St Helens 0 South Sydney Rabbitohs 39: Souths put in an award-winning performance to demolish Saints

Russell Crowe watched his South Sydney team come away with the gong after demolishing Super League champions St Helens in an embarrassingly one-sided 2015 World Club Challenge.

South Sydney Rabbitohs' lift the World Club Series trophy after thrashing St Helens. Picture: PA.

Crowe’s decision to put rugby league before the Oscars paid off as he watched his beloved Rabbitohs follow up their 2014 NRL title triumph and their recent success in the NRL Nines to claim a first world crown with a 39-0 rout of Saints.

Putting Langtree Park ahead of the red carpet in Hollywood, Crowe arrived by helicopter at nearby Haydock Park racecourse to join the sell-out crowd of 17,980 and witness a further demonstration of the gulf that remains between the NRL and Super League.

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Bath’s union convert Sam Burgess, hero of their Grand-Final success, sat next to the Hollywood actor and director to cheer on his twin brothers George and Sam as the Rabbitohs became the sixth NRL winners of the World Club Challenge in the last seven years.

Their seven-try triumph also completed a 3-0 whitewash of the cream of Super League following earlier wins by St George Illawarra and Brisbane Broncos over Warrington and Wigan respectively.

Whereas Wigan and Warrington at least pushed their opponents all the way, Saints were given a rude awakening as Souths demonstrated their class from the start.

Keiron Cunningham’s men trailed 24-0 at half-time and the final score meant a third crushing defeat for Saints, who went down 44-6 to Melbourne in 2000 and 38-0 to Sydney Roosters in 2003.

Just like Warrington and Wigan before them, Saints conceded early, with former Manly forward Glenn Stewart marking his debut with a second-minute try, touching down a grubber kick from the excellent Adam Reynolds, who went on to kick five goals from seven attempts.

Saints tried to rally but were met by a stone wall as the Rabbitohs demonstrated the smothering defence that is so typical of the NRL, whose teams appear determined to prove that every lost cause is one worth retrieving.

Souths illustrated their scrambling defence early on to prevent Saints centre Mark Percival scoring what looked a certain try while prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook was also turned on his back over the line. The visitors, conversely, were clinical in their execution. Centre Dylan Walker turned the Saints defence inside out to finish off a break by Reynolds and full-back Greg Inglis showed his class in taking a return pass from Bryson Goodwin to score a third try.

Percival went close again without any joy and there was no way back for the Super League champions once winger Joel Reddy touched down John Sutton’s speculative kick on the half-hour mark.

It was damage limitation when stand-off Luke Keary went in for a fifth try six minutes into the second half and Souths simply picked off their opponents to add further tries through substitute Chris McQueen and Reddy while Reynolds wrapped up the scoring with a meaningless drop goal.

St Helens never threw in the towel but the Australians had an answer for everything thrown at them as Crowe began the celebrations and Super League went back to the drawing board.

St Helens coach Cunningham admitted his team were taught a lesson by South Sydney.

“I really am disappointed,” Cunningham said. “We probably got schooled by the best side in the world.

“Sometimes you’ve got to lose in a big fashion to learn some lessons.

“It’s going to be a good education for my players, especially my younger players.

“I know my team are a lot better than they tossed up.”

St Helens were out of the contest by half-time when they trailed their impressive opponents 24-0.

“The first 20 minutes hurt us,” Cunningham added. “I am not sure what rules we were playing to but I didn’t recognise them.

“I know how good they are, Michael Maguire is bit of an idol of mine as a coach and I knew what they were going to do before the game.

“They didn’t do anything different. They completed in the upper 80s (completion rate percentages) in the first half and 93 in the second, whereas we were 62 and 50.”

Former Catalans Dragons captain Greg Bird could be facing the sack by an NRL club for the second time after being implicated in a drugs scandal.

Australian Test player Bird and his Gold Coast Titans and State of Origin team-mate Dave Taylor have been caught up in a Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission investigation into a drug-trafficking syndicate.

Titans chief executive Graham Annesley confirmed that Bird,Taylor and Kalifa Faifai Loa have been issued with notices to appear in court in relation to drug offences.

“As a result ... the three players charged today have also been stood down from all playing and training responsibilities pending their appearance in court on March 9,” said Annesley.