Date: Friday 12th September
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Sea Eagles: 1. Brett Stewart 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Jamie Lyon (C) 4. Steve Matai 5. Peta Hiku 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Josh Starling 9. Jayden Hodges 10. Brenton Lawrence 11. Anthony Watmough 12. Justin Horo 13. Tom Symonds Interchange: 14. Jesse Sene-Lafao 15. Dunamis Lui 16. James Hasson 17. Jason King
Rabbitohs: 1. Greg Inglis 2. Alex Johnston 3. Dylan Walker 4. Kirisome Auva’a 5. Lote Tuqiri 6. Luke Keary 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Issac Luke 10. Dave Tyrell 11. Kyle Turner 12. John Sutton (C) 13. Sam Burgess Interchange: 14. Jason Clark 15. Chris McQueen 16. Luke Burgess 17. Thomas Burgess 18. Bryson Goodwin 19. Ben Lowe 20. Joe Picker
Manly Sea Eagles
Rd 26- Cowboys (A), L 30-16
Rd 25- Panthers (H), W 26-25
Rd 24- Eels (A), L 22-12
Rd 23- Titans (A), W 15-12
Rd 22- Souths (A) L 23-4
Souths Sydney Rabbitohs
Rd 26- Roosters (A), L 22-18
Rd 25- Bulldogs (A), W 21-14
Rd 24- Cowboys (H), L 22-10
Rd 23- Broncos (H), W 42-16
Rd 22- Manly (H), W 23-4
The Manly Sea Eagles meet Souths Sydney Rabbitohs in the first game of the 2014 NRL Finals at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
In a game that is shaping as one of the games, not only of the finals but the season, the two sides head into the fixture on the back of losses. Last week both Souths and Manly had the chance to win the minor premiership but both blew it. The Rabbitohs threw it away to the Roosters and Manly lost to the Cowboys in Townsville. The loss did not affect their top four positions but means a change in momentum will be needed to progress further in the finals.
The Eagles this week will be buoyed by the returns of Brett Stewart and Brenton Lawrence who have been named after missing last week through injury. These changes mean Jason King drops back to the bench and Clinton Gutherson and Michael Chee Kam drop out of the squad.
The travelling side welcome back Adam Reynolds at halfback, with Luke Keary shifting to five-eighth, John Sutton moves to the second row and Chris McQueen starts the game from the bench.
There are plenty of key battles in this game including the battle of the halves. The Sea Eagles have two internationals in their ranks and plenty of experience when it comes to finals time. But, Souths have two young exuberant halves who are looking to stamp their authority on the finals series. Luke Keary is not tested at this stage of the season and Reynolds is yet to have that moment which defines him. Two years ago he was struck down by injury in the preliminary final and in last year’s prelim final the Manly halves gave him a lesson in finals football.
Interestingly the two sides have varying strengths. While the home side thrive off their outside backs natural ability, the visitors forward pack is one of the strongest in the competition. On the back of what seems like fourteen Burgess brothers and the rest of their forwards, Souths have dominated many teams this year.
The varying styles of play in this game sets to make this an exciting encounter and as with any finals series, the favourites aren’t necessarily always the team to win. If Manly are going to win like they did in the back end of the finals last season, their forwards will have to aim up against the impressive pack of Souths. If they do then their talented backs can exploit the lack of experience for the outside backs of the Rabbitohs.
In my opinion, the forward pack for the Rabbitohs will be too strong for the Manly pack and this will force them to play too laterally and take more risks. With more risks come more errors and the visitors have a team to exploit that.
Previous Meetings This Season
The two sides have met twice this year with a win a piece. The most recent fixture was in round 22 with Souths getting the win on the hallowed SCG turf with Sam Burgess playing like a man possessed. However, earlier in the season Manly came away with the two points at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.
Ironically for two of the top teams in the competition this year, the two times they have played this year neither have actually been at their home ground. This game will follow that trend with Manly fans being forced to travel across the bridge to Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
Souths by 6.