Julian Vella previews this round 10 clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Newcastle Knights at Bankwest Stadium; with both clubs inside the top eight, this promises to be a crucial clash.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
After a patchy start to the season, where Wayne Bennett’s side lost three straight games, the Bunnies have quietly found some winning form after claiming four wins from their last five games. This winning run may be slightly deceiving as it hasn’t including any real quality sides; this weekend gives Souths a chance to claim their first big scalp of the year.
Newcastle continue to show they are definitely one of the better sides in this year’s NRL competition, although they missed a chance to move back into the top four with a loss against the ladder-leading Parramatta Eels. For all the positive talk around the Knights they’ve fallen into a ‘win-loss-win-loss’ pattern and have failed to win back-to-back games since round two; they have also avoided consecutive losses in season 2020, which they’ll aim to continue this weekend.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Rabbitohs have been forced into a couple of changes after last Friday’s spiteful encounter with the Wests Tigers; Latrell Mitchell has been suspended following his strike on the Tigers’ Josh Reynolds after retaliating to Reynolds kicking Campbell Graham. Graham himself is also unavailable after sustaining a facial injury due to the incident, winger Jaxson Paulo makes his debut on the wing, whilst Corey Allan makes his first appearance for the year.
1. Alex Johnston 2. Jaxson Paulo 3. James Roberts 4. Dane Gagai 5. Corey Allan 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Cameron Murray 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Hame Sele 16. Bayley Sironen 17. Patrick Mago 18. Jack Johns 19. Kurt Dillon 20. Steven Marsters 21. Cory Denniss.
The Knights have also made a host of changes: welcoming back Mitchell Barnett, Sione Mata’utia and Connor Watson all from injury. All three players will return via the bench with Jacob Saifiti being promoted to the starting lineup to replace his brother Daniel, who is out with a PCL injury. Tim Glasby has again been left out of the side and hasn’t played since the round seven loss to the Cowboys where he suffered a HIA injury; this is now the third week in a row Glasby has missed, which is a concern.
1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Enari Tuala 3. Tautau Moga 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Herman Ese’ese 14. Connor Watson 15. Mitchell Barnett 16. Pasami Saulo 17. Sione Mata’utia 18. Tex Hoy 19. Josh King 20. Phoenix Crossland 21. Gehamat Shibasaki.
Souths have made their new home a formidable one in season 2020, after winning all four of their ‘home games’ at Bankwest Stadium; their only loss at the Western Sydney ground came against their arch rivals the Roosters, who have also been calling Bankwest home.
Knights’ veteran Aiden Guerra is also making his 200th NRL appearance.
BATTLE TO WATCH
James Roberts v Bradman Best
Here we have a classic case of speed vs power as the Rabbitohs’ Jimmy ‘the Jet’ Roberts faces off against the Knights’ ball of muscle Bradman Best. Roberts is known for his blistering pace and ability to score long range tries out of nothing, whilst Best has shown in his brief career that he is one of the most powerful centres in the game.
Roberts has had an interrupted season to date after struggling with form, fitness and personal issues, but he was back to his best last week and scored a scintillating try against the Tigers. Roberts got the ball just outside his defender’s shoulder, and the Jet didn’t need a second invitation as he scorched past Reece Hoffman to score.
After bursting onto the scene with five tries in his first three games this year, Best has been on a try-scoring drought since, as he’s failed to score in his next three. The Knights have struggled in attack in recent weeks, crossing for just the three tries in the past two weeks; it’s no surprise then that Best has also found the going tough during this time.
Knights coach Adam O’Brien admitted the side has concentrated on defence more so in the past fortnight, but after failing to break down the Eels’ defence last week, they will no doubt have been spending more time with the ball this week. This bodes well for Best, who will be looking to reignite his lethal combination with Kalyn Ponga on the Knights’ left side attack.
With this clash seeing fifth vs sixth on the ladder, it shows there isn’t much between the two sides in 2020; both teams follow a similar game plan based around the guidance of their captains and number sevens Adam Reynolds and Mitchell Pearce. It’s a ‘flip of the coin’ type of match that could see us enter extra time, where a Pearce field goal could prove the difference.
Knights by one
Date: Saturday, July 18th
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off: 5:30pm AEST