Rabbitohs v Eels
ROUND Two of the NRL gets underway with this inner-city rivalry clash that should particularly see the South Sydney army out in force.
The high-flying Rabbitohs couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year, crushing their arch rival Sydney Roosters 52-12, giving their fans an injection of optimism in the process.
Last weekend’s game at the Sydney Football Stadium was an away fixture for the Bunnies, with this clash being their first home match.
But with Parramatta fans potentially having less distance to travel to get to Homebush, the Rabbitohs could find themselves in hostile territory if their fans don’t get out in force.
Coach Jason Taylor has named the same side that destroyed the Roosters but has also added Garret Crossman to a five-man bench.
The start to the year wasn’t as positive for the Eels, who fell 26-18 to the Warriors, but a return to Australian shores gives them the chance to get their first win of the year in front of what hope will be a large crowd full of Parramatta voices.
Prop Fuifui Moimoi has been promoted to the starting side at the expense of Josh Cordoba while Broderick Wright joins a five-man bench.
Wright’s chances of making just his second top-grade appearance may hinge on second-rower Weller Hauraki, who is seeking a downgrade at the judiciary tonight (Wednesday); should he fail chances of Wright getting game time will soar.
Watch out Rabbitohs: There have been plenty of false dawns at the Rabbitohs in recent years so you’d hope coach JT has the side back on track.
Sure the win against the Roosters was impressive but no-one has ever won the premiership in March, so complacency cannot be allowed to creep in.
The Eels may not have come home from New Zealand with competition points but they do still bring confidence. Only a few minor lapses cost them against the Warriors and they can easily turn things around.
Feleti Mateo looks set to explode after a busy game across the Tasman. With all the hype surrounding John Sutton (both Mateo and Sutton are five-eighth/lock-style players) during the week, Mateo is ready to prove he shouldn’t be discounted.
Watch out Eels: The South Sydney attack was super impressive against the Roosters but their dominance in defence also helped them on the way to victory.
The Rabbitohs posted 23 dominant tackles in the win, allowing them to be set nicely on the defensive line on numerous occasions. With the two referee system speeding up the game this is of extra importance.
Conversely the Eels managed to make just one solitary dominant tackle against the Warriors. The Parramatta side must fight hard in the ruck if they are to prosper.
Where it will be won: Effective defence will win this one. Neither the Rabbitohs nor the Eels were outstanding in Round 1 when it came to making effective tackles but the Bunnies did outpoint the Eels.
Effective tackle percentage is derived from the amount of tackles missed and the amount of ineffective tackles (tackles that didn’t stop an offload), in relation to tackles attempted. Parramatta were 84.3 per cent effective to be ranked 15th in the NRL while the Rabbitohs came in at 86.6 per cent to be ranked 11th.
With both sides wielding attacking flair it will be the side that shuts down the opposition with strong and effective defence that will come out on top. Sutton and Mateo are the kings of the offload, so they need to be halted.
The history: Played 108; Rabbitohs 58, Eels 48, drawn 2. The Eels have won five of the past eight clashes, however the Rabbitohs have won two of the past three including the only encounter last season. At ANZ Stadium the teams have battled twice, with the Bunnies coming out on top both times.
Conclusion: On form you have to pick the Rabbitohs but at this early stage of a season you have to be careful basing decisions just on win/loss ratios.
The Eels were up against tougher opposition last week and while they went down, they were in the contest. The Rabbitohs played exceptional against the Roosters but the tri-colours were pretty ordinary. Safe bet is to stay on the Bunny bandwagon for at least another week.
Match officials: Referees – Shayne Hayne & Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials – Paul Holland & Brett Suttor; Video Ref – Paul Simpkins.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live 7.30pm (NSW), delayed 9.30pm (Qld); Fox Sports – Delayed 11.30pm.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.