Match Day Discussion
Date: Saturday, 28th July, 2018
Venue: ANZ Stadium Homebush
Kick Off: 5:30 AEST
Head Referee: Peter Gough
Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall
Head-to-head: Played 124 Rabbitohs 67 Eels 64 Drawn 3
Odds: Rabbitohs $1.22 Eels $4.40
Broadcast: Foxtel, from 5:30pm
Last Four Encounters:
1. Rabbitohs 42 Eels 24 ANZ Stadium – Round 15, 2018
2. Eels 22 Rabbitohs 16 ANZ Stadium – Round 26, 2017
3. Eels 22 def Rabbitohs ANZ Stadium – Round 12, 2017
4. Eels 30 def Rabbitohs 12 ANZ Stadium – Round 15, 2016
The Warm Up
Last week, I described the bottom of the table clash between the Dogs and the Eels as belonging in a strange parallel universe. How then should I describe a match pitting the bottom placed team, now last up winners, taking on the previous top of the table team, now last up losers? “Bizarro World”?
Of course, this is just how it reads on paper.
Last week, the Eels finally found a way to win against a tenacious but average opponent. In contrast, the Rabbitohs were given a wake-up call by a highly motivated and focussed Tigers outfit.
The Tigers certainly didn’t do the Eels any favours with their victory. Souths were expected to be far too strong, but really never found their stride against a team which never gave them the opportunity to get into any sort of rhythm.
How determined will the Bunnies be to turn that result around!
Just a few short weeks ago, the Eels took the game to the Rabbitohs in a first half that gave their fans hope of an unexpected victory. Unfortunately for Parra, Souths set pieces, particularly from scrums, embarrassed the Eels defence time and time again throughout the second half.
It shouldn’t take too long into the match to see Souths head down that same path. Will the Eels be prepared this time around?
Having a Punt:
This week’s value bet (TAB) is in the try scorers market. Robert Jennings is listed @$2.90 to score two tries. Based on his feats this year, and against the Eels a few weeks ago, it’s hard to ignore.
I might have a sneaky on the line/over under market. Parra with 11.5 start into under 44.5 points @3.25.
The first try favourites are listed below:
Eels: Bevan French $10
Rabbitohs: Robert Jennings $7
Feed Your Footy Brain
What a difference a year makes! Mitchell Moses this week plays his 100th NRL game – a praiseworthy milestone. Last year, he played 16 games for the Eels, winning 11. This season, he’s already played 16 games, but has only walked off a winner in 3 of those games.
Tracking: Jarryd Hayne
What a versatile acquisition Jarryd Hayne has proven to be. The Eels prodigal son has been much maligned in recent seasons, but his games since returning from injury have been first class.
Some critics suggested that Hayne had a quiet game against the Bulldogs last round – and in comparison to his stellar effort vs the Knights it was. However, he ran for 125 metres at left centre (Michael Jennings had 37 running metres) and produced a clever kick and chase that resulted in a line drop out. These are hardly the stats of a player drifting through a game.
This season, the former Dally M fullback and player of the year has found himself selected at centre, wing and fullback. This week marks a return to the wing to cover for the injured George Jennings.
Given that Jarryd Hayne has produced man of the match Origin performances on the wing, I’m tipping a significant involvement from him this week. Wouldn’t it be good to see “the plane” make an appearance!
Danger man: Adam Reynolds
I could have tipped any number of Souths stars as a danger for the Eels. Burgess, Johnston, Cook, Crichton – any of these players have the potential to be game changers. Instead, I’m nominating their game manager – Adam Reynolds.
An unchecked Reynolds has the capacity to impose something on the Eels that they haven’t done well in 2018 – bring the ball back out of their own quarter.
Reynolds possesses a tremendous kicking game, and if pins the Eels into their corners, it could prove to be a long tiring night. The key will be to pressure his kicks on every set. Parramatta cannot afford him the luxury of having time with his kicks.
Of course, it’s an injustice to limit an assessment of the Souths half to his kicking game. After all, he’s an important cog in their backline machine. Jennings wouldn’t hold his place on the try scorers list without important work being done inside him on the field.
The Eels need to rattle Reynold’s cage to help shut down the Bunnies. Maybe such an assignment belongs with Browny…
Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Campbell Graham 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Dane Gagai 5. Robert Jennings 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. George Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Angus Crichton 13. Sam Burgess
Reserves – 14. Adam Doueihi 15. Cameron Murray 16. Jason Clark 17. Tevita Tatola 18. Mark Nicholls 19. Kyle Turner 20. Dean Britt 21. Braidon Burns
Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. Bevan French 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Takairangi 5.Jarryd Hayne 6. Corey Norman 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Kaysa Pritchard 10. Siosaia Vave 11. Marata Niukore 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Nathan Brown
Reserves – 14. Reed Mahoney 15. Tim Mannah 16. David Gower 17. Peni Terepo 18. Kane Evans 19. Greg Lelesiuao 20. Jaeman Salmon 21. Suaia Matagi
Corey Norman vs Cody Walker
Cody Walker has a perfect understanding of his role. As a running five- eighth he’s the perfect foil for Reynolds and his game management skills. His support play is first class and he has the acceleration to take advantage of staggered defensive lines.
This can spell danger for the Eels should any defenders rush out of the line – something that Michael Jennings was caught doing the last time these teams went around.
Corey Norman should be a better version of Walker. He is fast and elusive, and as he demonstrated with his try last week, has the game sense to push up in support.
However, consistency has remained an issue for Norman for much of his time at the Eels. On his day, he has been a match winner. On other days it’s as if there’s a battle between Norman and Moses over who should be the dominant half, and the Eels rarely benefit from that.
The version of Corey Norman that takes the field on Saturday will have a huge bearing on the outcome.
And The Winner Is?
This is the part of previews that I don’t like writing because it requires a logical, probability based assessment. Though I’ll be cheering loudly for an Eels win, my prediction has to be for the Rabbitohs.
South Sydney are firmly entrenched in the top four for a reason. They have played consistent quality football in 2018 and that surprise loss to the Tigers will shake out any hint of complacency.
On paper, the Eels backline looks superior to the Rabbitohs, but just five weeks ago the Rabbitohs outside men tore their Eels counterparts to shreds. On the back of their forwards, and their Origin dummy half Cook, the Souths backs always seem to have extra space.
But I have to come back to Reynolds. If he runs his own show the Rabbitohs win. If the Eels contain his influence, they’re in with a shot.
Rabbitohs 22 – Eels 16
Man of the Match – Cody Walker