Schick Hydro Preview: Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Bunnies will have to overcome a serious form-line discrepancy if they want to challenge the high-flying Eels this Friday night in what will be their final game of 2017.
South Sydney suffered the biggest loss of any team this year when a rampant Storm put them to the sword 64-6 last Saturday while the Eels piled on their best team score in 10 years in a 52-34 romp over the Broncos (incidentally, the last time they passed 50 was against the Broncos – 68-22 back in 2007).
The fourth-placed Eels also have a mighty carrot in front of them – win and guarantee a top-four finish and with it a guaranteed second weekend in September, denying Cronulla a chance to leapfrog them.
The Bunnies are playing for nought but pride but that pride will be stinging after last week. Their final game before Mad Monday will see Zane Musgrove miss out due to suspension with much of the rest of the team named as it was last week before the game day reshuffle: Sam Burgess at prop, Cody Walker at five-eighth, John Sutton in the back row, Bryson Goodwin at fullback, Robert Jennings on the wing. Dean Britt is the new face on the bench with Musgrove out.
Eels coach Brad Arthur wasn't too impressed with his team's late fade-out that closed the margin of victory, despite the result, and this week gets Manu Ma'u back from suspension which pushed Kenny Edwards to the bench and Frank Pritchard to the reserves where Kaysa Pritchard and Beau Scott have again been named and may yet come into contention in their respective injury comebacks.
 Telstra Premiership - Round 26: Eels vs Rabbitohs
Why Eels can win: The blue and golds have been red hot over the past fortnight with big wins over the Titans and Broncos pushing them into the top four. Their discipline has been outstanding in that period with just 13 incomplete sets (out of 69); their 88 per cent last week was the best of any team and they sit third overall right across the season to date. They will only be stronger with Ma'u back and his stinging carries will be a welcome addition to a forward pack that has made a habit of blistering yardage runs over their recent strong run.
Why Rabbitohs can win: It may seem a while ago now after last week's touch-up from Melbourne but the Bunnies have been in good form of late – they had won three straight prior to last week. They'd been scoring plenty of points to, with 26, 28 and 36 points in wins over the Dragons, Bulldogs and Warriors. They've completed at around 80 percent across that three-game run and churned through plenty of metres, averaging close to 1,800 metres per game (around 130 more on average than their opposition). Bear in mind their general Adam Reynolds was concussed inside 10 minutes last week and his return will be pivotal, in particular his controlled kicking game.
 Telstra Premiership: Adam Reynolds vs Corey Norman
Line Break Assists, Try Assists, Tries, Line Breaks.
The history: Played 123; Eels 53; Rabbitohs 67; Drawn 3. It's not that long ago the Bunnies won seven straight against the Eels (from 2010 to 2014) but the Eels have won three of five since, including the past two straight.
What are the odds: Ninety per cent of the dollars invested with Sportsbet are with Parramatta, and nine times the number of bets. There is more money on the Eels to win 13+ than all of the other winning margins combined. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Gavin Badger; Assistant Referee: Chris Butler; Touch judges: Tim Roby and Clayton Sharpe; Review Official: Luke Patten; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel Nine and Fox League – Live from 7.30pm.
NRL.com predicts: The Eels, remarkably, have lost just once since Round 14. That was to last-placed Newcastle which may give Souths fans some hope but on the form each team showed last-start we'll have to follow the form-line – Eels by two tries or more.