The Manly Sea Eagles return to the beaches to take on the top of the ladder South Sydney Rabbitohs at Lottoland this Saturday afternoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Manly took their second home fixture of the season to Christchurch in emotional scenes against the Warriors. The return of Tom Trbojevic helped the Sea Eagles thump the New Zealand side – after a close first half – to claim their first win 46-12.
The successful run of the Rabbitohs continued into round three with a test against the Titans. It was a much closer affair than many expected, with the Titans making a comeback in the second half to nearly clinch an upset. South Sydney hung onto a 28-20 victory.
Manly’s side remains mostly unchanged from their win over the Warriors, however due to disciplinary reasons Moses Suli gets replaced by Brendan Elliot in the centres.
Sea Eagles squad:
1 Tom Trbojevic 2 Jorge Taufua 3 Brendan Elliot 4 Brad Parker 5 Reuben Garrick 6 Kane Elgey 7 Daly Cherry-Evans 8 Addin Fonua-Blake 9 Apisai Koroisau 10 Martin Taupau 11 Joel Thompson 12 Curtis Sironen 13 Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14 Manase Fainu 15 Jack Gosiewski 16 Corey Waddell 17 Toafofoa Sipley
Reserves: 18 Trent Hodkinson 20 Kelepi Tanginoa
South Sydney has a number of changes through injury and returning players; captain Greg Inglis was to return, but was replaced by Jacob Gagan on Friday, with Braidon Burns out with a hamstring strain. George Burgess returns to the starting lineup after his four-match suspension in an international fixture late last year.
Rabbitohs squad: 1 Alex Johnston 2 Corey Allan 21 Jacob Gagan 4 Dane Gagai 5 Campbell Graham 6 Cody Walker 7 Adam Reynolds 8 George Burgess 9 Damien Cook 10 Tom Burgess 11 John Sutton 12 Sam Burgess 13 Cameron Murray.
Interchange: 14 Tevita Tatola 15 Mark Nicholls 16 Ethan Lowe 17 Kyle Turner.
Reserves: 18 Connor Tracey 20 Rhys Kennedy
HEAD TO HEAD
In a clash that many would have as a closer battle that form suggests, it will be another high-scoring affair. Rabbitohs and Manly matches in the past two seasons have produced a total of 150 points with sides running away with huge wins. South Sydney are searching for their fourth straight win, with Wayne Bennett only just arriving. Manly have had two rain-affected matches before having a dry track in round three with the return of key players which had them collect a strong win. All stats point to an even contest that anyone can take on the day with the Sea Eagles – even in their defeats – showing signs of improved defence under Des Hasler while the attack that saw the Rabbitohs nearly get the title last season is continuing to wreak havoc down their left edge, which could be an overruling factor.
An important matchup in this fixture is within the middle but with each side’s backrowers and front row forwards there are crafty playmakers in the hookers with Damien Cook and Api Koroisau. The forwards will be bashing for supremacy over their opponents with the hookers having to capitalise on as many opportunities created through that momentum forced.
Former Rabbitoh Koroisau has had a slow start to returning from an injury sustained from last season, however glimpses of improving in tackling efficiency and decision making throughout his time playing in games has improved. Cook has yet to make his signature stamp on a match this season with no better chance than on Saturday in a dry track, the rake will be wanting to utilise his forwards’ quick play the balls and jump out of marker to catch Koroisau and the Manly big men out, having them fatigue but also create opportunities for South Sydney’s halves.
Emphasis on taking opportunities with what the defence is saying in their body language – but also positioning – will be paramount for these two hookers. The halves will be highly pressured as each side’s defence is highly aggressive and in your face, which will leave it up to the rakes to be the key to victory.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 6th April
Kick-off: 3pm AEDT
Referee: Grant Atkins
WHO WILL WIN?
A battle at Brookvale that will likely be a highly competitive and high-scoring match. As each side won the week before, it will be even more important for Manly to back it up with a huge performance in front of their home crowd against a strong South Sydney side. A perfect start for the Sea Eagles will be needed with high completions and the playmakers making the right decisions to limit any possession for the Rabbitohs, as they will control the game with any given chance and starve their opponents of the ball. Dry field conditions definitely benefit both teams however Manly more so with ball handling within their inexperienced backs has been lacking; with injury concerns to the Rabbitohs don’t be surprised if a desperate game plan is made by the visitors to take all points on offer. With the quality that South Sydney has had (with too much finesse), it will be hard for a Sea Eagles side still finding their feet with their new coach, which will see the Rabbitohs grind out the game and claim a fourth straight win.
Prediction: Rabbitohs by 8