The South Sydney Rabbitohs take on the North Queensland Cowboys at Barlow Park in Cairns on Sunday afternoon. The Rabbitohs are hoping to stay in touch with the Dragons at the top of the ladder while the Cowboys need a win to keep themselves clear of the dreaded wooden spoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs were down early in their Round 15 match against the Eels but stormed home to record their seventh straight win. They have the most dangerous attack in the competition and have the ability to score points from anywhere on the field on the back of a dominant forward pack and the likes of Damien Cook and Cody Walker roaming across the field. They did allow a couple of late tries to the Eels so they will be looking for a complete performance this week.
North Queensland Cowboys
After a disappointing loss to the last-placed Eels, the Cowboys fought hard against the Warriors a fortnight ago but just weren’t able to get over the line. They’re competing hard but are still struggling to score points and close out matches when it matters. It doesn’t get any easier this week as they come up against one of the best teams in the competition.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Campbell Graham comes onto the wing in place of Hymel Hunt in the only change for the Rabbitohs, as all of their representative players are set to back up.
North Queensland Cowboys
Lachlan Coote comes back into the side at fullback after Michael Morgan has been ruled out for the season with a bicep injury, while Antonio Winterstein rejoins the team in place of Javid Bowen. Matt Scott returns from a neck injury with Sam Hoare being dropped. Both Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess are expected to back up from Origin.
This is the second meeting between the Rabbitohs and Cowboys in 2018, with a Rabbitohs penalty goal after the siren the only thing separating the two sides on the first occasion. That was one of the Cowboys’ best performances of the season but it still wasn’t good enough against a red hot Rabbitohs team.
The fact they were so close to beating the Rabbitohs in Round 11 will no doubt give the Cowboys confidence heading into this match. They’re only playing for pride for the remainder of the season, but they will want to give Johnathan Thurston the best send off possible so there is still a lot of motivation for this team to finish the year strong. If they are any chance of causing an upset, they must win the battle in the middle. That’s no easy feat, however, against a massive South Sydney forward pack lead by the Burgess brothers.
The Rabbitohs have become one of the premiership favourites this season, looking a completely different side than a year ago. Their game plan is simple; dominate through the middle, and allow their lethal backline to take advantage on the edges. They just have to stick to that plan and they should be too good for a Cowboys team that is really struggling.
All eyes will be on the locks for both teams. Jason Taumalolo has been a shining light for the Cowboys despite their struggles, averaging 172 metres per game with 74 total tackle breaks, and he leads the competition with 1089 post contact metres.
After a down year in 2017, Sam Burgess has been back to his devastating best this year, along with his brothers in the front row. He averages 141 metres per game, an impressive stat given who he has to compete with for touches. This will be a battle that all fans will be keeping a close eye on and whoever gets the upper hand could play a big role in deciding which team gets the two points.
If the Rabbitohs win on Sunday, it will make it eight straight victories for the first time since 1989.
Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Greg Inglis, 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Thomas Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess
Interchange: 14 Adam Douehi, 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Tevita Tatola
Reserves: 18 Billy Brittain, 19 Hymel Hunt, 20 Mark Nicholls, 21 Tyrell Fuimaono
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Enari Tuala, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Te Maire Martin, 7 Johnathan Thurston, 8 Matt Scott, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo
Interchange: 14 Ben Hampton, 15 Shaun Fensom, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Francis Molo
Reserves: 18 Justin O’Neill, 19 Ethan Lowe, 20 Mitchell Dunn, 21 Shane Wright
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 1 July
Venue: Barlow Park
WHO WILL WIN?
It will hardly feel like a home game for the Rabbitohs, with the match being played in Cairns, but it won’t make enough difference. The Rabbitohs are just a far superior side than the Cowboys and should come away with an easy win.
Rabbitohs by 16