As Bulldogs fullback Luke Patten scored his 100th try in the top grade to cap a mixed night, the Rabbitohs left themselves with plenty of work to do over the closing five weeks of the regular season after starting the night clinging to the top eight on percentages.
And having already lost boom recruit David Taylor to injury, the Bunnies could now find themselves without Burgess for some part of their run home after he was placed on report for an ugly grapple tackle on five-eighth Ben Barba.
The two points the Bulldogs garnered as a result of the hit to open up a 20-6 lead midway through the second half was nothing compared to the damage a Burgess suspension could do to Souths’ finals hopes.
Patten, who earlier in the night had taken a restart over his own dead ball line and coughed up possession deep inside his own half, invited the Bunnies back into the game when he inexplicably let a Chris Sandow kick roll in his in-goal.
The cheeky No.7 pounced for his second try of the night to cut the deficit to 20-12, and a comeback looked likely.
But Patten – who this week confirmed he was heading to English club Salford next year to finish his career – touched down on a Brett Kimmorley grubber to seal the result with Josh Morris completing the rout on fulltime.
South Sydney’s inability to capitalise on their late momentum reinforced a trend they set in early in the game, when they held a clear advantage in position and possession yet found themselves trailing on the scoreboard.
Bronx Goodwin scored the first after just three minutes from a Barba grubber before his wing partner Steve Turner doubled the advantage in the 21st minute.
The Rabbitohs welcomed back Issac Luke – who came off the bench when Beau Falloon suffered a suspected fractured arm – and he made an immediate impact when he packed in to a scrum at lock and worked a superb play for Sandow’s first just after the half hour.
But having done so well to get his side back in the game, Sandow undid the good work when he dropped a Brett Kimmorley bomb and then failed to lay a hand as Chris Armit danced over just before the break.
I think confidence is the biggest thing – it’s hard to be enthusiastic if you don’t play with that confidence,” Souths coach John Lang said.
“We tried hard but we just didn’t play well and that’s my job to get them to play so I can’t be critical of their efforts or their attitude.”
Lang said he didn’t get a good view of Burgess’ tackle, while Burgess himself declined to speak to the media.
Bulldogs halfback Brett Kimmorley, who had a hand in three tries in a controlled performance, said his side’s defence was the key after Parramatta ace Jarryd Hayne helped put 16 points on them in the opening ten minutes of last week’s game.
“We leaked a lot of points last week and we were probably shellshocked a bit by Jarryd playing some football and not defending very well,” Kimmorley said.
“We spoke about defence for seven days, it was important that we got it right tonight.”
Asked about his future Kimmorley, who is being chased by Canberra, Parramatta and Cronulla while also contemplating retirement – said: “No idea, nowhere near it.
“I’ll meet my manager in a few days … I’ll have to make a decision soon.”