South Sydney Rabbitohs will take on Wests Tigers in our final Thursday night match of the year at ANZ Stadium
TEAM FORM GUIDE
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Since their big win over the Melbourne Storm, South Sydney’s season has stuttered. They dropped games to fellow finals aspirants Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos and followed it up with a third loss in a row. Last week they were leading the Raiders 12-0 and went on to lose the match 24-12.
The Wests Tigers have had an inconsistent couple of weeks that has ruled them out of finals contention for this year. They followed up their loss to the struggling Dragons with a tight 22-20 victory over the Manly Sea Eagles.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The return of Robert Jennings allows Souths to finally field their top choice backline for this contest. Hymel Hunt moves from the wing onto the bench, taking the place of Tyrell Fuimaono, who drops back to the reserves. The only other change is Tevita Tatola being replaced by Dean Britt, who will make his first appearance for the season.
Elijah Taylor returns to the starting side after recovering from a quad injury. This is welcomed news considering the team has lost Russell Packer to a knee injury. Matt Eisenhuth, Taylor’s replacement last week, now moves into the front row in their only changes from last week.
These two teams met just over a month ago in John Sutton’s 300th match. The Wests Tigers defied a terrible injury toll to beat South Sydney 22-6 and end the Bunnies nine-game winning streak. The defence that helped the Wests Tigers get off to their good start to the season was back on show this night. Back then the victory helped keep Wests Tigers faint finals hopes alive, but now, in the final round of the season they will be hoping to sign off on 2018 in style. South Sydney would be disappointed in their last three weeks and will be hoping to find some decent form heading into the finals. With a few players back from injury in their previous round they should be much better for the run.
This season has turned Damien Cook into one of the premier dummy halves in the game. His runs out from the quick play the balls generated by their dominant forward pack has played a large part in their success. This week he comes up against Robbie Farah, who was forced out of the Rabbitohs mid-season. Farah got the one up on Cook the last times these two teams met and once again both teams changes hinge on the performance of their number nines and the value they can get out of dummy half. The last time these two teams met, Farah spoke about how he used his inside knowledge to help craft the game plan but he might not be so lucky a second time around.
In recent weeks, the halves for Souths have dropped off a bit. Cody Walker was in fine form against the Storm but has been missing lately. Look for a big game from Walker, who will be keen to take the line on and link up nicely with his outside backs. It’s no coincidence that the side he normally attacks is where Souths score most of their points. Now with a full strength backline there shouldn’t be any reasons why Souths shouldn’t return to form.
After a decent return to the Wests Tigers, this could be Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah’s final match in Wests Tigers colours. This is the second time Farah will come up against the team he started with.
South Sydney 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 Hymel Hunt, 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Dean Britt
Wests Tigers: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Mahe Fonua, 5 Kevin Naiqama, 6 Benji Marshall, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Matt Eisenhuth, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Michael Chee-Kam, 13 Elijah Taylor Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Sauaso Sue, 16 Robbie Rochow, 17 Josh Aloiai
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Venue: ANZ Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?
The Tigers will be keen to end the season on a high after last weeks results confirmed they won’t be playing finals football. South Sydney though have a lot of improvement in them and with troops returning to the backline they should be able to avenge their Round 19 loss.
Souths by 14