Round 19: Wests Tigers v Rabbitohs preview
Only a fortnight ago it looked like a promising start to 2018, which saw the Tigers surge into the top four, would go unrewarded as Ivan Cleary's men slumped to their fourth-straight loss.
However, an unlikely 20-16 win over the Dragons has reignited their top eight hopes. The Tigers will be cheering on fellow Western Sydney rivals Penrith when they take on the eighth-placed Broncos. If Wests can claim another big scalp this week they will be only two points behind Brisbane, provided Wayne Bennett's men lose.
They face their toughest test of the year though as they prepare for the high-flying Rabbitohs. While the Tigers may be able to match South Sydney in defence, they will need to be much better in attack against the competition's top point scorers.
Wests do have a good record against the Rabbitohs though, having won four of their past five against the club. They will also be dedicating the game to hooker Robbie Farah, who plays his 250th game for the joint-venture, so motivation will not be hard to come by.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the same can be said for South Sydney, with John Sutton suiting up for his 300th game for the Bunnies. Last week's 24-6 win over Canterbury saw the Rabbitohs extend their unbeaten streak to nine games for the first time since 1989.
They now enjoy a two-point buffer atop of the competition ladder and will be determined to keep it that way on Saturday afternoon. Scoring points hasn't been a problem for the Rabbitohs in 2018 and they will certainly like their chances against the Tigers, who rank the second-worst attacking side in the competition.
They can't be complacent though as Wests will be desperate to keep their finals aspirations alive.
Last Meeting: The Rabbitohs ran rampant as they took down the Tigers 28-8 in Round 10 last year.
Who to watch: The two milestone men have both been important to their respective clubs' success in 2018.
Farah's return to the Tigers have transformed them into a genuine chance of playing finals footy this year. His experience has been telling in the two games he has played for the side, with the former Rabbitoh knowing when to risk running out of dummy-half. He spearheaded the Tigers' upset victory over the Dragons, setting up David Nofoaluma for a try in the 59th minute. Only ten minutes earlier, a lovely ball from dummy-half from the hooker saw Moses Mbye burst through a hole before linking out wide with Corey Thompson who also scored. Wests may have been struggling in attack but since Farah arrived they have looked a far better side.
Meanwhile, Sutton hasn't received the accolades he deserves for his role in the Rabbitohs' resurgence in 2018. The 299-game veteran has been a stalwart for the club but has well and truly reignited his career this season after struggling for form in recent years. Part of South Sydney's lethal left edge, Sutton seems to have grown in confidence surrounded by some of the competition's most exciting talent. He has been reliable as always in defence and will play a key role if Souths make it ten straight on Saturday.
Favourite: The Rabbitohs are in-form and have Sutton's 300th as added motivation. They are strong favourites.
Tip: While Souths still have plenty to play for, the Tigers will prosper as underdogs and are more desperate for the points. Wests Tigers by 4.