2 days ago
Rabbitohs v Bulldogs preview
It's the Good Friday classic - but has it lost its bite?
Once upon a time, 50,000+ fans would fill ANZ Stadium for this exciting contest. The clashes were mouth-watering, reaching a crescendo in 2015 when the Bunnies kicked a last minute penalty goal to beat Canterbury by a point - the penalty being a controversial one as then-captain James Graham had lunged at the legs of Rabbitohs' half Adam Reynolds as the latter attempted a field goal.
Both players won't be there on Friday - Graham's packed his bags for Kogarah while Reynolds is again injured. Instead, these teams will be relying on a new guard to get them across the line. Both sides picked up their maiden wins for the season last weekend and will be keen to build on those results.
For South Sydney, their exploiting of Manly's soft wing defence proved a boon for their outside men on Saturday. Greg Inglis and Dane Gagai - largely quiet over the opening fortnight, sprung to life and ensured their wingers Robert Jennings and Richie Kennar got plenty of airtime. With Canterbury's edges looking fairly soft so far, the Rabbits will no doubt be targeting this area again.
Canterbury will be banking on the immense form of halfback-cum-fullback Moses Mbye. The off-season switch to the back has been a boon for the young Queenslander, a vast improvement over Will Hopoate, whose switch to the centres has been met with mixed results so far.
Neither side has any changes from last week's wins and no injuries to report.
Last meeting: Round 23 2017 - Rabbitohs 28 Bulldogs 14
Of the 156 times these sides have come together, Canterbury hold a ten win advantage with 81 wins to South Sydney's 71. At ANZ it's a similar tale, with Canterbury having won 16 of 26 matches. Last year's honours were shared with the 'Dogs victorious on Good Friday before the Bunnies claimed victory in the late-season rematch. In the Good Friday clash itself, the Bulldogs have won five of nine.
Who to watch: It's a battle of the hookers here. Canterbury gave up Damien Cook and Michael Ennis when they acquired Michael Lichaa from the Sharks - and South Sydney were the beneficiaries. While the Robbie Farah experiment hasn't been a success for the cardinal and myrtle, the advent of Cook has certainly helped. His work from dummy half is the strongest in the league and a large part of the reason the Bunnies were so dominant against Manly last week.
It's taken a couple of weeks for Michael Lichaa to gel with his new spine - but it looks like he got it right on Friday. Canterbury's number nine came in for plenty of criticism under the Hasler regime last year, largely ineffective out of dummy half, but finished the season with an outstanding run of games as it became clear Des was out the door. This season he struggled to adapt in the opening fortnight but seemed far more settled and direct against the Panthers. If Souths' big men don't get a handle on his dummy-half running early it could be lights out for Souths.
The favourite: The dominance of the Rabbitohs' win over Manly sees them earning favouritism for this one, although there's plenty of interest in the Bulldogs.
My tip: This one's impossible. Both sides showed glimpses of what they're capable of but of the pair, the Rabbitohs seem to have more to offer. Rabbitohs by 6.
1. Alex Johnston 14. Hymel Hunt 3. Greg Inglis 4. Dane Gagai 5. Robert Jennings 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Doueihi 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Sam Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Angus Crichton 13. Cameron Murray 15. Mark Nicholls 16. George Burgess 20. Braidon Burns 17. Tevita Tatola
1. Moses Mbye 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. William Hopoate 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Jeremy Marshall-King 7. Kieran Foran 8. Aaron Woods 9. Michael Lichaa 10. David Klemmer 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Aiden Tolman 14. Adam Elliot 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Francis Tualau 17. Fa'amanu Brown
Referees: Ben Cummins, Peter Gough; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Phil Henderson; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Luke Patten;