South Sydney’s dream of back-to-back NRL premierships is in major doubt with skipper Greg Inglis suffering a knee injury in on Friday night’s 32-18 loss to Canterbury.
The Rabbitohs’ star fell awkwardly in a tackle late in the second half and, while initially trying to play on, he was eventually substituted after Bulldogs back-rower Shaun Lane sealed the win in the 68th minute.
The victory only lifts the Bulldogs into seventh spot, but the convincing nature of the win in the grand final rematch brings them back into premiership reckoning.
Led by unlikely hero Damien Cook, the visitors stunned the defending premiers and the 26,503-strong ANZ Stadium crowd with a 22-0 first-half shutout.
The back-up rake scored the opening try and acrobatically set up another on the stroke of halftime when he flung his body over the deadball line to flick back a ball for Sam Perrett.
Aside from a brief 10-minute period just after the break that yielded one try, the Rabbitohs’ pack was overpowered by their opposition and looked rudderless without suspended hooker Issac Luke.
A comeback loomed when Bryson Goodwin leaped for John Sutton’s kick in the 50th minute, however Canterbury’s Curtis Rona regained the momentum for his team with another signature touchdown eight minutes later.
It was the leading tryscorer’s 20th of the season.
Departing second-rower Frank Pritchard set up first points for the match with a stellar 10th-minute offload for Cook, before Trent Hodkinson’s looping long ball found Perrett in the 17th.
The visitors had the home side’s measure in attack and defence, as evidenced by Brett Morris’ trysaving tackle on Dylan Walker in the 27th minute, before latching onto another Pritchard offload a minute later.
Cook completed a flawless first half by reacting first to a Hodkinson field-goal attempt, charged down by the Rabbitohs, saving a ball well over the dead ball line for Perrett.
Alex Johnston and Jason Clark both nabbed consolation tries late in the game.
Bulldogs captain James Graham was severely concussed in the opening minute of the second half but questionably returned to the match.