St Helens v Rabbitohs: Five things we learned
The Rabbitohs were absolutely relentless in their huge win over St Helens with plenty of positive signs ahead of their NRL premiership defence. Here are five key takeouts from their World Club Challenge win.
5. Bunnies look... ominous
With all the usual disclaimers about how it's a long season and premierships aren't won in March (or February, even), the Rabbitohs couldn't really be doing any more right than they already are. First there was the undefeated Auckland Nines campaign and now an absolutely relentless 80 minutes against St Helens. This is, don't forget, a very good St Helens team that won the 2014 Super League and are now three weeks into their 2015 season proper, while Souths are still in their pre-season and had to travel halfway around the world and then recover from jetlag prior to this game. They were polished in attack and defence and piled on the pressure. Which brings us to...
4. Rabbitohs defence will be a benchmark again
The final scoreline may be a fair reflection of how well South Sydney played, but it's not a fair reflection of how well St Helens played. The Saints threw absolutely everything at the Rabbitohs, especially in the first half, but the cardinal and myrtle wall just refused to crack. Their sliding defence was on full show, repeatedly bundling players into touch to shut down attacking raids on both sides of the field, and a stunning try-saver from Issac Luke early on highlighted the commitment to the cause.
3. Glenn Stewart set to play a familiar role
The former Sea Eagle looked fit, fast and focused in his first serious outing in his new colours. He showed great awareness and anticipation – and vintage pace – to run through on a Reynolds grubber to open the scoring and just generally looked like his old self back in his customary right edge position. It shows he will probably be expected to play a fairly similar role to the one he played over a long and successful career at Manly, and why wouldn't he? Anyone who's been asked, from the coach to Stewart himself, has said – as if it needed to be – that he won't be looking to replace what Sam Burgess brought to the team, and this game seemed to confirm it will be the Stewart we're familiar with in 2015. He also got through plenty of defensive work playing very tight in defence, perhaps highlighting that he could be a handy NRL Fantasy pickup this year if he'll be matching big tackle counts to plenty of attacking stats.
2. Experience to provide stop-gap in Rabbitohs' backline
With Lote Tuqiri retired and Kirisome Auva'a out for most (if not all) of this year, one of the big questions at Redfern is what will Michael Maguire do with his three-quarter line. The early trials saw the likes of Setefano Taukafa, Aaron Gray and Sam Manulelua given a run and the youngsters looked promising. As a one-off over in England, Maguire went safety-first and both 10-Test veteran Bryson Goodwin – who produced a great offload for a Greg Inglis try – and Joel Reddy, who scored a pair of his own, turned in high-quality games. Maguire showed last year in discarding club legend Nathan Merritt for promising youngster Alex Johnston that he's not concerned with reputation, so those aforementioned players could easily come into contention sooner rather than later, but if they don't, the club will still be well-served for three quarters to line up with Kangaroos squad members Johnston and Dylan Walker, who were also outstanding in this game.
1. Reynolds ready to join elite
Johnathan Thurston, Daly Cherry-Evans... Adam Reynolds. On current form the Rabbitohs playmaker deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the very best halfbacks on the planet. He was great in the Rabbitohs' surge to the premiership last season, he absolutely had the ball on a string at the Auckland Nines in his man-of-the-series effort, and if anything he looks like taking his game even further in 2015. Once again his kicking game was spot on – there was the pinpoint grubber for Glenn Stewart's opening try, and a perfectly weighted chip for Keary's try, but he wasn't afraid to run the ball and his line break down the right late in the first half highlighted a much-improved running game and greater willingness to run the ball. His goal-kicking radar was switched on again too. He has all facets of the game covered right now; he even snapped a field goal two minutes from full time with his side already 38-0 up just to rub it in. NRL Fantasy pick-up anyone?