Mark Barnes previews the week 1 NRL Finals elimination clash between the Roosters and Rabbitohs.
Sydney Roosters Vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Date: Sunday September 11, 4:05pm
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Roosters: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Drew Hutchison 5. Joseph Suaalii 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Sam Verrills 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Angus Crichton 12. Nat Butcher 13. Victor Radley 14. Connor Watson 15. Egan Butcher 16. Adam Keighran 17. Matthew Lodge 18. Kevin Naiqama 19. Terrell May 20. Oliver Gildart 21. Fletcher Baker 22. Siua Wong
Several changes for the Roosters ahead of week 1 of the finals. Joey Manu misses the clash, all but ruled out for the season with a calf injury. Momirovski moves to centre to replace him and thankfully the Roosters welcome back both wingers Daniel Tupou and Joesph Suaalii who were absent from last week’s clash. In more positive news Victor Radley is also named to start despite a scary head knock in round 24 looking like it could rule him out longer term. His return pushes Siosiua Taukeiaho to prop and Matt Lodge to the bench at the expense of Terrell May who moves out of the seventeen. There is also other movement on the Roosters bench with Oliver Gildart making way for Adam Keighran to appear on the interchange despite rarely playing in 2022.Embed from Getty Images
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Isaiah Tass 4. Campbell Graham 5. Taane Milne 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jai Arrow 13. Cameron Murray 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Hame Sele 16. Thomas Burgess 17. Siliva Havili 18. Blake Taaffe 19. Jaxson Paulo 20. Davvy Moale 21. Michael Chee Kam 22. Josh Mansour
The biggest news out of the Rabbits line-up named on Tuesday is that Cam Murray will play despite only lasting one minute before being knocked out last week against the Roosters. Equally as influential, stars Damien Cook, and Campbell Graham also return after missing the round 25 clash. Those returns will see Havili shift back to the bench and Peter Mamouzelos left out of the seventeen. The Rabbits have named their strongest line-up for the week 1 finals clash and that should ensure a different game to round 25.
Referee: Ashley Klein
In a repeat of the final round of the regular season, the Sydney Roosters again play host to the South Sydney Rabbitohs for the second straight week, with the Roosters 26-16 victory in their inaugural match at the new Allianz Stadium in round 25. This Sunday will mark the fourth occasion in nine seasons that these fierce rivals have lined up against each other during the finals, with the Roosters winning the last two of those meetings.
The Roosters are the form team, coming into the finals on an eight-match winning streak and appear to be the biggest threat outside the top four. Despite their current form and a confidence boosting win against the Rabbits last week, the Roosters will be severely hindered by the loss of Joey Manu. Even with the returns of Tupou, Suaalii and Radley, they will be hard pressed to offset the loss of the best centre in the competition who is coming off a career season. Hutchison and Momirovski have both done admiral jobs for the Roosters filling in during 2022, but neither possess the strike Manu has and both will likely be targeted in defence as well. On a positive note, however, it’s spines that often win premierships and the Roosters is not only healthy, but firing on all cylinders at the business end of the season. Verrills, Walker, Keary and Tedesco have all been in sublime form post Origin and will likely be the difference between playing week 2 of the finals or having a season ended in a do or die clash.
The Rabbitohs will be hoping Latrell Mitchell reverts to the form he had leading into last week’s clash and if the Rabbits are any hope of an upset, they will need him putting on a man of the match performance. In round 25 Latrell Mitchell had a largely unhappy game, conceding three penalties and a sin bin with a noticeably lower involvement rate. During the week Mitchell has lamented in interviews his disappointment that the Roosters faithful have booed him at every opportunity, and despite saying it doesn’t get to him he can expect at least the same if not more after lighting the fuse for another intense clash. What should help Mitchell’s performance this week is the return of Cook and Murray, both of which have helped Mitchell play better. Much of last week’s struggles during the game could easily be attributed to the absence of the Rabbitohs nine and thirteen. While all three players mentioned will need to fire, perhaps the most pressure will be on young Lachlan Ilias playing in his first finals match as the starting seven. For the most part, both teams boast experienced and match winning big game players through both spines, with Ilias being the exception. No doubt he will be targeted, and the unheralded storyline may actually be how he handles the pressure and performs.
The prior clashes of late including last week have been spiteful affairs, with big hits mixed with melees and scuffles. Once again both forward packs will clash with fireworks almost guaranteed, which is the other big factor of this match. Matt Lodge and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in particular, dominated other teams recently and turned up the aggression a notch against the Rabbitohs once again. The Rabbits struggled to defuse the big boppers from the Roosters pack and didn’t seem to have an answer to the aggression and ferocity. A turning point in this match could very well be the clashes in the forwards, either through a huge hit, play or even a brain snap with the majority of the team’s games the last four years resulting in send offs or sin bins. Controlling the aggression and dominating the field position will be key for both packs to enable their stars in their respective backlines to fire.
In what should be a fiery, old school finals contest that will undoubtably etch another chapter in the long running book of Roosters versus Rabbits feuds, it may very well be the matchup of the round. The Rugby League gods always seem to have a way of delivering the game gems like this in the finals Something in the air says this one will be special, and likely an all-time classic in the making to determine who marches on to week 2 of the 2022 NRL finals series.Embed from Getty Images
- The Rabbitohs have won 4 of their last 5 matches against the Roosters but the Roosters have won the past 2 finals matches against the Rabbitohs.
- The Rabbitohs have the worst week 1 finals record of any team remaining, whilst the Roosters have the 2nd best only behind the Storm.
- Alex Johnston had scored in 8 straight games until the round 25 matchup last week v the Roosters.
- The Roosters right hand side attack makes up over 41% of their points scored which is the most in the NRL of any team.
Roosters by 10
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