William Botoulas, Melbourne Correspondent, NRL.com
Rabbitohs v Storm
A successful NRL season is all about building momentum. On Friday night one team will look to continue it, while the other is trying to find it.
South Sydney were impressive in last week’s 40-18 win over the Titans, signaling that Michael Maguire’s side are well and truly over their early season slump.
Since starting the season at 1-3 the Rabbitohs have continued to build, dropping just one of their past five games, with all four wins coming away from home.
Despite going into Friday night’s meeting as favourites, the Rabbitohs will be facing a team it has beaten just twice in the past decade.
Last week Melbourne did what they have done best this season – snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Against Manly last week the Storm scored in the final five minutes to steal a win for the fourth time this season.
Such has been the nail-biting nature of Melbourne’s season; their five wins have amounted to a combined margin of just 17 points.
The Rabbitohs on the other hand have enjoyed an average winning margin of 16 points.
Back-to-back wins mean South Sydney has named an unchanged line-up for the second straight week while Melbourne make one forced change with Joel Romelo to play his first game for the club, replacing the suspended Ben Hampton at five-eighth.
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Watch Out Rabbitohs: No team has made more errors this season than the Rabbitohs. Handling errors have been the main issue, making up 85 per cent of South Sydney’s 13 errors a game. The thing that has saved Maguire’s side from making this a glaring weakness is that they have been able to force their opponents into committing almost 12 errors a game themselves. However this week they face a team that has made the fewest errors in the NRL so it may come back to bite the home side on Friday night.
And it's time to look away Rabbitohs fans: In the past 16 meetings between these teams South Sydney have managed just two wins. That is two wins over the Storm in the past decade. Souths did take the chocolates in the Qualifying Final last season, so all is not lost and perhaps a win on Friday night will leave this worrying hoodoo well and truly shaken.
Watch Out Storm: When you get tackled by the Rabbitohs, you stay tackled. South Sydney have tallied the lowest number of ineffective and missed tackles this season and as a result have had their line broken fewer times than any team. Also, the Rabbitohs have given their opponents the slip, triggering more missed tackles than any other team and averaging 32.3 tackle breaks per game. The Storm will need to have all hands on deck to bring the home side down.
You would think a team would hold the edge over a side coming back off a northern road trip however it has been quite the opposite. This season every team that has played North Queensland or the Gold Coast up north has won the following week by an average winning margin of just over 17 points. All the more reason for the Rabbitohs’ confidence to be riding high following last week's 22-point away win over the Titans.
Plays To Watch: Ever-dangerous Sam Burgess leads the league in all run metres and his 21 offloads rank 2nd in the NRL; Confidence will be high for young winger Dylan Walker on the back of his four tries last week; the Storm’s nine games this season have been decided by an average margin of five points, so get ready to be on the edge of your seat.
Where It Will be Won: Both teams have scored 33 tries for the season but the difference between them lies in that Melbourne have conceded 13 more. The maligned Storm defence has been much improved in recent weeks however they face a Rabbitohs team that has conceded just 24 tries for the year – only the Bulldogs and Roosters have let in fewer. The result of this contest will likely depend on whether Melbourne’s defence can continue its improvement and step up another gear to match the rock solid Rabbitohs.
History: Played 24; Rabbitohs 4, Storm 19, drawn 1. Melbourne have dominated the head-to-head, winning 14 of the past 16 meetings.
Match Officials: Referee – Gerard Sutton; Assistant Referee – Gavin Reynolds; Sideline Officials – Nick Beashel & Jason Walsh; Video Referee – Steve Chiddy & Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.40pm (AEDT).
The Way We See It: The Storm will be desperate to build some momentum ahead of the difficult Origin period however the Rabbitohs are the in-form side with spearheads that could cut through the Melbourne line at will. Souths by 12 points.