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Rabbitohs (2nd) vs Cowboys (8th)

Friday 10 May, 7:35pm kickoff ANZ Stadium

Official Twitter hashtags - #NRLSouNql #gorabbitohs

Tickets available by clicking here.

The 2nd placed Rabbitohs take on a star studded Cowboys side who have struggled away from home this season and sit in eighth place with four wins and four losses.

In contrast, the Rabbitohs are unbeaten in their six starts away from home and will play at home at ANZ Stadium for just the third time this year. South Sydneys record at ANZ is fairly solid, having won 14 of the last 17 including the 17-10 loss to the Storm, the Rabbitohs last home appearance.

The Cowboys scored their first away win of the year against the struggling Eels and could well have gone down had Vai Toutai held on to the ball for a last minute match winner.

One thing that cant be disputed is the sheer class of the Cowboys outfit. Boasting one of the best five-eighths of all-time, Johnathan Thurston, test props James Tamou and Matt Scott, electric fullback Matt Bowen, Queensland rep Brent Tate and 2012 prolific try-scorer Ash Graham amongst others.

The Rabbitohs have had their best start to a season in living memory with seven wins from eight games and will be confident of continuing that form leading into round nine. With a steady starting line-up including a halves combination that have started every game since round one 2012, Michael Maguire wont accept any excuses for a poor performance.

Recent History

The Cowboys are one of the few sides against which the Rabbitohs boast a good recent record. In fact, the Cowboys havent tasted success since 2009, with the Rabbitohs winning seven of the last eight meetings. You have to go back to 2006 for the last time the Cowboys defeated the Rabbitohs in Sydney.

Over the last 10 encounters the Rabbitohs have won seven and but trail the Cowboys in points scored, 203 points to 212 thanks to a couple of big North Queensland wins.

Last time the sides met, back in round eight 2013, the Rabbitohs prevailed 20-16 after surrendering a 20-nil halftime lead. The Rabbitohs were unable to score after the 20th minute but bravely held out the fast finishing Cowboys and record the 1000th win in the Clubs history.
To watch highlights from the last time these two sides met, please click here.

Inglis was up there with the Rabbitohs' best on the night recording 18 runs for 180 metres, including two line breaks, eight tackle breaks and the opening try of the night. Dave Taylor was also superb making three line breaks in his 16 runs for 160 metres. In defence it was Michael Crocker who led the way with 50 tackles, Issac Luke the next best with 34.

For the Cowboys, James Tamou led the way with 23 runs and 173 metres while Brent Tate posed a danger all night with two line break assists and two try assists, both try assists sent the way of Ash Graham. In defence it was Ashton Sims with 38 tackles and Tamou with 36 who got through the bulk of the work.

Keys to Victory

After being touted as one of the pre-season Premiership favourites, its hard to pinpoint exactly where the Cowboys have gone wrong this year. While they are hardly out of it in eighth place they would definitely have hoped for a stronger start.

Quite simply they have been rocks or diamonds this year, one week looking like world beaters and the next week like a very average side.

While their defence has actually been better than last season, conceding 16.5 points per game compared to 18.5 in 2012, their attack hasnt been up to last years level. Thurston has continued to impress (seven try assists in eight games) but his side has scored only 17.8 points a game, well behind the 24.9 per game they averaged in their run to the finals last season.

A big positive in attack for the Cowboys has again been their right side. Last season Ash Graham was second only to Ben Barba with 21 tries and this year he and Brent Tate have scored nine tries between them. Theyll be up against one of the in-form left sides in the comp with Bryson Goodwin and Nathan Merritt combining for 11 tries in 2013. Add Greg Inglis popping up on the left and the Cowboys will certainly have a tough job ahead; no doubt it will be one of the most important areas on the field.

The other big battle will be up forward. Michael Maguire has used Dave Tyrrell and Roy Asotasi to take the edge off opposition forwards early, allowing the likes of Sam Burgess, brother George, Ben Teo, Chris McQueen, Jeff Lima and Ben Lowe to batter their opposition with hit-ups once they tire. Thus far they havent been outclassed but the combo of James Tamou and Matt Scott is a totally different kettle of fish.

Together, Scott and Tamou average just under 31 hitups per game for 300 metres. They also combine for an average of 50 tackles. The Rabbitohs will need to work together up forward to tame these two massive props.

For the Cowboys to win theyll need to defend better than they have all season and that task looks extremely tough when you consider the attacking prowess of South Sydney. The Rabbitohs have been Storm-like in their ability to score with very few opportunities this year. They have also been prone to short periods where they blow the game apart. Against the Broncos it was an eight minute period which netted three tries and against Manly a 13 minute period of domination after halftime that netted the same.

Key Matchups

Bryson Goodwin vs Brent Tate

Bryson Goodwins form has been something of a revelation in 2013. In particular, his defence has been outstanding. A shut down job on one of the best centres in the competition in Jamie Lyon was of particular note and faces another test this week against Brent Tate. Tate has worked his way back from multiple knee and neck injuries to be a QLD Origin star and he was probably unlucky not to be named player of the series in 2012.

John Sutton vs Johnathan Thurston

Sutton is in career best form and this week takes on one of the greatest of all-time in Thurston. Sutton is a hard running, offloading five-eighth and averages more running metres than any half in the competition. While Thurstons sides attack hasnt been at the same level, he certainly has. His seven try assists ranks him amongst the elite playmakers this year.

Holden Cup Preview

Rabbitohs (13th) vs Cowboys (14th)

Friday 10 May, 5:20pm kickoff ANZ Stadium

Official Twitter hashtags - #NYCSouNql #gorabbitohs

This week features an even match-up with both sides hoping to fight their way up the table. While both sides sit on two wins and six losses, for the most part theyve hardly been outclassed. The Rabbitohs and Cowboys have a points differential of -46 and -47 respectively, meaning they are both less than a converted try away from collecting the two competition points in each of their eight games they have played this season.

Last week the Rabbitohs went down to a strong Broncos side with back rower Caleb Timu running riot. A real highlight however was the outstanding form of Christian Hazard who terrorised Brisbane with ball in hand and at one stage forced three line dropouts from consecutive sets.

Trailing 14-0 at halftime the Cowboys looked to have completed a remarkable comeback when they tied the scores 14-14 before a Jono Kent try restored Canberras lead for a final 18-14 scoreline.

The Cowboys possess some real game breakers with fullback Zac Santo in form along with centre Javed Bowen who is deadly close to the line. The power running of prop Patrick Kaufusi has been another real highlight for them this season.

South Sydney are definitely on the up and with the inclusion of a few quality SG Ball players they have shored up their depth. Tyrone Phillips has been very solid at fullback but will line up in the centres in round nine, with former Australian Schoolboys custodian Alex Johnston taking the number one jersey this week at just 18 years of age. Prop Daniel Smith has toiled hard every week and continues to get better and better. The Rabbitohs strength lies in their classy backline and should their forwards continue to compete and give the outside backs room, theyll cause plenty of headaches.