Raiders v Rabbitohs Preview

Raiders v Rabbitohs
Canberra Stadium
Sunday 2pm

The first of three Anzac Day games kicks off in Canberra, with two sides looking to bounce back from heavy and disappointing losses.

The Raiders were destroyed by fellow team-mate Todd Carney as the Roosters sliced them apart while the Rabbitohs helped play Parramatta back into a little bit of form.

As a result, this match-up takes on extra significance, given the Raiders are now languishing in 15th and need a resurrection to revive their season, and given the Rabbitohs have slid back down to eighth and a loss will almost certainly have them outside the finals zone.

Canberra, who have a great record over the Bunnies in the nation’s capital, have made a few forced and unforced changes.

James Stuart is out, with his place on the wing taken by Brett Kelly. Halfback Josh McCrone is out, with former Queensland Origin winger Adam Mogg selected to replace him. David Furner has covered his bold move with the inclusion of Marc Herbert on the bench.

Prop David Shillington has been benched, with Scott Logan to start, while Joe Picker is out allowing Trevor Thurling to start and Shaun Fensom to return from injury on the bench. Troy Thompson has also been added to the reserves list.

For South Sydney, Ben Lowe returns from suspension at lock, which sees Jason Clark move to the bench. Jamie Simpson makes way for Eddy Pettybourne, who returns from a broken jaw. There is no sign of Michael Crocker, who this week hasn’t even been named after a fortnight of expected returns and late withdrawals.

Watch out Raiders: South Sydney are the fourth most potent side when it comes to line-breaks with 31 so far this year, or more than five per match. If they can start to turn the majority into points they will become very dangerous indeed.

With the Raiders conceding five-and-a-half line-breaks each match this shapes as a game with plenty of free running coming from the red and green end. Issac Luke must be contained, as the Rabbitohs lead the NRL with seven dummy-half line breaks, while they have also had some success attacking from kick returns.

If the Raiders don’t find a way to tighten up around the ruck, they could be in trouble. 

Watch out Rabbitohs: The Raiders will be primed to play their usual Canberra Stadium daytime brand of razzle-dazzle second-phase footy. Reserved seemingly exclusively for their daytime matches at home, the Raiders love to get the ball moving and while they have busted out just 14 offloads more than the Bunnies this season (69 – 55) that is still more than two extra a match. The big concern for the Rabbitohs is offloads conceded – with 101 so far they are the worst team in the NRL at shutting down second-phase football. If they don’t come committed to play and ready to shut down the pass, they will be burned.

Bronson Harrison is the main offloader in the Raiders’ side while Terry Campese, David Shillington and Dane Tilse are also partial to popping a pass.

Where it will be won:
This match could come down to territory allowed by defence. Both the Raiders and Rabbitohs have been very poor at limiting the go-forward of their opponents so far in 2010, ranked 15th and 16th in the category.

The Raiders are the worst side in the NRL, allowing opposite teams a mammoth 1482 metres each game on average, while the Rabbitohs are conceding 1395 metres. When you allow other teams to roll down the field with ease, you allow them to get in great field position for attack and as such we’ll probably get a high-scoring game here.

South Sydney are making more metres in attack this season, 1361 against 1235, so they should have the advantage.

But coupled with this are obviously errors. Only Cronulla and Parramatta have made more errors than these two teams and if they are to be competitive against the best sides, they will need to reduce the amount of dropped ball.

The History:
Played 42; Raiders 27, Rabbitohs 15. The Raiders have won six of the past eight, including the last four in a row between these two sides. Last year’s only match went to the Raiders 34-18.
 
In the 10 matches at Canberra Stadium the Raiders hold a significant 8-2 advantage, with Souths’ last win in the nation’s capital coming in 2005.  

Conclusion: When the Raiders play at home it’s always a tipster’s nightmare. They always play better and often beat sides who come in expecting to win.

The Rabbitohs should be good enough to win this match, but they have a terrible record in Canberra and they were very scratchy against the Eels last weekend.

Expect another match similar to the Raiders-Wests Tigers encounter from a few weeks ago, where both sides scored some great attacking tries but defence was almost non-existent.

Flip a coin for the result, unless you really feel the 2010 Bunnies are different from the previous false dawns.

Match officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Daniel Eastwood & Adam Reid; Video Ref – Phil Cooley.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.