Round 19: Rabbitohs vs Bulldogs

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Olympic Stadium, Homebush, Thursday, 17th September, 7.50pm

Teams
South Sydney: 1-Corey Allan; 2-Alex Johnston; 3-Campbell Graham; 4-Steven Marsters; 5-Jaxson Paulo; 6-Cody Walker; 7-Adam Reynolds ©; 8-Liam Knight; 9-Damien Cook; 10-Thomas Burgess; 11-Jaydn Su’A; 12-Bayley Sironen; 13-Cameron Murray; Interchange: 14-Mark Nicholls; 15-Jed Cartwright; 16-Hame Sele; 17-Keaon Koloamatangi; 18-Junior Tatola; 19-Patrick Mago; 20-Troy Dargan; 21-Cory Denniss. Coach: Wayne Bennett

Canterbury-Bankstown: 1-Will Hopoate; 2-Dallin Watene-Zelezniak; 3-Reimis Smith; 4-Tim Lafai; 5-Jayden Okunbor; 6-Jake Averillo; 7-Lachlan Lewis; 8-Aiden Tolman; 9-Jeremy Marshall-King; 10-Luke Thompson; 11-Josh Jackson ©; 12-Raymond Faitala-Mariner; 13-Chris Smith; Interchange: 14-Brandon Wakeham; 15-Renouf To’omaga; 16-Sione Katoa; 17-Sauaso Sue; 19-Dean Britt; 20-Tuipulotu Katoa; 21-Nick Meaney; 23-James Roumanos. Coach: Steve Georgalis.

Officials: Ashley Klein; Chris Butler; Phil Henderson; Henry Perenara (video).

Just two more rounds to go of this strangest of footy seasons, before the real competition - the semi-finals - begins in October. The Top Eight has long been decided, along with the participation therein of our Mighty Rabbitohs, though some of the placings (including our own) remain to be determined. Bigger tests await for Souths, but first we must get past this year’s likely wooden spooners, the Bulldogs.

South Sydney Rabbitohs
We have been building well over the last couple of months, having now won six of our last seven matches, and confirming our third consecutive finals campaign. Not all of these wins have been that convincing, such as over the Dragons, Cowboys and Tigers, but a couple - most notably over Manly and Parramatta - had authority written all over them. Nevertheless, a win is a win, and whether is by a point over a team in the bottom four or by 38 over a team in the top four, they are all worth two competition points.

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with our progress recently, and I think we are building well for a good tilt at the finals. In particular, the form of key players Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Tom Burgess, and Cameron Murray has been great, while players like Campbell Graham, Jaydn Su’A, Bayley Sironen and Tevita Tatola have also been in good nick. The loss of Latrell Mitchel is of course huge, but if the players remaining can maintain their recent form, then we can still give this competition a bit of a shake.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, have had a dreadful season, their weak roster proving no match for most other teams in the competition, and winning just two matches from their 18 starts. That said, they have looked decent in patches in recent weeks, and they’ve had opportunities to win any of their last five matches, giving up leads against Wests, NZ, Canberra, Gold Coast, and Manly. A win in any one of these matches would have lifted them off the bottom (given their superior points differential over the similarly struggling Broncos), but with the Panthers next week, that chance might have gone.

There’s probably not a whole heap that Berries fans can take out of this season, though the retention of players like Adam Elliott, Will Hopoate, and Luke Thompson, along with 2021 recruits Nick Cotric and Blake Green, will give incoming coach Trent Barrett something to work with next season. Finals footy still looks a few years away for the Bulldogs, but they should improve next year.

History
Souths have played Canterbury 176 times since they entered the top grade in 1935, with 81 wins to Souths, 88 for the Berries/ Bulldogs and 7 draws. Among them of course are two famous grand final wins for the Rabbitohs, the 12-10 win in 1967, and the 30-6 victory in 2014. This year we’ve already beaten them once, a 26-10 win back in Round 8, and apart from the 14-6 defeat at the end of last season, we’ve won every match against them going back to the loss in the Good Friday clash of 2017. This recent run has improved our overall NRL-era record, which currently stands at 16 wins for us, 22 for them, and one draw.

Key Match-ups
Corey Allan v Will Hopoate
There’s no doubt that Latrell Mitchell’s season-ending hamstring tear was a massive blow to Souths’ title hopes, but the Rabbitohs have two able (if considerably less dynamic) replacements in Corey Allan and Alex Johnston, and it appears that Allan has won the race to be the custodian. As decent as he is though, he’s no Latrell, and this one position where the Dogs possibly have the edge on Souths this week. Hopoate has been a shining light in a losing team, and if Canterbury are to have any hope this week, Hopper will need to be at his best.

Adam Reynolds v Lachlan Lewis
Lewis looked like a handy player when he first hit first grade a couple of years ago, but he hasn’t really come on since. Still, if he can recapture that early form, he may yet improve to be one of the better young halfbacks in the competition. Reynolds is now probably in the veteran class, but our little general has been in career-best form over recent weeks, and if he brings anything like his A-game this week, we could be seeing a pretty one-sided face-off here.

Jaydn Su’A v Josh Jackson
Su’A has emerged to be one of the best back-rowers in the competition this year, and he gives Souths’ pack a real fear factor. All successful forward packs need an enforcer, and Su’A is becoming that player for Souths. Jackson has been one of the Dogs’ better performers this season, but it’s never easy in a losing team, and it will require a real captain’s knock from him to compete with Jaydn and co.

Tom Burgess v Luke Thompson
Burgess has really stepped up this season following the departure of brothers Sam and George, and he has emerged as a real forward leader. His handling is much-improved too, and he is a large part of the reason why Souths’ unheralded pigs have matched it with more credentialed packs. Thompson’s return is a fillip for the Dogs, and he has the reputation as one of the best forwards to come out of the English Super League since Sam. He’ll need to contain the likes of Burgess and Su’A if his team is to have any chance.

The Match
There’s really no way to see this match as anything other than a comfortable victory for the Rabbitohs. Souths outclass the Dogs all over the park, and we should be easily able to score far too many points for the Berries to compete with. That said, Canterbury have been pretty competitive over the last month or so, and we take them lightly at our peril (and anyway, I’m always worried when Souths are strong favourites). I suspect that the Dogs will again come out firing, but if we can see off their early efforts, I think we’ll run away with the match over the last half hour.

Betting
The bookies have Souths as hot favourites, paying $1.10 versus Canterbury’s $7.00. NSW TAB is giving the Bulldogs a 15.5 points start.

Mighty South Sydney Rabbitohs by 24

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This game won’t be the gimme most people expect. Sides no longer in contention & playing for pride & in the case of the Dogs playing to avoid the spoon, spell danger. I expect to win, but if we bring last weeks 2nd half attitude we might just get our pants pulled down. On paper they have a handy side & we have a tendency to make Lachlan look like Wally.

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Nice analysis George. However, I’m not as confident about the 24 point margin, although I do expect a better performance from the team this week…

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I’ll be the first to say it, we should put a cricket score on these blokes! It may come down to for and against especially if the Roosters have nothing to play for in regards to the ladder next week

well done, I hope it is a comfortable margin, but the dogs have always troubled Souths

I think last week was the almost kick up the bum we deserved.

I think this week we’ll enter that Sea-Eagles/Eels form.

Souths by more than 24.

A good read as usual GT & on the money IMO.

My question for this match is whether our coach has it in his mind to given any player a weeks rest leading into the finals series in either this match or the last round against the Roosters.

In thinking along those lines, I suspect Burgess, Reyno & Cookie may be the only players that might be considered benefiting from a freshen up via a week off.

With Tatola still recovering from a niggle, I can’t see Burgess being given a week off against the Bulldogs, and Cookie doesn’t seem to have any appropriate replacement named in the squad of 21.

For Reyno there is Dargan, but I think our coach may wait to see how this weekends results pan out before he entertains any idea of giving someone a rest.

We are taking a very junior backline into this match but in saying that, they should still be all over the Bulldogs. For Marsters & Paulo it is another top grade match under their belt & the experience gained from it.

2 points is the goal which we should achieve.

Souths by 14+.

Nice write up @GeorgeTreweek

It goes without saying that the Bulldogs have had an abysmal season but in saying that, they haven’t been getting blown off the park suffering only three 13+ losses in the last 10 matches.

They also recently led the Raiders 20-12 at half time in Canberra.
Josh Jackson playing his 200th NRL match could provide them with some extra motivation.

Hopefully we’ll see some of the attacking footy we turned on against the Eels and Manly.

Underestimate them and it could be a repeat of late last season when we were expected to beat them yet ended up losing 6-14 (even worse they kept us tryless).

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Pretty good in depth write up George.

I hope Souths get a work out tonight to make sure they have a lot of incentive for the easts game.

I wonder if Bennett will have them playing semi final football and may not be so flamboyant.

The usual theme hold onto the ball and the tries will come, also would like to see a little more concentration in defence on our line as at times it can be very brittle.

For Canterbury glad twenty pies isn’t playing as he gets them going, Hopoate goes alright from the back and there second rower Spagetti Marinara is always threatening out wide, but Reynolds showed how tough and tenacious he can be in defence.

Souths to beat Canterbury and De Klein tonight,

I don’t think we need to worry about defeating the doggies,they defeat themselves!

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We’ve been known to occasionally do that ourselves.

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The bulldogs have a habit of establishing early leads and then blowing them.

We need to start well without being too flashy. If we drop a few balls and they get out to an early lead, we could wilt under pressure…

Good write up mate. Souths should win by the length of the straight but after last week’s Jekyll and Hyde performance, who knows? Hopefully we will pulverise the pups and boost the F/A. A fast open game would be good entertainment, then on to the hated Feather Dusters next week in what will be a cracker.

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