Paul McGregor was only half joking when he labelled South Sydney the new NRL benchmark.
A week after defending premiers Melbourner declared St George Illawarra now set the standard, the Dragons hit their first hurdle when they were humbled 24-10 by the Rabbitohs on Sunday.
The Dragons remain in top spot on 16 points - two ahead of Penrith and the Warriors - however the Rabbitohs' sixth win in their past eight games lifts them to equal fourth with Melbourne on 12.
"They (Souths) are the benchmark," McGregor quipped.
"They're a good side. We knew before the game that we're playing some quality opposition. They've got some big, powerful forwards and some speed out wide and good experience through their whole side."
McGregor insisted that he didn't mind Melbourne counterpart Craig Bellamy crowning the Dragons as the team to beat following their clash last week.
"You've got to play good week to week to play finals footy and then you're ready. So if teams think we are the benchmark, we've got to make sure that we go out and don't disappoint," he said.
Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold was quick to distance his side from any such tag.
"They (Dragons) have been more consistent than us over the first 10 rounds so the pleasing thing for me, from a coaching point of view is the players turn up to work and they're working hard to improve," he said.
"We're just building a little bit of consistency into our game. But they're on top of the table for a reason."
Other big winners from round 10 were Penrith, who jumped to second spot after James Maloney again willed his team from behind to secure a 29-18 win over Newcastle.
Heavyweights the Sydney Roosters turned in arguably their best game of the season with a 32-0 shutout of the Warriors in Auckland, and Melbourne overcame a slow start to bludgeon Gold Coast 28-14.
The Storm's win may have come at a cost however, with skipper Cameron Smith facing a two-match ban for making dangerous contact on former teammate Kevin Proctor after grabbing his leg in a heavily-criticised tackle.
In other matches, Canterbury edged Parramatta 20-12 to leave the Eels alone at the bottom of the table, while Manly ended a five-game losing streak by toppling Brisbane 38-24.
The Wests Tigers ensured Johnathan Thurston would see out his career without a win at Leichhardt Oval by beating North Queensland 20-12, while Cronulla beat Canberra 24-16.
Australian Associated Press