Their first try in the fifth minute set the scene, courtesy of a lovely left-edge move that had Mitchell’s quick hands put Corey Allan over.
Jaxson Paulo crossed next before Souths’ halves combined brilliantly for one first-half try when Adam Reynolds drifted across field and found a gap for Cody Walker to charge through from 30 metres out.
In the next set, Walker broke down the left edge to put the Bunnies on the attack, allowing Reynolds to grubber for Jaydn Su’A to score a few plays later.
Reynolds had one of his own later in the game while Campbell Graham bagged a double to take Souths’ tally to 31 tries in their past five games.