Two points separate the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Penrith Panthers on the ladder when they do battle in Sunday afternoon’s match at ANZ Stadium. The Rabbitohs will be itching to notch up a crucial win at home to stay alive in this year’s premiership. Alternatively it might be the last minute loss in the previous round that could spur the Panthers to come out firing after falling outside the top 8.
LAST TIME OUT
The Rabbitohs had their second bye last weekend, the week prior however they hosted the Gold Coast Titans for a come from behind 32-20 win. The home side was already impacted right before kick-off with their skipper Sam Burgess being ruled out with a glute strain. South Sydney were hit with a barrage of points inside the opening 20 minutes as the Titans ran in two converted tries and a penalty goal to lead 14-0. Looking for an answer the Rabbitohs right side second rower Angus Crichton busted through the defence to score a must needed try behind the uprights 10 minutes before halftime. The home side then pushed through after the break with tries to Cody Walker and two to Crichton who would end up with an amazing hat-trick and a man of the match performance with 16 runs for 200 metres, 4 line breaks and 27 tackles giving Rabbitohs a vital two competition points.
The Penrith Panthers were against the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville, with the home side just finding out that Johnathon Thurston was out for the remainder of season they needed an important win in front of their supporters. The Penrith side thanks to five-eighth Matt Moylan setup their first converted try and evidently the only points of the half from a great short ball to Corey Harawira-Naera who ran through a gap to score down the right edge. The resilient away side was holding onto 12-8 lead for the last 15 minutes but North Queensland’s trio of players backing up from State of Origin ensured a strong influence towards the end of the game. A pinpoint Michael Morgan cross-field kick to his flying winger Kyle Feldt leveled the scores in the 78th minute. Ethan Lowe who was kicking perfect that afternoon hit a clutch game winning conversion from the sideline giving the home side an exhilarating 14-12 win over the visitors.
The two locks in this battle will be the key head-to-head come Sunday afternoon. The last time Sam Burgess and Trent Merrin played against each other back in round six the Rabbitohs lock ran in for an impressive opening try off an Angus Crichton offload which kick started their 21-20 win. That night Burgess played outstanding posting 51 tackles in the middle shadowing Merrin’s efforts. The Panthers lock has since then found some form improving his run metres and offloads each game while being the top tackler for the Penrith side. Trent Merrin will no doubt see this as a potential matchup with Burgess for this year’s world cup if he is to retain his spot in the side. Their impact through the middle while playing big minutes could determine who comes out the victor.
The last time these sides met the Penrith Panthers had only two wins and fell just short of victory. The South Sydney side will be fresh and demanding another win after their bye but having just fallen out of the top 8 the Panthers will be too strong and edge out the home side for their 7th win of the season.
Panthers by 12
Rabbitohs v Panthers, Sunday 2 July, 4pm at ANZ Stadium
Rabbitohs: 1. Cody Walker 2. Alex Johnston 3. Aaron Gray 4. Bryson Goodwin 5. Braidon Burns 6. John Sutton 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess. 9. Robbie Farah 10. David Tyrell 11. Tyrell Fuimaono 12. Angus Crichton 13. Sam Burgess 14. Damien Cook 15. Jason Clark 16. Zane Musgrove 17. George Burges 18. Anthony Cherrington 19. Kyle Turner 20. Robbie Rochow 21. Cameron Murray
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Waqa Blake 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 6. Matt Moylan 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Rein 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 11. Corey Harawira-Naera 12. Isaah Yeo 13. Trent Merrin 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Leilani Latu 16. Tim Browne 17. Viliame Kikau 18. Kaide Ellis 19. Sione Katoa 20. Sitaleki Akauola 21. Jed Cartwright