Opening round 2 of the NRL premiership is the clash between the St George-Illawarra Dragons and South Sydney Rabbitohs.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
St George-Illawarra Dragons
After a troublesome off-season and some mixed form in the trials the Dragons were looking to put it all behind them with a solid first outing, things didn’t go to plan as the Red V came home empty-handed from their Townsville road trip losing 24-12 in Round 1. The addition of Corey Norman to their spine didn’t quite go to plan with their attack looking clunky throughout, whilst Star Forward Tyson Frizell suffered an injury that will keep him out for a while.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs were also looking to put a difficult off-season which included their coaching saga behind them and in stark contrast to the Dragons they started off in the best way possible, beating arch rivals Sydney Roosters 26-16. With plenty of question marks surrounding the side including the fitness of Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds the pressure was on, but right from the kickoff it was clear to see that super-coach Wayne Bennett had his team primed for this match as they put the Roosters to the sword.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
As mentioned Dragons State of Origin Forward Tyson Frizzell has picked up an injury and will be out for a while so his place in the starting side is taken by Blake Lawrie with youngster Josh Kerr taking his spot on the bench. There’s still no room for exciting teenager Zac Lomax with Fijian winger Mikaele Ravalawa retaining his spot.
After going through the majority of last season without too many injuries Paul McGregor’s side is already missing two Origin forwards with Frizell joining suspended Lock Jack de Belin and new recruit Korbin Sims on the sidelines. It will be a good test of the Dragons’ depth to see if they can cope with the loss of three of their best forwards.
Dragons 21-man squad: 1 Gareth Widdop 2 Jordan Pereira 3 Euan Aitken 4 Tim Lafai 5 Mikaele Ravalawa 6 Corey Norman 7 Ben Hunt 8 James Graham 9 Cameron McInnes 10 Paul Vaughan 11 Jacob Host 12 Tariq Sims 13 Blake Lawrie 14 Jeremy Latimore 15 Matt Dufty 16 Josh Kerr 17 Luciano Leilua 18 Zac Lomax 19 Reece Robson 20 Mitchell Allgood 21 Jonus Pearson.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Wayne Bennett has kept pretty much the same side from Round 1 with the only change being forward Kyle Turner replacing outside back Corey Allan on the bench. Allan only played five minutes last week so Bennett has decided an extra forward will be of better use this week.
He may also be satisfied with the fitness of Greg Inglis after so much conjecture leading into the game about his weight and match fitness, the Rabbitohs’ Captain showed he was up to the task and there for not needing the security of an outside back on the bench.
Rabbitohs 21-man squad: 1 Alex Johnston 2 Dane Gagai 3 Greg Inglis (c) 4 Braidon Burns 5 Campbell Graham 6 Cody Walker 7 Adam Reynolds 8 Junior Tatola 9 Damien Cook 10 Tom Burgess 11 John Sutton 12 Sam Burgess 13 Cameron Murray 14 Liam Knight 15 Mark Nicholls 16 Ethan Lowe 17 Kyle Turner 18 Corey Allan 19 Connor Tracey 20 Rhys Kennedy 21 Mawene Hiroti.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Dragons-Rabbitohs rivalry is one of the oldest in the game dating back to 1921, although the Dragons have merged and there for become a new side the colours and tradition still remain. The two sides clashed three times last season with the spoils being shared in the regular season before Souths won the all important semi-final clash 13-12 to knock Saints out of the title race. All three games were low scorers and despite a high scoring Charity Shield just three weeks ago, expect another tight clash with the forwards to decide who takes home the spoils.
Although it’s only Round 2 the stakes feel high already, especially for the Dragons who don’t want to start the season with back-to-back losses. After being labelled ‘June Premiers’ in recent years due to them leading the competition ladder into the month of June before fading away the Dragons will be in foreign territory facing a win-less start to the season.
But to gain that victory the Dragons will have to stop the Rabbitohs who under coach Bennett look focused on a big season with both the club and coach feeling as though they have plenty to prove after the manner in which their season of 2018 ended. Their forwards looked determined, halves focused and the backs fit and fast, the Dragons will have their work cut out for them all over the park.
The key match-up when these two sides play now is always the battle of good friends and England team mates Sam Burgess and James Graham. Although they’re friends off the field you could be mistaken for thinking they’re arch enemies on the field as the pair have enjoyed many brutal battles, none more memorable than the 2014 Grand Final when at that time playing for the Bulldogs Graham broke Burgess’ check-bone in the first set of the match.
History shows of course Big Sam got the last laugh picking up the Grand Final win along with the Clive Churchill Medal, whilst the location of Graham’s runners up medal is unknown after the fiery prop left it on the field shortly after accepting it.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 21st of March
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah
Kick-off: 7:50pm AEDT
Referee: Gerard Sutton, Peter Gough
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s easy to say the Rabbitohs should win this game after their impressive start to the season compared to the Dragons’ not so impressive start, but as the Red V showed last year in the semi-final you can’t count them out in such games, and with their big match experience they’ll be giving themselves a good chance of an upset. But I can’t go past the Bunnies with their key play makers Reynolds, Cody Walker and Damien Cook looking in rare form last week. Souths 1-12