Nathan Smith previews the huge Friday night encounter between the Eels and Rabbitohs. Here’s what we have to look forward to…
Parramatta Eels Vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Parramatta
Date: Friday August 12, 7:55pm
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Jakob Arthur 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Ofahiki Ogden 15. Bryce Cartwright 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore 18. Makahesi Makatoa 19. Bailey Simonsson 20. Ky Rodwell 21. Sean Russell 22. Elie El Zakhem
The Eels have made only one change this week, with Ofahiki Ogden making his Eels debut on the bench in place of Makahesi Makatoa. Brad Arthur is likely looking for a bench that will be able to continue the momentum his starting props build.Embed from Getty Images
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Jaxson Paulo 4. Isaiah Tass 5. Izaac Thompson 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Hame Sele 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray 14. Blake Taaffe 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Siliva Havili 17. Davvy Moale 18. Taane Milne 19. Dean Hawkins 20. Daniel Suluka-Fifita 21. Shaq Mitchell 22. Josh Mansour
The Rabbitohs line up largely the same as last week, with the one change being the return of Hame Sele at prop, which pushes Daniel Suluka-Fifita to the reserves.
Referee: Grant Atkins
Given the close nature of the top eight in 2022, the run towards the finals promises some exciting encounters that will have huge implications on what the NRL Finals Series looks like. This is one of them.
The Eels, on 28 points, are equal fourth and could possibly jump the Storm into that spot should results fall their way (namely, the Panthers topple the Storm, and the Eels are able to win against the Rabbitohs). This fact alone makes this match possibly the biggest of their season thus far. If that isn’t enough drama, it’s against a side they haven’t been able to beat in their past five encounters. They haven’t been close games, either. The Rabbitohs have made a habit of putting big scores on the Eels.
In contrast, the Rabbitohs sit on 26 points, just below the Eels, however, would jump them on the ladder with a win this Friday. Furthermore, this would put them within touching distance of the four (or equal fourth if the Storm were to lose). Despite a hiccup against the Sharks, the Rabbitohs have been firing on all cylinders and are looking more threatening as the weeks go by. This is a chance to make a huge statement against opponents they love to beat.
One has to wonder how it is the Eels struggle so much against this Rabbitohs team. It isn’t too complicated, actually. The Rabbitohs’ ability to play out wide is unmatched. They have weapons like Alex Johnston, Jaxson Paulo, Keaon Koloamatangia and Jai Arrow on either edge, with the likes of Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker orchestrating the plays. Unfortunately for the Eels, they are the worst defensive side in the top eight for points conceded, a lot of which come out wide. Simply put, the Rabbitohs exploit the Eels’ weaknesses better than any other side in the competition.
So how do the Eels win? Defence. They will need to be a lot better in this simple aspect of their game if they are to stop the Rabbitohs from piling on points at will, which is often the case when these sides meet. Linespeed and communication will be vital. It’s a match that demands a proper captain’s knock, and so they will look to their leaders, Clint Gutherson and Junior Paulo, to set the standard and lead the way. Specifically, Gutherson was brilliant last week against the Sea Eagles, with 207 running metres, two linebreaks and a try to boot. They will need that and more this Friday.
Asking how the Rabbitohs win this is somewhat of a redundant question. Their coach, Jason Demetriou, could play any of their past five encounters against this Eels team to remind his team of what they need to do. The big thing for the Rabbitohs is that their forwards win the battle in the middle, and it’s quite the contest they have on their hands. Tavita Tatola and Hame Sele see themselves facing Origin level props in Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo. One thing they will know is that if they weather the storm against the Eels’ starting forward pack, the bench certainly doesn’t offer as much.
The enormity of the occasion lends itself to a huge crowd, which may boost the spirits of the home team. This may be the last opportunity for either side to reach for a top four finals berth, and so it’s certain to be a huge game.Embed from Getty Images
- The Rabbitohs have won their last five against the Eels, all by 13+ points.
- If you hadn’t guessed, the overall head-to-head favours the Rabbitohs, with 74 wins to the Eels’ 55.
- The Eels have only defeated the Rabbitohs once at CommBank, back in 2019.
Parramatta Eels 1-12
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