The NRL Finals kicks off in fantastic fashion as the two oldest rivals in the games history face off against each other on Friday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Sydney Roosters have put together an impressive run into the finals series. While they lost their last match of the season it will cause little concern for a team that can put anyone to the sword on their day. Over the past month they have played nearly perfect football in patches and with their full strength side returning will be hoping to replicate that form over the next few weeks.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney started the year with ten wins from eleven games. They found it tough during and after the origin period but have slowly been building their performances back towards the type of football needed to be there in October. Their impressive second half last week allowed them to get their third win on the trot and overtake the Raiders in third position. They will be down a few players from last week but will carry momentum on the back of their current run of good form, especially around the middle of the field.
The big names are back for the Roosters with Luke Keary, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Brett Morris, and Mitchell Aubusson all named to return. Victory Radely has been named to start at lock while Billy Smith and Drew Hutchinson drop out as do Lindsay Collins and Sitili Tupouniua.
Sydney Roosters 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. Angus Crichton 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Nat Butcher 17. Siosiua Taukeiaho 18. Lindsay Collins 19. Sitili Tupouniua 20. Drew Hutchison 21. Ryan Hall
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Sam Burgess and Dane Gagai are unavailable from this match through suspension and injury while James Roberts and Thomas Burgess both return from a suspension and injury of their own. Junior Tatola will start while Dean Britt has been named on the bench. George Burgess has completed his nine week suspension but has been named on the reserves.
South Sydney Rabbitohs squad: 1. Adam Doueihi 2. Alex Johnston 3. James Roberts 4. Campbell Graham 5. Corey Allan 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Junior Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Liam Knight 11. John Sutton 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Cameron Murray 14. Ethan Lowe 15. Dean Britt 16. Thomas Burgess 17. Mark Nicholls 18. George Burgess 19. Bayley Sironen 20. Connor Tracey 21. Mawene Hiroti
HEAD TO HEAD
South Sydney were victorious in both encounters this year. The first victory was a convincing round 1 encounter at the SCG by 26-16. The second encounter was only last week and once again South Sydney were victorious in a high class game. The Roosters were off to a fantastic start with a 10-2 lead but were helpless as South Sydney ran riot in the second half. The 16-10 result meaning that Souths have won the past 3 from 4 regular season games. But the finals is a different competition and it was just last season when these two sides met in a Preliminary Final. It was the Roosters who won that encounter by 12-4 in order to qualify for the grand final, which they went on to win.
Luke Keary was a late scratching from their final round encounter with the birth of his child but will be a massive difference when they meet again this week. The Roosters attack was rather clunky in the second half and the movement out towards their left hand side – to Latrell Mitchell – was a lot slower than previous weeks. The pace that Luke Keary plays at worries defenders and gives his centres and wingers the time and space needed to turn chances into tries. When you consider that he is second in the NRL for try assists (20) and third for line break assists (16) – while having a few weeks away due to concussion – you can understand the type of impact he has on this team. His return will allow Cronk to focus on kicking deep into the corners and controlling the tempo of the game. The way these two combine will ensure that – unlike last week – there will be no drop off and the Roosters will compete for the entire 80.
Damien Cook and the forwards are the key for South Sydney to win this game. Cook appears to getting back to his attacking best in – as has Cody Walker – but it has been on the back of a forward pack winning the battle. Last week was a physical encounter and the fact that South Sydney not only matched the Roosters in the forwards but ended up getting over them in the second is a huge factor to follow in this encounter. Souths are without their forward leader in Sam Burgess but the speed around the ruck from Cook and even lock forward Murray will cause huge headaches for the Roosters. They will not be able to rely on finding too many points on the edges but if they can get the Roosters defence moving backwards then the gaps inside will get bigger as the match builds. South Sydney will turn this into a middle of the field match and look for players like Roberts and Walker to be pushing through the line off the back of quick-play-the-balls.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 13th September
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
Referee: Gerard Sutton, Adam Gee
WHO WILL WIN?
The Roosters have too many big name players in the team that will stand up when those big moments occur. Souths will find success up the middle but will need to be at their best out wide if they wish to stop the Roosters with Keary back in the team. The Roosters – in a low scoring match- BY 8.