Sea Eagles v Rabbitohs Preview

Sea Eagles v Rabbitohs
Brookvale Oval
Saturday 7.30pm

Forget the fact these two teams lost last weekend – this shapes as an almighty clash, probably the match of the round, so if you are anywhere near Brookvale Oval on Saturday night you should drop in and witness history.

After battling without their stars last week, both teams return to near full strength and have little excuse not to put in a physical and entertaining performance.

The Sea Eagles dropped to sixth on the ladder after the loss to the Gold Coast while the Rabbitohs fell to fifth following their heavy loss to Brisbane.

But both are on 16 competition points, along with three other teams, making this match even more vital. With two more sides on 14 points, a loss here could see either side fall out of the top eight altogether.

Both sides have forwards who like it rough but add skill to their repertoire, leaving their outside backs salivating for chances to get the crowd on their feet.
 
The home-side Sea Eagles welcome centres Steve Matai and Jamie Lyon back to the side at the expense of Dean Whare and William Hopoate, with Tony Williams moving to the wing.

Anthony Watmough returns to the back row, which sees Joe Galuvao return to the bench and Jamie Buhrer out. Chris Bailey has been added as an 18th man.
Former Test and Origin prop Brent Kite is celebrating his 200th first grade game.

In the Rabbitohs’ burrow, hooker Issac Luke returns from his one-game suspension in place of Beau Falloon.

The side also has Sam Burgess back from international duty, and hopefully Dave Taylor back from Origin duty to play in the second row, pushing Dave Tyrrell and Jason Clark to the bench.

Shannon McPherson also returns to the reserves list, leaving Jamie Simpson, Luke Capewell and veteran new buy Craig Stapleton to miss out.

Watch out Sea Eagles: South Sydney are super dangerous out of dummy-half and Issac Luke has plenty to prove after being forced to sit out last week’s loss.

With 11 line-breaks from dummy-half the side is by far the most prolific in the NRL and they also have the most tries from the play-the-ball with six for the year.

The Sea Eagles have conceded four tries from dummy-half this year, which actually makes them the fifth worst team in the competition in the statistic.

Watch out Rabbitohs: The Sea Eagles are the second most prolific try-scorers from kicks in the competition and they are coming up against the Rabbitohs who are the second worst side in the competition at conceding tries from kicks.

Manly have scored 14 tries from the boot this year, the same amount the Bunnies have let get by them.

Statistically speaking, this means we are every chance to see at least one Manly try come from a kick in this game. Steve Matai will be the main target and both Kieran Foran and new Bulldogs signing Trent Hodkinson both have been good providers so far.

Where it will be won: Defence is going to be the key here and with this knowledge perhaps the Sea Eagles are in the box seat. The Rabbitohs have scored the most points over the past month (120) yet conceded the second most points (102) in a sign they aren’t muscling up.

Of course, half of those points came last weekend when they were under strength but the side still had its backline intact and couldn’t close the baby Broncos down.

Rabbitohs halfback Chris Sandow is still a defensive liability, having missed 71 tackles. He is effective on just 71.5 per cent of his attempted tackles. Other players in the 70s and struggling are Colin Best (76.9), Beau Champion (73.7), Issac Luke (78.3), Nathan Merritt (77.2), Fetuli Talanoa (73.5) and Dave Taylor (78.6). Fullback Rhys Wesser is at 68.9 per cent.

Sea Eagles in the 70s defensively are Kieran Foran (78.9), Steve Matai (75.9) and Tony Williams (70.9) while Michael Robertson is at (67.9) and Ben Farrar is at 58.1 per cent.

The history: Played 124; Sea Eagles 68, Rabbitohs 56. The Sea Eagles have won five of the past eight games between the clubs, including a 30-22 victory earlier this season.

At Brookvale Oval the Sea Eagles hold a 30-20 advantage from the 50 games previously played there; however the Rabbitohs won the last game at the venue 36-22 in 2009.

The Sea Eagles haven’t lost three consecutive games at Brookvale since 2005.
Conclusion: Last week’s form can basically get tossed out the window. The home side will start favourites but this could easily go either way.

Both sides will need to show some composure and set up a victory through a solid platform and aggressive defence.

If both sides play to their potential for 80 minutes this could be one of the games of the year.

Match officials: Referees – Shayne Hayne & Jason Robinson; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Luke Potter; Video Ref – Paul Simpkins.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7.30pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.