Mitch Dransfield previews a blockbuster between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Newcastle Knights this Friday at ANZ Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
South Sydney in their last outing was down four players with Origin duties against Parramatta. The Eels enjoyed a home ground advantage with no players out themselves, controlling the outcome with line speed that the Rabbitohs could not match, Eels went on to win 26-14 after leading 14-2 at half time.
Newcastle enjoyed their bye during the last round however the fixture prior to that in their draw they were able to smash the current premiers Sydney Roosters 38-12 at home.
Wayne Bennett has named Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Dane Gagai and Cameron Murray to play just two days after Origin I. James Roberts is named at centre with Ethan Lowe moving to the bench.
Rabbitohs squad: 1. Corey Allen 2. Mawene Hiroti 3. James Roberts 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 14. Tevita Tatola 15. Ethan Lowe 16. Liam Knight 17. Mark Nicholls 18. Bayley Sironen 19. Connor Tracey 20. Adam Doueihi 21. Dean Britt
Nathan Brown has named Origin duo Dave Klemmer and Kalyn Ponga to start, Connor Watson is back starting at hooker for injured Danny Levi. Jamie Buhrer is on the bench.
Knights squad: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Connor Watson 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Tim Glasby 14. Jamie Buhrer 15. Herman Ese’ese 16. James Gavet 17. Sione Mata’utia 18. Josh King 19. Pasami Saulo 20. Tautau Moga 21. Mason Lino
HEAD TO HEAD
These meetings tend to be a high scoring affair with much to be desired in defence, however, both sides haven’t fine-tuned their line to reassert themselves in 2019 with the Rabbitohs and Knights leading into this round sitting in the top four of the competition. South Sydney have been able to win their last two clashes over the past two seasons but a greatly changed outfit for Newcastle will prove not to be as easy for the home side. This head to head will feature a great quality fixture that has the style of each side using their possession to its full potential so far this season, with many players supporting one another to get past most of the sides they’ve faced.
Knights and Rabbitohs have faced twenty-seven times since 1998 with a quite even split of 14 wins to Souths and 13 to Newcastle, but in most recent years the Novacastrians have struggled to beat the Bunnies who have been defeated in nine straight games scoring up to 30pts in each of those games on average.
The period of matches throughout the ongoing Origin series plays out after game one and a key battle between the halfbacks of these teams who were snubbed in selection will be the talking point of this fixture. Adam Reynolds along with Mitchell Pearce have shown with their form with consistent, damaging and precise games this season, being unlucky to both return to the NSW Blues side for the first match there could be a point to prove here with both playing to get in the side possibly for game two.
South Sydney halfback Reynolds has been in near-career best form orchestrating the attack of the Rabbitohs this season alongside Damien Cook and Cody Walker. The stand out statistics that the playmaker has produced in each of his matches this season has been the 15 forced dropouts alongside the most kicking metres in the competition with an average of 390, these have piled on the pressure to all the sides Rabbitohs have faced. The consistency of Adam’s game has him in-line to take his team all the way if he can continue on this path providing the pressure, it allows his hooker in Cook and halves partner Walker to play out of the structure to blow sides off the park.
Mitchell Pearce this season has been a focal piece to the side that he captains with his natural playmaking on either side of the field causing havoc for teams with the option of playing what’s in front or setting up his fullback in Kalyn Ponga. The rise in form and turnaround from the Knights is off the back of Pearce’s determination as a captain to do better and simplify how his side plays, Pearce has scored and sparked the Newcastle team into five straight victories with them currently sitting in the top four. If the Knights are a chance away this Friday against the NRL leaders, the Knights halfback will need to be at his best once again, adding to his 7 forced dropouts and 6 try assists in the last five rounds.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 7th June
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Referee: Grant Atkins
WHO WILL WIN?
This match presents itself as the one of the best of the round, with a few Origin players potentially returning it could be two full-strength top four sides doing battle at ANZ. The impact that Wayne Bennett has been able to have on his team this season has been nothing short of outstanding with all players firing it could be a tipping point with now the signing of James Roberts starting his Bunnies career again this round against the Knights.
Newcastle has finally come to the team that everyone was hyped for coming into the season with the forwards rolling and the playmakers icing each moment it could produce another close encounter that could come down to one brilliant moment from their side. If however the South Sydney troops of Walker, Murray, Cook and Gagai all return from Origin unscathed it could be the catalyst for a challenging match and too much for Knights to contain such explosive and in-form players who want to bounce back. Prediction: Rabbitohs by 4