Rabbitohs v Eels preview

Rabbitohs v Eels
ANZ Stadium
Friday, May 22, 7:45pm 

After conjuring up the upset of the season in Round 4 to defeat the previously unbeaten Rabbitohs, the Parramatta Eels will look to make it two from two against defending premiers on Friday night.

Both sides come into the round missing just one big name each to State of Origin with Greg Inglis (Queensland) and Will Hopoate (New South Wales) called into camp this week.

The Rabbitohs currently sit in seventh position on the ladder, and have been struggling in the absence of Adam Reynolds, losing four of their last five. Reynolds returned for just one game against the Dragons in Round Nine before breaking his thumb, meaning Luke Keary will again be asked to take on extra responsibility at halfback against the Eels.

Alex Johnston shifts to fullback role to replace Inglis and will be a more than capable replacement in his preferred position. Joel Reddy and Jason Clark return to the starting side while Ben Lowe shifts to the second row and Chris Grevsmuhl joins Daryl Millard on an extended bench. Issac Luke will once again start the match on the bench.

Meanwhile for the last-placed Eels, Ryan Morgan replaces Hopoate at centre. John Folau (who scored a barnstorming double against Souths in Round Four) is named to play on the wing, while Junior Paulo comes onto the bench for Isaac De Gois who is recovering from facial fractures. There are whispers Chris Sandow could make his return in a late change at fullback, with Reece Robinson to shift to the wing in Folau's place.

 

Watch Out Rabbitohs: The Eels come into Friday night’s match with two of the most powerful wingers in the game. Aaron Gray and Joel Reddy will be wearing some bruises trying to stop John Folau and Semi Radradra getting over the line. In the  last encounter between the teams, South Sydney defenders were having enough trouble stopping Folau even when they had four on him. Radradra now has two games under his belt after coming back from injury and will be looking to show once again why he is one of the most damaging ball-running backs in the game.

Watch Out Eels: Alex Johnston did enough playing on the wing this year to earn Kangaroos selection, but now he gets a chance to really shine in his preferred position at the back. Rabbitohs fans haven’t seen much of the speedster in the No. 1 jersey, with Inglis having a mortgage on the role in recent years, but good judges have insisted Johnston will thrive at the back when given his opportunity. Even Johnston himself noted last week that missing out on Origin selection will have a silver lining, a chance to play at fullback. The Eels will have to be focused on covering Johnston wherever he goes, especially when he chases through short kicks in behind the line. Johnston will be trying to get as involved as possible with his new-found attacking freedom. 

Key Match-Up: Luke Keary v Luke Kelly. The battle of the halves is usually a pivotal battle in most games, but this one has more layers of intrigue than most. Keary is again shouldering the responsibility for the Rabbitohs attack and direction with Adam Reynolds injured for an extended period of time, while Keary has been thrust into the playmaking role at the expense of polarizing livewire Chris Sandow, who has been sent back to NSW Cup. The player who can control the tempo and geography of the contest should go a long way to winning this clash for their team.

The History: Played 119; Eels 51, Rabbitohs 65, Drawn 3. The Eels upset victory in Round Four this year snapped a seven-game, five year winning run for the Bunnies against their Parramatta foes.

What Are The Odds: Rabbitohs ($1.48) v Eels ($2.65). There’s been a big go for the Rabbitohs with money running 10:1 with Sportsbet. Souths 13+ has more money on it than the other margins combined. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au

Match Officials: Lead Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant referee: Gavin Morris. Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Kasey Badger. Video Referees: Shayne Hayne and Luke Phillips.

Televised: Channel Nine, Live, 7:30pm

The Way We See It: The Eels have failed to kick on from the form they showed in Round 4 against the Rabbitohs, struggling in recent times with playmaking combinations and consistency throughout the 80 minutes. Brad Arthur will be trying to instill greater intensity and passion into his men ahead of Friday night’s clash. The Bunnies have also been uninspiring in recent weeks, but did claim the huge scalp of the Dragons in Round 9. If they can put in an effort like that against the Eels they should be far too good on Friday night, but we aren’t sure if they have it in them without their leader at the back. This is a tough one, we’re backing the Eels to come out firing and win by 6.