Canterbury have put another big dent in South Sydney's NRL top-four hopes with a 14-6 upset win over Wayne Bennett's free-falling Rabbitohs.
Kieran Foran made an inspired return from a near two-month lay-off to lead the resurgent Bulldogs to their fifth win from their past seven starts.
Foran set up a second half try-scoring double for impressive backrower Corey Harawira-Naera as a third straight defeat for the early-season pacesetters sent Souths tumbling out of the top four for the first time since round one.
After winning 10 of the first eleven games in their best start to a season in 30 years, the Rabbitohs have now lost seven of their past 10 and shape as finals fodder for the premiership heavyweights unless they can quickly arrest their alarming slide.
"Look, you can't win the competition if you're not playing top football and our football's nothing special at the moment," Bennett said.
"It's pretty disappointing. How do you measure disappointment? One to 10? I'm disappointed.
"Canterbury played well. You can't take that away from them.
"We didn't look at our absolute best. I don't think it was because we didn't want to make the effort. It was the ability of the football team we were playing against and the effort they were putting in as well."
Bennett had hoped the return of skipper Sam Burgess would spark his star-studded side back into action.
Instead it was Foran's long awaited comeback from a hamstring injury that brought energy and a touch of class to a Bulldogs outfit living up to coach Dean Pay's promise of ending the year as finals spoilers.
"I wish we could start (the season) again," Pay said.
"Look, what happened at the start of the year happened and it's part of the journey."
A 2-all halftime scoreline flattered the lethargic Rabbitohs, who never threatened in a dull first 40 that offered up few opportunities for either side.
Harawira-Naera's first try off a Foran grubber kick earned Canterbury a 6-4 lead before Adam Reynolds' third penalty goal of the night levelled the scores up again with 30 minutes remaining.
But Harawira-Naera's second four-pointer four minutes later, this time off a lovely short ball from Foran, proved the match winner.
Rounding out a miserable night at ANZ Stadium for Souths fans was Burgess aggravating the quad strain that ruled him out last week and the recurrence of Braidon Burns' hamstring injury that had sidelined the centre for much of the season.
Burns will have scans during the week amid early fears his season is over, while Bennett said Burgess' condition also "doesn't look great".
Australian Associated Press