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Rabbitohs v Dragons preview

Rabbitohs v Dragons
ANZ Stadium
Monday, 7pm

The Rabbitohs are four-point leaders on the competition table, having won 14 of their 16 games. Their only losses have come against the Storm (17-10) and Sharks (14-12). They are on their second five-game winning streak this season, having opened the season with five straight wins as well. They also won four straight at another stage. There is no doubting the Rabbitohs' consistency.

The Rabbitohs' current run of wins has come against the Knights (25-18), Titans (30-24), Eels (30-10), Raiders (32-2) and Warriors (30-13). They trailed the Warriors 13-6 at halftime of that game, in Perth, but lifted to win the second half 24-0 and take the game comfortably in the end. Maybe they're getting closer to another loss, but you wouldn't bet on it against the Dragons – even allowing for the loss of star fullback Greg Inglis, who is expected to be sidelined until the finals with a knee ligament strain suffered in Origin III.

The Dragons continue to be awful in attack, and it was understandable that against the competition's top team for defence, the Roosters, they were kept scoreless at their last start, while the Roosters racked up 36 points. It is going to be another big test for the Dragons to try to get anything going against the Rabbitohs' defence. It is also going to be hugely difficult for the Dragons to stop their attack.

The Dragons' most recent win was against the Knights, four rounds back. They came from behind to win 14-8, with fullback Josh Dugan starring. Since then, they have lost to the Cowboys (22-16), Panthers (25-10) and Roosters. The Dragons, with just five wins and 11 losses, are second-last on the competition table. Only the hapless Eels are behind them.

The Rabbitohs will most likely shift Nathan Merritt to fullback to cover for Inglis, with a new addition to the backline yet to be announced. They have added Tom Burgess, Justin Hunt and Luke Keary to what is a seven-man bench.

Dugan returns at fullback for the Dragons, and Matt Cooper in the centres. Chase Stanley moves from five-eighth to centre, and Adam Quinlan from fullback to five-eighth. Charly Runciman and Nathan Green are gone from the centres. Bronson Harrison returns to the second row, with Matt Prior dropping to the bench. Will Matthews and Craig Garvey are gone from the bench. Cameron King, Tyson Frizell and Daniel Vidot have been added to what is a six-man bench.

Watch Out Rabbitohs: Dugan remains the Dragons' best bet of sparking something in attack. In his six games for the club he has run for more than 200 metres four times, with 152 and 103 his other totals. He has made six line-breaks and nine offloads, and scored four tries.

Watch Out Dragons: Where do you start? Nathan Merritt has scored 12 tries for the Rabbitohs, five-eighth John Sutton and halfback Adam Reynolds are killing them in the playmaking department, Sam Burgess brings the power game from the start and George Burgess brings the power game off the bench. And so it goes on. Even allowing for no Inglis.

Plays To Watch: Dylan Walker, the 18-year-old kid the Rabbitohs have got playing in the centres, is a revelation. He really could end up a big star. Walker plays the game very smart, and with a lot of aggression. He loves to take on defenders, and the Dragons are going to have to make their one-on-one tackles on him stick or they'll be in trouble.

Meanwhile the Dragons have got to try to get quality ball out wide to Cooper, Brett Morris, Stanley and Jason Nightingale, and also bring Dugan into the play, sweeping around. The Dragons can't possibly hope to defend a small total and win this game.

Key Match-Up: John Sutton v Adam Quinlan. Sutton is 28 and has played 198 first-grade games. He is among the most creative players in the competition and is at the top of his game. Quinlan is 20 and has played two first-grade games. It could be a mismatch made in heaven for one side and hell for the other.

Where It Will Be Won: The Dragons are going to have to produce a magnificent performance up front to give themselves any chance of winning. They have some big-name forwards, in Trent Merrin, Ben Creagh and Michael Weyman, but overall they face a massive task against the Rabbitohs' pack, which includes Ben Te'o, Chris McQueen and Roy Asotasi starting, and Jeff Lima and Ben Lowe coming off the bench. And, just repeating, the Burgess brothers.

The History: Played 20: Dragons 14, Rabbitohs 6. They have split the past 10 games five apiece, but the Rabbitohs have won the past three and also the most recent clash at this venue.

Match Officials: Referees – Gerard Sutton & Dave Munro; Sideline Officials – Steve Carrall & Shane Rehm; Video Referees – Luke Phillips & Justin Morgan.

NRL Live 2013 App: Gives you access to every NRL game this season on your iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone as it’s being broadcast on TV, with up to six live games each week, including the Rabbitohs v Dragons clash. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live, 7pm.

The Way We See It: There is no other way to see it other than the Rabbitohs winning easily. Their biggest threat in this game is themselves. If they are off their game, and the opposition gets a sniff, well, anything can happen. But if they fire, then this game is there for the taking for them. Rabbitohs by 12 points.

*Statistics: NRL Stats.


 

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