Schick Hydro Preview: Rabbitohs v Bulldogs
This mightn't be one of the blockbusters of the round, but you can always rely on the Rabbitohs and Bulldogs to lift a gear when the traditional rivals square off.
South Sydney pulled off one of the comebacks of the season to steal an improbable victory over the Dragons last week that snapped a four-game losing streak and saw them shoot up to 11th spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
While they won't play finals this year, last week's result will give them a timely boost heading into the final month of the regular season.
The off-season can't come around soon enough for the Bulldogs who slumped to their third loss on the trot with another uninspiring display against the Eels. Des Hasler's men managed just one try in slippery conditions and remain the worst attacking side in the NRL.
Surprisingly, Hasler has named the same 17 that went down last week with Chase Stanley retained in the halves and Matt Frawley on the bench.
It's fairly smooth sailing for the Rabbitohs who have made just the one change with Aaron Gray replacing Hymel Hunt at centre.
Why the Rabbitohs can win: It mightn't have been a factor last week but South Sydney's ability to score from kicks could be a point of difference on Thursday night. Even when they lost to the Raiders back in Round 21, all three of the Rabbitohs' tries came from the boot so you can expect the Bunnies to go to their strength against a Canterbury side that has conceded more tries (22) from kicks than any other team in the NRL this season.
Why the Bulldogs can win: Scoring points has been a real issue for the Bulldogs in 2017, but they can take solace from the fact they boast a solid attacking record against the Bunnies. In nine of their past 10 wins over South Sydney, the blue and whites have scored at least 23 points, with the Bulldogs scoring 30+ in five of those. They'll hope history is on their side given they've failed to score more than 20 points since they beat Michael Maguire's men 24-9 back in Round 7.
The history: Played 155; Rabbitohs 70; Bulldogs 81; Drawn 4. The Bulldogs have won three of their past four meetings with the Rabbitohs, although Souths had won five from six before that.
What are the odds: 50 per cent more money has been placed on South Sydney in Sportsbet's head-to-head market, however both sides have been backed to win 1-12 so punters think we'll be in for a close one on Thursday night. Bryson Goodwin has surprisingly been better backed than favourite Alex Johnston for first tryscorer. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assist referee: Gavin Reynolds. Sideline officials: Jarrod Cole and Clayton Sharpe.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live coverage from 7:30pm. Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 7pm.
NRL.com predicts: It's been a year to forget for both clubs, but with four rounds remaining, the Rabbitohs and Bulldogs have a chance to build a platform heading into 2018. There were encouraging signs at the SCG last week, and we're tipping the Rabbitohs to take plenty of confidence from that performance and make it back-to-back wins by 12 points.