Andrew Pelechaty previews the Friday night clash between South Sydney and Melbourne. This is what we have to look forward to.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney (10-6) are riding a five-game winning run, and are just two points outside the top four. Crucially, their points differential has been boosted with big wins over Manly Warringah (56-16) and Parramatta (38-0). With winnable games against Wests and Canterbury-Bankstown, before a final round clash with the Sydney Roosters, Souths should at least secure a home elimination final.
Melbourne (13-3) quickly rebounded from the Parramatta loss, retaining second place with a 30-6 win over Manly Warringah at Sunshine Coast Stadium. PNGs Justin Olam scored a hat-trick as the Storm ran in six tries. More importantly, the win kept the Storm just three points adrift of first-placed Penrith.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
1. Alex Johnston 2. Corey Allan 3. Campbell Graham 4. Dane Gagai 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Bayley Sironen 13. Cameron Murray 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Liam Knight 16. Patrick Mago 17. Keaon Koloamatangi 18. Jed Cartwright 19. Steven Marsters 20. Troy Dargan 21. Ky Rodwell.
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Isaac Lumelume 3. Brenko Lee 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Chris Lewis 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 14. Nicholas Hynes 15. Ryley Jacks 16. Albert Vete 17. Darryn Schonig 18. Sandor Earl 19. Max King 20. Aaron Pene 21. Kenneath Bromwich.
Melbourne have dominated the head-to-head 27-5 since 1998, and have won the last three in a row. Souths’ last win was in August 2018, beating Melbourne 30-20. The Storm beat Souths 22-8 in round four this year, scoring four tries to one.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Dane Gagai vs Justin Olam
Gagai has scored nine tries in 14 games so far, including a hat-trick against the Wests Tigers (round nine), and two against the Gold Coast (round five), both resulting in wins. A big game from Gagai could tip the results in Souths’ favour.
Olam – the PNG International – has had a fine season, scoring seven tries in 15 games, including a hat-trick against Manly Warringah last Sunday. Coincidentally, his first NRL hat-trick was also against Manly, in 2019. Both those games ended in comfortable Melbourne wins, so if Olam finds the line, then the Storm generally go big.
Settle in for an epic Friday night clash which could shape the top four. Melbourne should have enough experience to beat Souths, but it’ll be tight. It may even go to Golden Point.
Melbourne by one.
Date: Friday, September 4.
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney.