The high-flying South Sydney Rabbitohs take on the St George Illawarra Dragons in what will be an epic showdown.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
South Sydney Rabbitohs
A week after going down to the Broncos in a game they probably should have won, the Rabbitohs returned to form in a strong 18-point win over the Knights. Damien Cook was once again the star in that victory, always looking dangerous with ball in hand. They constantly took advantage of some poor Knights defence, as they lead from start to finish in an impressive showing.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons came up against the Storm last week and were able to come away with an imposing win over the defending premiers to further strengthen their title credentials. After a relatively scrappy first half in which the Dragons led by 8 points at the break, they came out very strong in the second and took control of the game. They raced out to a 24-4 lead before the 50-minute mark and that was too much for the Storm to overcome as they finished with an emphatic 34-14 win, helped by a perfect day of goal kicking from Gareth Widdop (9/9).
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Sam Burgess returns to the team after a two-week suspension in a huge boost for their forward pack. He slots into lock, pushing Cameron Murray to the bench and Adam Doueihi to the reserves.
St George Illawarra Dragons
After making his debut last week, Reece Robson moves back to the reserves to make way for another debutant in Zac Lomax on the bench.
The Rabbitohs and Dragons will battle it out in their second meeting of the season, after the Dragons came away with a four point win in close affair back in Round Five. Both teams had two tries apiece in that match, the only difference being three penalty goals to Gareth Widdop, so this promises to be an exciting match as both teams have improved greatly over the last five weeks.
The Dragons will be full of confidence after their win over the Storm last week but can’t get complacent against a Rabbitohs side who continues to improve each week. They boast the best attacking and defensive records in the competition, with a scary for-and-against of +142, over 60 points higher than the next best (Storm +81) after just nine games.
The Rabbitohs will welcome back Sam Burgess after missing the last two weeks due to suspension. Everyone knows how important Burgess is to this side and if he can come back and get his team on the front foot from the beginning, it could go a long way to getting the win. If he and the rest of the forward pack and win the battle in the middle, the likes of Cook and Cody Walker could wreak havoc.
Dragons prop Paul Vaughan said earlier this week that he believes the Dragons haven’t yet been playing to their potential and there’s still a lot of room for improvement. They’re already sitting alone at the top of the ladder so that is a scary prospect for the rest of the competition if they haven’t yet played their best footy. Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold stated last week he was really happy with the way his side was attacking but said there’s still a lot of work to do in defence. A strong showing against the benchmark of the NRL would definitely make a big statement to the rest of the league.
There are plenty of intriguing match-ups across the park, none more so than the battle of the hookers. Both Damien Cook and Cameron McInnes have been two of the best dummy halves in the competition so far this season, and are both pressing their claims for a Blues jumper. Cook has been electric and leads all hookers in run metres, line breaks and tackle breaks. If he gets even an inch of space, he will take advantage and be gone before you know it.
McInnes hasn’t been as flashy as Cook but is still in career best form. He has great vision out of dummy half, as shown by his neat try last week against the Storm, when Cameron Smith was unable to get to his feet at marker and McInnes took full advantage. One area where he has a clear advantage over Cook is the errors. McInnes has made just two errors this season compared to Cook’s 11.
Whoever has the best game out of McInnes and Cook will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this match.
Gareth Widdop is already averaging 12 points per game, over two points clear of the next best in Jarrod Croker. He has kicked a remarkable 52 goals in just nine games. If the Dragons get a penalty in range, you can be they will take advantage of the easy two points.
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 Cameron Murray, 15 Mark Nicholls, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Tevita Tatola
Reserves: 18 Adam Doueihi, 19 Hymel Hunt, 20 Braiden Burns, 21 Kyle Turner
Dragons: 1 Adam Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack de Belin
Interchange: 14 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Zac Lomax
Reserves: 18 Reece Robson, 19 Mitchell Allgood, 20 Blake Lawrie, 21 Hame Sele
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 13 May
Venue: ANZ Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?
The Rabbitohs are a much better side in 2018 than most people expected, but it’s going to be tough to get a win against a red-hot Dragons outfit. The Rabbitohs should be able to keep it close, but the Dragons will have too much class.
Dragons by 8.