NRL & NYC Previews - Rd 6, 2014

Panthers v Rabbitohs

Sportingbet Stadium

Friday, 7.30pm (AEST)

Penrith has been a happy hunting ground for the Rabbitohs in recent seasons. Given that favourable fact, Michael Maguire’s men come into round six with an opportunity to build on last week’s victory over the Dragons with another against the Panthers.

The Rabbitohs grabbed their second win of 2014 at the SCG in a match that saw them re-capture some of the form that saw them go within a game of the 2013 decider. But while confidence abounded following the round six clash, the feeling at Redfern is very much that round five was from their best performance.

To get to the kind of performance that the Rabbitohs are after, the completion of sets ranks highest in the pecking order. Coming up against a side that is also up the pecking order though (in fourth no less) will put added pressure on the Rabbitohs to get the basics right. Get the formula right, and the Rabbitohs will be on their way to their third win of 2014.

For all match-day info including how to purchase tickets, please click here.

Maguire has named the same side that took the field at the SCG last week – a formula that included John Sutton reverting back to his favoured position of five-eighth, while replacement hooker Cameron McInnes will get another crack off the bench after proving his value against the red V.

To see this week’s Maguire’s Line-up, please click here.

The Panthers have looked promising during the opening month of the season, with much of the positivity stemming from the new-look half combination of former Origin halves Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace. But it doesn’t stop there for Penrith. Some promising talent coupled with a dominant pack of forwards will no doubt throw down the gauntlet to the Rabbitohs’ front six.

Rabbitohs and Origin back-rower chris McQueen labelled the Panthers as the 'surprise packet' of the 2014 season so far speaking to the media during the week.

"They've been really good - probably one of the surprise packages this year," said McQueen.

"They bought a few players and their halves are working really well together - we sort of have to take that form that we had on Saturday night into this game."

To see the full interview with Chris McQueen, please click here.

Special NRL Express trains will run from Central to Penrith this Friday night for the Panthers Vs Rabbitohs match. To find out more, please click here.

For all match-day info including how to purchase tickets, please click here.

 

Recent History

The South Sydney Rabbitohs last met the Penrith Panthers in round three of the 2013 season, overcoming a spirited Panthers side 44-32 at Penrith.

The 76 point try-fest played out in sweltering conditions, was the Rabbitohs’ second close call in two weeks with the Panthers coming within two points of the lead in the last ten minutes.

But late tries to Ben Te’o and Nathan Merritt managed to seal the win for Souths, placing them in equal first position with the Melbourne Storm.

Despite allowing the Panthers back into the contest for the second week running, Coach Michael Maguire was pleased with his team’s effort.

"Under the circumstances of the day with the heat and things like that, they (the Panthers) probably handled it a bit better than us at times.” Maguire said.

"Our execution and our completions of sets put us into a lot of pressure positions but I was glad we fought to the end."

But with a huge game looming against 2012 grand finalists, the Bulldogs, in a Good Friday blockbuster at ANZ Stadium, Maguire conceded that there was plenty to work on as a team if they were to be any chance of beating the Dogs – bolstered by the returning Ben Barba in a game the Rabbitohs went on to win.

"As a group there's plenty for us to work on defensively," he said.

"We'll look through it this week and look at how we can improve our defence."

A man of the match performance from Greg Inglis saw the Rabbitohs fullback score a try, and run for a staggering 195 meters from the back.

Meanwhile, winger Nathan Merritt scored his second hat-trick of the season. At that early stage in the season, Merritt only needed 10 tries to eclipse Benny Wearing’s club record of 144 tries – a record that the Rabbitohs winger could break this Friday night against the Panthers in Penrith.

To see all the highlights from the last time the two sides met, please click here.

 

Key’s to Victory

If Souths are to be any chance of victory, the structure and confidence displayed against the Dragons will have to transfer into round six. There’s little doubt that Sutton’s move to five-eighth and Sam Burgess’ move to lock last week played a pivotal role for the red and greens, but it’ll have to go a few steps further to be effective this week.

In the forwards, the Rabbitohs will need to muscle up coming up against a tough forward pack boasting Tim Grant, Sika Manu and Sam McKendry. Get on top of them up-front though and the Rabbitohs talented back-line will have the kind of room to move that saw them account for the Dragons last week.

But the biggest danger in the Panthers is their former Origin halves pairing Soward and Wallace. The two have developed a great combination in a short space of time – one that could stretch the Rabbitohs’ defensive line, particularly with the likes of speedster Josh Mansour, Dean Whare and Jamal Idris outside them. Souths’ defence will need to move quickly to nullify the effect of this more than capable back-line.

 

Key Match-ups

George Burgess v Tim Grant

George Burgess has come into his own this season, cementing his place in the Rabbitohs’ starting line-up and troubling defences with his blatant disregard for his own body. Tim Grant is a forward made in much the same mould, but is Grant’s consistency and reliability enough to get on top of Burgess? Tune in to find out.

Jamal Idris v Dylan Walker

A noticeable size difference to be sure. But don’t be fooled, this will be one battle to keep an eye on. Dylan Walker is all about explosive speed and the ability to find ways through opposition defences, while Idris is far more likely to ram into them with his frame in an attempt to wear them down. Walker is far more unpredictable when it comes to attacking the line, and with his extra play-making ability thanks to his time spent at five-eighth, his versatility may just give him the upper hand in this battle.

NYC

Panthers v Rabbitohs

Sportingbet Stadium

Friday, 5.25pm

Souths Sydney Rabbitohs’ NYC side will take on the Panthers in round six of the Premiership after a mixed start to their season.

While the Rabbitohs currently sit in tenth position with two victories, the Panthers are coming off a victory – their first of the season – and will be hungry for another.

"The two games at the start were obviously really pleasing," said Gardiner.

"After that we had some considerable changes in our team - obviously some of our players stepped up to first grade and over to the North Sydney Bears which meant it was a good opportunity for more boys to step up and get some experience (in the 20's).

From a development perspective, the under 20's mentor is confident that the changes have meant a handful of players are now better off for having gotten an opportunity in the side in the absence of more experienced campaigners. Despite their lack of experience, Gardiner admits that his team has plenty of 'fight' in them.

"The most pleasing thing to come out of the start of the season has been the fight that they've shown in games against teams that were a lot more experienced than them," said Gardiner.

"In the Canberra Raiders game in round four, we had something like 30 games of experience in our team and they had something like 350 games of experience.

"We were right in that game right until we got beaten on the bell which was obviously disappointing for us, but pleasing in the same fact that it gave some experience to our guys."

The Rabbitohs' NYC team currently sit 10th on the ladder just behind the Canberra Raiders.

For all match-day info including how to purchase tickets, please click here.