MATCH PREVIEW | South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Sydney Roosters

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Mitch Dransfield previews the opening match of the last round, with the South Sydney Rabbitohs taking on the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium.



South Sydney cruised to victory over a fast-starting Warriors outfit with scores close at half time (14-10 to the Rabbitohs). The New Zealand side couldn’t contain the Bunnies in the second half, with Souths running away 31-10 winners.

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The Roosters hosted a desperate Panthers side holding onto finals hopes, but it wasn’t to be for the Penrith, comfortably losing to Sydney 22-6.

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Just the one change for Wayne Bennett’s 17 that featured against the Warriors last week, Tom Amone comes onto the bench for Kyle Turner.

Squad: 1. Adam Doueihi 2. Alex Johnston 3. Campbell Graham 4. Dane Gagai 5. Corey Allan 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Sam Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Liam Knight 11. John Sutton 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Cameron Murray 14. Ethan Lowe 15. Tom Amone 16. Tevita Tatola 17. Mark Nicholls 18. Bayley Sironen 19. Connor Tracey 20. Kurt Dillon 21. Mawene Hiroti.


The Roosters are bolstered by the return of skipper Boyd Cordner and halfback Cooper Cronk. Angus Crichton moves to the bench and Siosiua Taukeiaho is out with a rib injury.

Squad: 1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Sam Verrills 10. Isaac Liu 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Victor Radley 14. Lindsay Collins 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Nat Butcher 17. Angus Crichton 18. Billy Smith 19. Sitili Tupouniua 20. Poasa Faamausili 21. Drew Hutchison.


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The old rivalry of the Rabbitohs and Roosters always has hype around it, and this year is no different with the sides looking poised for a blockbuster match to end both their regular seasons on a high and ready for finals. This is second versus fourth. While the Bunnies are likely to finish where they currently sit, they are they are still looking to leapfrog Canberra in third, while Roosters are on a massive streak of seven straight wins. Having not met since round one, this has the makings of a similarly tight contest to last season’s preliminary final, with only 3 tries in the whole game and a 12-4 winning margin to Roosters. Head-to-head the Tri-Colours have won five of the last seven meetings against South Sydney, with the last four decided by twelve points or less.


This fixture has class across the field for both teams, but the key battle that stands out is Cody Walker and Luke Keary, the two five-eighths who have had tremendous seasons thus far. They are the chief playmakers of their respective sides and have a huge bearing on the outcome of this match.

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In the reduced games that Luke Keary has played this year he has been head and shoulders above many playmakers, being heavily involved in the Roosters’ dominance. In 19 appearances he has set up 20 tries, 16 line breaks, while forcing 13 drop outs. These numbers are elite compared to a player like Mitch Moses who has played every match but only had four assists in four more matches. Having lost in their opening match to the Rabbitohs in wet conditions at their coveted SCG – now a graveyard for their opponents – Keary has to maintain what’s been working so well: hard running to the line with options out the back or kicking to his outside men to build pressure or score. With South Sydney’s weakness being their edge defence his link work to involve his backs will be crucial.

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Cody Walker has been one of the Rabbitohs’ most consistent this year and a focal point in their attack. The five-eighth was out of this world in the opening weeks of the competitions with brilliant solo efforts but also getting the lucky bounce his way. Since then its been a slower rise back to that form, but over the past month since Souths have built confidence again, he has become potent once more. His jack-of-all-trades footy and the ‘eyes up’ mentality that he brings to the Bunnies is a must need for the structure that Wayne Bennett sides tend to have; he is well ahead of previous years in receptions and try assists, which indicates how important he is to their attack: a more involved Walker the better the result for South Sydney. Coming up against one of the benchmark of the NRL, Cody needs to play his natural game while being calculated with his kicks, and if he doesn’t measure most of his plays – as sometimes he can do and become frustrated – it could undo much of the work the forwards do to help him succeed, but also have Roosters dominate from the missed opportunities.


Date: Thursday September 5th
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Kick-off: 7.50pm


The traditional rivalry returns for the last round after not seeing it since the first week of the competition; both sides have gone through their injury woes or inconsistencies, however a week out from the finals they are both humming along and looking to have this game as a early finals preview. The Rabbitohs have built momentum since their Origin slump to now be ready for the next level of opposition. The Roosters are on a streak that looks unstoppable; their side is close to perfect in all areas and their key players – either through injury or being rested – are fresh for the finals. These two teams could likely play again in the playoffs and wouldn’t want to give too much away. South Sydney will shake things up for the early parts of the game but whether they can match their rivals for a full game is up in the air; the difference will be completions and who has the better discipline, which leans towards the Roosters to come home strong.

Prediction: Sydney Roosters by eight.


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