The first game of Saturday afternoon footy kicks off at 3pm when the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs host the South-Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Bulldogs have lost 5 of their last 6 games, including an extremely disappointing loss to the Raiders last week. They outplayed the Raiders for the majority of the game, and looked to have wrapped up a good win when they were leading 28-14 with six minutes to go. Rhyse Martin was a big factor in getting the Bulldogs to this lead, as he scored a hat-trick of tries and tallied 24 total points on the night, kicking six goals from six attempts. What happened next can only be described as a disaster, as the Raiders scored three quick tries to secure one of the more remarkable comebacks of the season, handing the Bulldogs a 32-28 defeat in front of their faithful fans at Belmore Sports Ground.
The Rabbitohs have been on fire for the past two months. They have won a whopping eight consecutive games and are now the competition leaders. However, they are coming off a bye last week, and two weeks ago had a bit of a hiccup as they were almost beaten by the Cowboys at a soaking wet Barlow Park in Cairns. The Cowboys took advantage of the wet conditions early, and managed to jump out to a 14-6 lead just before halftime. That was before Cody Walker reaped the rewards of a great Sam Burgess offload to close the gap to just two at the break. The second half was very tightly contested as both teams struggled with the conditions, until Adam Reynolds slotted a field goal in the 78th minute to get the Bunnies home 21-20.
Origin prop David Klemmer has been named to back up after playing for the Blues on Wednesday night. He returns to the starting side at the expense of Danny Fualalo, who moves back to the bench with Francis Tualau dropping back to the reserves.
All Origin players have been named to back up for the Rabbitohs, with Dane Gagai, Damien Cook and Angus Crichton all returning to the starting side. Hymel Hunt replaces Greg Inglis in the centres, after he suffered a broken thumb against the Cowboys. Mark Nicholls returns to the bench in place of Jason Clark.
This will be the second matchup between the two teams this season. The first was in round 4, and was also played at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. It was a tightly contested affair, and on that occasion the Rabbitohs got away with a 20-16 win, after trailing the Bulldogs the majority of the game. The two squads looked a bit different on that day, so the result shouldn’t be looked into a great deal. The Rabbits were without key playmaker Adam Reynolds, who will look to have an impact with his highly rated kicking game.
The Bulldogs spine has also changed a lot since the last meeting between the two sides. Fullback Moses Mbye has departed after signing with the Tigers a few weeks ago, and they have lost five-eighth Kieran Foran for the rest of the season to a toe injury. The Bulldogs have however managed to score 64 points in their last two games combined, which is a stark contrast to their early season points scoring woes. If this trend continues, we may see a high scoring thriller at ANZ Stadium, and the Bulldogs may be able to push the Rabbitohs close to their first loss since round 8, potentially even going one step further and causing a big upset if their defense can hold up.
The key battle in this game is going to be the battle of the forward packs. There have been few teams who have been able to stop the Rabbitohs forward pack during this win streak, and the Burgess brothers have been unstoppable up the middle of the field. They face a bit of a challenge in the Bulldogs pack, as prop David Klemmer is one of the league leaders in metres gained and post contact metres gained. The Dogs also have some size coming off the bench in Clay Priest, Danny Fualalo and young gun Ofahiki Ogden, who will look to try and match it with the rampaging Rabbitohs forwards. The pack that wins the battle in the middle will go a long way to winning the game for their team.
Rabbitohs fullback Alex Johnston has scored 21 tries in his last 12 games at ANZ Stadium. Look for him to add to that tally against a Bulldogs defense giving up 21 points per game this year.
SQUADS (optional paragraph)
Bulldogs: 1 Will Hopoate, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Kerrod Holland, 5 Reimis Smith, 6 Lachlan Lewis, 7 Jeremy Marshall-King, 8 Aiden Tolman, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Rhyse Martin, 13 Adam Elliott
Interchange: 14 Fa’amanu Brown, 15 Clay Priest, 16 Ofahiki Ogden, 17 Danny Fualalo
Reserves: 18 Asipeli Fine, 19 Matt Frawley, 20 Francis Tualau, 21 John Olive
Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Hymel Hunt, 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 Doueihi, 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Mark Nicholls, 17 Tevita Tatola
Reserves: 18 Matthew McIlwrick, 19 Braidon Burns, 20 Dean Britt, 21 Kyle Turner, 22 Billy Brittain
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday, July 14th
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 3:00pm AEST
Referees: Gavin Badger, Peter Gough
WHO WILL WIN?
After the Bulldogs capitulated late against the Raiders last week, their confidence will have taken a big hit. Expect the Rabbitohs to be fresh off the back of a bye week rest and ready to play the same sort of footy that has seen the rocket to the top of the competition ladder. Combine these two factors, and it spells trouble for the Bulldogs. Rabbitohs by 12