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This contest is the match of the round with these top-four teams on 38 competition points each and with 18 wins each doing battle.

Now it needs to be determined which one can offer the most resistance to the Storm marching to back-to-back premierships.

While some of the answers to that question will come on Friday night, the result also means one team emerges in clear second spot on the NRL ladder.

The Rabbitohs have won their past 10 games, and scored 30 points or more in eight of them. So their attack is certainly on song.

But the Panthers have the second best defensive record (behind the Storm), conceding 252 points. The Rabbitohs are back in fifth spot allowing 400 points to be scored against them.

The rundown

Team news

Panthers: Tevita Pangai jnr will make his Panthers debut after being moved from the reserves to the interchange an hour before kick-off.

In a minor change also announced 60 minutes before the game, Viliame Kikau reverts to the bench with Kurt Capewell to start in the back row. Izack Tago will be the 18th man.

James Fisher-Harris, who was also listed on the bench after missing the last few weeks for personal reasons, will be given another week of training before making his return. 

Fisher-Harris and Taylan May dropped off the reserves list 24 hours before kick-off.

The Panthers have won five of their past six games against the Rabbitohs.

Rabbitohs: In a minor change announced an hour before kick-off, Tevita Tatola moves into the starting side with Tom Burgess going back to the bench. Blake Taaffe will be the 18th man.

Dane Gagai (hamstring) and Alex Johnston (hamstring) will return while Campbell Graham (head knock) has overcome a nasty concussion.

Hame Sele is the new face on the interchange with Jaydn Su'A dropping out of the 17.

Su'A and Patrick Mago were omitted from the extended bench on Thursday night.

The Rabbitohs require two tries to break the club’s 2014 record of 118 tries scored in a season.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
    Fullback for Rabbitohs is number 1 Latrell Mitchell
  • Winger for Panthers is number 2 Stephen Crichton
    Winger for Rabbitohs is number 2 Alex Johnston
  • Centre for Panthers is number 3 Paul Momirovski
    Centre for Rabbitohs is number 3 Dane Gagai
  • Centre for Panthers is number 4 Matt Burton
    Centre for Rabbitohs is number 4 Campbell Graham
  • Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brent Naden
    Winger for Rabbitohs is number 5 Josh Mansour
  • Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome Luai
    Five-Eighth for Rabbitohs is number 6 Cody Walker
  • Halfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
    Halfback for Rabbitohs is number 7 Adam Reynolds

Forwards

  • Prop for Panthers is number 8 Moses Leota
    Prop for Rabbitohs is number 8 Mark Nicholls
  • Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Apisai Koroisau
    Hooker for Rabbitohs is number 9 Damien Cook
  • Prop for Panthers is number 10 Matthew Eisenhuth
    Prop for Rabbitohs is number 16 Tevita Tatola
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin
    2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 11 Keaon Koloamatangi
  • 2nd Row for Panthers is number 17 Kurt Capewell
    2nd Row for Rabbitohs is number 12 Jai Arrow
  • Lock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
    Lock for Rabbitohs is number 13 Cameron Murray

Interchange

  • Interchange for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 10 Thomas Burgess
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Mitch Kenny
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 14 Benji Marshall
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 15 Scott Sorensen
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 15 Jacob Host
  • Interchange for Panthers is number 19 Tevita Pangai Junior
    Interchange for Rabbitohs is number 17 Hame Sele

Reserves

  • Reserve for Panthers is number 18 Izack Tago
    Reserve for Rabbitohs is number 20 Blake Taaffe

Match Officials

  • Referee: Grant Atkins
  • Touch Judge: Liam Kennedy
  • Touch Judge: Chris Butler
  • Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara

Last updated:

Key match-up

Nathan Cleary v Adam Reynolds: The precocious Panther beat the veteran Bunny to the NSW Origin jersey and he showed why in the hefty 56-12 win in round 11 earlier this year. Cleary had two line-breaks, two try assists and scored the first of the Panthers nine tries.

Reynolds didn't have anywhere near that impact and even his eight kicks for 244 metres fell short of Cleary's 14 for 456. But Cleary is on the comeback trail from six weeks out with a shoulder injury, and Reynolds has upped the ante in recent weeks, making this a mouth-watering contest.

Stat attack

The Rabbitohs have two players in the NRL top-five for line break assists - Cody Walker in the lead and Latrell Mitchell in fifth spot. The best-placed Panther is Jarome Luai in 10th. 

 

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