Rabbitohs v Warriors preview
Rabbitohs v Warriors
Saturday 3.30pm (AWST)
The Telstra Premiership returns to Western Australia this Saturday afternoon, where fans will be treated to a clash between two sides who have been on a roll over the last month.
The Rabbitohs won a tough encounter for the second consecutive week in their last-start 22-16 win over the Titans, showing they can still get the job done without the injured Adam Reynolds.
Similarly the Warriors come into the game off the back of three grinding victories, all by just four points, and are positioning themselves for a mid-season run which will make up for an inconsistent start to 2015.
But this Saturday at nib Stadium the New Zealand outfit will have to battle against more than just the defending premiers, with the 5,343km trip to Perth guaranteed to challenge their body clocks and fatigue levels come kick off.
South Sydney are unchanged from last week, with captain Greg Inglis expected to take the field after leaving the game with a head knock against the Gold Coast.
The visitors also have the same 17 from last week, with coach Andrew McFadden carrying Dominique Peyroux and Ken Maumalo on an extended bench to cover for any late injuries.
Watch out Rabbitohs: Shaun Johnson had another standout performance last week, controlling the match against the Knights with a strong kicking game and adding crucial spark for the Warriors inside the attacking 20. The 2014 Golden Boot winner ran the ball 10 times for 78 metres, breaking the line once and setting up two tries in the tight win.
Scoring points in 2015 has proved a tough job for Michael Maguire's men, having failed to clock up more than 22 in a game since way back in Round 2 against the Roosters. Averaging 19.3 points per match the Rabbitohs aren't exactly the competition's worst attacking force, but might need more if they are to beat the Warriors.
Watch out Warriors: As if Souths needed another weapon in their 17, rookie winger Aaron Gray looks every bit a future star and someone who can hurt the Warriors' often fragile right-edge defence. With five tries and five line breaks in as many games the 21-year-old has boosted the Rabbitohs' attack, while in defence he hasn't missed a single tackle in his last four matches.
Scoring five tries in a Telstra Premiership game should be enough to ensure you taste victory most of the time, but not when you clock off for periods of time like the Warriors do. Inconsistent efforts on both sides of the ball saw the Kiwi side end last week's clash with 12 errors, eight penalties conceded and a 69% completion rate, numbers which were all worse than that of their opponents across the 80 minutes.
Key Match-Up: Greg Inglis v Sam Tomkins. Two international stars who despite playing wounded right now are crucial to their respective teams. Tomkins needs a big game after a quiet return from injury last week where he ran the ball just eight times and made a handful of errors. Inglis on the other hand was among South Sydney's best for 56 minutes against the Titans, scoring a try and running for 115 metres before injury forced him from the field.
The History: Played 28; Rabbitohs 10, Warriors 18. The Rabbitohs are aiming for their fourth-straight victory over the Warriors this weekend. If the Bunnies do win it still won't come close to being the best head-to-head streak between the two, with the Warriors winning 12 in a row between 1999 and 2007.
What Are The Odds: Rabbitohs $1.65 v Warriors $2.25. Sportsbet punters like the Rabbitohs to get the job done in Perth, with four times the cash being placed on them in head-to-head betting. Alex Johnston and Aaron Gray have both been well-backed in the first try scorer market. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Did You Know: The Warriors set a new NRL record last week for the most consecutive games decided by the same margin. They assumed the mantle after a fifth consecutive game which was decided by four points. Previously the record had been shared by the Broncos [four straight eight point margins in 2004] and the Bulldogs [four 10 point margins in 2000].
Match Officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Chris Butler. Touch Judges: Jeff Younis and Peter Gough. Video Referees: Shayne Hayne and Steve Folkes.
Televised: Fox Sports - Live from 5.30pm AEST. Sky Sport – Live from 7.30pm NZT.
The Way We See It: The Warriors have become specialists in winning ugly the last few weeks, and as a result have wrangled their way back into the top eight. But few teams know how to grind games out better than South Sydney do. The issues involved with travelling to Perth will also make life tough for the New Zealanders. It's likely to be close for the first 60 minutes, but the Rabbitohs should be too strong in the last quarter and win by 14.