Schick Hydro Preview: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Melbourne Storm
Sunday, 6.30pm (AEST)
The Melbourne Storm are desperate to make amends after their second loss of the season in a performance that was admittedly well below their standards.
The Storm equalled the record for most points conceded in a defeat when the Gold Coast Titans stole a thrilling 38-36 victory at Suncorp Stadium last weekend.
After twice allowing more than 20 points scored against them in 2016, Melbourne's opponents have already broken that mark three times this season - all occurring in the past four rounds.
With the Storm eager to appease a furious Craig Bellamy who lamented his side's uncharacteristic error-riddled defensive effort, the South Sydney Rabbitohs (4-6) are up against a difficult task in Perth.
Souths bounced back for a solid 28-8 win over Wests Tigers after a poor run of form but will face more resilient opposition in Bellamy's side.
It's also a final opportunity for both sides to stamp their representative credentials in a final Origin audition before next week’s selections.
Why the Rabbitohs can win: The Bunnies will take plenty of confidence after a comprehensive 28-8 win over Wests Tigers. In an 80-minute performance, it was Robbie Farah's finest game since moving to Redfern. With speculation Peter Wallace will be selected for the NSW Blues, it’s Farah's last opportunity to prove himself in a vital showdown with his opposite number and Queensland rival Cameron Smith. Sam Burgess also enjoyed a strong showing and will keen to continue his hot streak of recent form. Additionally Cody Walker will be motivated to validate his requests for an improved contract and taking down the top-of-the-table Storm will help his cause. In their last meeting in Round 22, 2016 at AAMI Park, the Rabbitohs pushed the Storm to the limit. They led 14-12 in Melbourne before Smith slotted a last-play penalty goal to send the game into overtime for the Storm to escape 15-14. Souths are 2-2 in their past four matches and will be looking to take advantage of a Melbourne side who has experienced off-field distractions. They will also be missing inspirational leader Jesse Bromwich who will be serving the second of his club-imposed two-game suspension.
Why the Storm can win: Despite conceding 38 points against the Titans, Melbourne were unlucky not to escape with the victory. While they maintain the NRL's stingiest defence, their attack continues to improve as the Storm's backline trio of Billy Slater, Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr starts to click with further time together on the field. After scoring just two points against the Cronulla Sharks in their 11-2 loss in Round 6, the Storm have scored 120 points in their past four games (30 per points per game). Slater is also rediscovering his famous combination with Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, with the trio connecting to wind back the clock for several iconic highlights with Slater finding open space leading to a number of tries. With key players taking part in this year's Origin series, it's imperative the Storm take advantage of their full complement and capitalise on securing victory over South Sydney. The lure of Origin debuts will strongly motivate the likes of Jordan McLean, Dale Finucane, Tim Glasby and Felise Kaufusi for a big performance.
 Telstra Premiership: Robbie Farah vs Cameron Smith
Tackles, Line Break Assists, Try Assists, Tackle Breaks.
History: Rabbitohs v Storm: Played 26; Rabbitohs 4; Storm 22. Melbourne have dominated the Rabbitohs in their head-to-head history. However, recent history shows their clashes have been closely contested. Their past three meetings were hard-fought encounters with the Storm winning by six points or less. On the other hand, Melbourne have won nine of their past 10 matches with the Rabbitohs to hold a firm psychological advantage.
What are the odds: Melbourne are the best-backed side of the round, with Sportsbet punters including them in a stack of multis over the weekend. Storm 13-plus is the way the money is going and 75 per cent of the money at the line is on them despite the fact they're giving up the points start. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Gavin Badger, Jon Stone Sideline Officials: Tim Roby, Michael Gordon. Video Referees: Luke Patten, Ashley Klein.
Televised: Fox League – Live coverage from 6.00pm.
NRL.com predicts: It's hard to see a Bellamy-coached side dropping two games in a row which hasn't happened since Round 15, 2015. South Sydney will need their stars such as Walker, Burgess, Farah and Adam Reynolds to fire to stand a chance against the heavily-favoured Storm. However, Melbourne are out to prove themselves after a lacklustre effort by their own standards last week. Storm by 12.