Raiders v Rabbitohs
Impressive one week, bitterly disappointing the next, Raiders fans were left scratching their heads yet again as their side failed to string two wins together, this time falling to the Storm in Melbourne, a fixture in which they have enjoyed success in recent times. Coach Ricky Stuart pinpointed the first 15 minutes of each half as areas Canberra let themselves down in. It’s an area they’ll need to address, as they welcome a resurgent South Sydney side to the nation’s capital, fresh off a 32-12 win over the Eels at Pirtek Stadium.
Coach Michael Maguire leads the Rabbitohs back to his hometown to face his former club and is targeting the same level of execution they showed last week that helped Souths to their first win since Round 14. Currently in fourth position and four points adrift of the Sea Eagles in first place, this is a must-win for the cardinal and myrtle if they’re to keep touch with the top four, in what’s shaping to be one of the most tightly contested top eights in recent years.
Ricky Stuart has named the same 17 that went down the Storm in Round 19, adding centre Matt Allwood as 18th man.
For the Rabbitohs, Bryson Goodwin comes in on the wing for the suspended Lote Tuqiri, while Ben Te’o also returns, named to start in the second row. Sam Burgess reverts to lock, and Ben Lowe pushes back to an extended bench, which also features Joe Picker and Joel Reddy.
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Watch Out Raiders: Against the Eels, Maguire made the brave move of removing his star halfback with 16 minutes remaining when the game was delicately poised at 16-12 in favour of South Sydney. Replacing Adam Reynolds was young gun Luke Keary, who made an immediate impact, putting up a bomb which Kyle Turner promptly converted to four points. It remains to be seen how exactly Keary will be used on Monday night, again named to start from the bench, but the Raiders will need to be wary when he enters the fray.
Watch Out Rabbitohs: While results haven’t always gone the Raiders’ way in 2014, there has been one constant: Jarrod Croker. The centre has been scoring points for fun this season, with the most points scored (140) in the competition after 19 rounds, and is also equal-second for tries (14) along with Dale Copley, just one behind Semi Radradra. His form even warranted a call up to the NSW Blues squad for Origin III as a shadow player. The Rabbitohs’ right-edge defence will have their hands full on Monday night.
Plays To Watch: Anthony Milford has been electric, particularly when chiming in on the right-hand side of the Raiders’ attack. With speed to burn, great acceleration and amazing skill, Milford will keep the South Sydney defence second guessing, either finding centre Jarrad Kennedy or slicing through himself to collect yet another try.
For the Rabbitohs, Alex Johnston has made a prolific start to his first grade career, scoring nine tries in just eight appearances. In his two tries against the Eels, Johnston was the beneficiary two wonderful cut-out passes from Greg Inglis that exposed the Parramatta defence. Don’t be surprised to see the superstar fullback lay another one on Johnston’s chest on Monday night.
Where It Will Be Won: The opening exchanges. Stuart has made it clear that the Raiders’ slow starts are unacceptable, and you’d expect his side will be quick off the blocks. But if the Rabbitohs find their rhythm early, it could be another long night for the Green Machine. If the Raiders don’t keep the visitors at bay early, it’s hard to see them overturning any significant advantage.
The History: Played 50; Raiders 28, Rabbitohs 21, drawn 1. South Sydney have a good recent record against the Raiders, having won five of their past six encounters. However, Canberra did win their most recent meeting, with a 30-18 victory in Round 4 at ANZ Stadium.
What Are The Odds:
All the money at Sportsbet is with the Rabbitohs ($1.35), with the home side friendless at $3.20. The Rabbitohs are also better supported at the line, giving away a 7.5 points start. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referees – Ashley Klein & Chris Butler; Touch Judges – Paul Holland & Gavin Reynolds; Video Referees – Steve Chiddy & Luke Phillips.
Televised: Fox Sports, Live 7.00pm (AEST).
The Way We See It: With hopes of playing finals football in 2014 now certainly dashed for the Raiders, the Rabbitohs will have more to play for. Canberra certainly won’t be handing over the two competition points too easily, but if South Sydney can execute well, it’s hard to see anything but a Rabbitohs victory. Rabbitohs by 14 points.