Brendan Wood previews the Thursday night match between the Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Bankwest Stadium to kick off round 15 of the competition.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The last month for the Tigers has been rough, losing three straight games before finally getting a narrow golden point 27-26 win over the Cowboys in Townsville last week. They find themselves outside the eight and will need to beat the Bunnies to get back in.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs are in a form slump of their own. After starting the season with nine wins from their first ten games, the Origin period has not been kind to the Bunnies. They have dropped their last three games and have given up top spot on the ladder to the Storm.
Moses Mbye has been named to backup from Origin in the centres. Chris Lawrence returns to the starting side in place of Michael Chee-Kam, who moves back to the bench. Josh Aloiai starts in the front row at the expense of Ben Matulino who drops out of the 17. Elijah Taylor will take his place on the bench.
Tigers squad: 1. Corey Thompson 2. Robert Jennings 3. Moses Mbye 4. Esan Marsters 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Robbie Farah 10. Alex Twal 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Matt Eisenhuth Bench: 14. Jacob Liddle 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Elijah Taylor 17. Michael Chee-Kam Reserves: 18. Paul Momirovski 19. Chris McQueen 20. Josh Reynolds 21. Oliver Clark.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Origin trio of Dane Gagai, Damien Cook and Cameron Murray have all been named to backup. Adam Reynolds is back at halfback at the expense of Adam Doueihi after missing the last two games with a back injury. Braidon Burns returns in the centres to play his first game since round three, moving Kyle Turner to the bench. George Burgess also returns from injury in the front row, which moves Tevita Tatola back to the bench.
Rabbitohs squad: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Dane Gagai 3. James Roberts 4. Braidon Burns 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Liam Knight 11. John Sutton 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Cameron Murray Bench: 14. Tevita Tatola 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Dean Britt 17. Kyle Turner Reserves: 18. Corey Allen 19. Connor Tracey 20. Adam Doueihi 21. Sam Burgess.
HEAD TO HEAD
This will be the second meeting between the two sides this year. Their previous meeting was less than six weeks ago in round 11, when the Bunnies were able to beat the Tigers 32-16 at ANZ Stadium. The overall head to head is close, with the Rabbitohs holding a slight advantage 18 wins to 15 out of 33 total games in the past 20 years. However, the Tigers have struggled in the two games they have played at Bankwest this year, conceding 79 points and only managing to score one try.
Luke Brooks vs Adam Reynolds. While the Cook/Farah and Marshall/Walker matchups will be well worth watching, the matchup between Adam Reynolds and Luke Brooks will be just as good.
Brooks has had flashes of brilliance this year as he continues to evolve and mature as a halfback. His short kicking game must be consistent if the Tigers are going force repeat sets and score points against a strong Rabbitohs forward pack boasting the likes of Cook and Murray. He’ll also need to co-ordinate with Benji Marshall to make sure they are polishing off their sets regardless of where they are on the field, to limit the amount of good opportunities the Bunnies have to use their attacking firepower.
Reynolds is returning from a back injury that has seen him miss the last two games. The Rabbits have lost both games he missed, and it is evident they have greatly missed the direction he brings to the team. Like Brooks, his kicking game will be crucial in determining how the Rabbits can get into a position to score points. They have plenty of attacking star power in their backline, so with Reynolds back in the driver’s seat expect a lot more organisation and finesse in attack.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 27th of June
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Referee: Adam Gee, Gavin Badger
WHO WILL WIN?
After beating the Tigers only a few weeks ago, the Rabbitohs will start as favourites in this game and rightly so. With a host of players returning they will be eager to get a win after losing three in a row and will be confident they can do this against the last team they beat. The Tigers just managed to scrape home against the Cowboys last week which will give them a much-needed boost in confidence. They have struggled to perform at Bankwest Stadium thus far and may be in for another tough outing against a hungry Bunnies outfit. Rabbitohs by 4.