Good Friday NRL & NYC Previews - Rd 7, 2014
Rabbitohs v Bulldogs
It’s Easter already, and hand in hand with that chocolate induced buzz also comes the annual Good Friday clash between the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs.
This clash draws plenty of attention on an annual basis, with tens of thousands flocking to Homebush to take in what is fast becoming a must-do ‘royal-double’ in the form of the Royal Easter Show and an afternoon watching the Rabbits and the Dogs go round. And what a time to watch them do just that!
The Rabbitohs come into the match having won their last two games after experiencing a small slump in form between rounds two and four, while the Bulldogs sit just two points behind competition leaders the Gold Coast Titans by two points with some gritty wins to their name.
But when it comes to defining grit, few could deny that the Rabbitohs’ defensive performance against the Panthers represented grit in all its forms. Not only did the Rabbitohs miss just five tackles in a match marred by a monsoon, it took 63 minutes for them to miss their first – an outstanding achievement given the weight of possession the Panthers had in the first half. Souths will be looking to replicate and build on that steel, and if they do, look out Bulldogs.
The Rabbitohs will be without regular starters George Burgess and Ben Te’o, but experienced first graders Ben Lowe and Joe Picker have stepped into the pairs’ shoes, a move that Rabbitohs Head Coach Michael Maguire has every confidence in.
To watch Maguire’s line-up for round seven, please click here.
"For us it's about just being strong as a team and going in and performing for each other," said Maguire.
"We've got great people coming in - Joe Picker and Ben Lowe are coming in and they've played plenty of first grade, so it's just about coming in and doing their job."
Maguire admitted to being impressed by the Bulldogs' start to the 2014 season, citing that his side will have to be on song with their defence to be any chance of victory.
"They're executing their plays very well," admitted Maguire.
"Between their forwards, they move the ball around and obviously with their halves, they're performing off the back of good go-forward. Defensively, we're going to have to be at our best."
To watch the full interview with Michael Maguire, please click here.
The Rabbitohs last met the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in round 24 of the 2013 season, surviving a spirited performance from the Dogs to record a 28-20 victory. The victory marked the first time the Rabbitohs have defeated the Dogs twice in a season since 1992.
Dylan Farrell crossed for the first points of the night out wide after some well-timed passing from John Sutton. Adam Reynolds added the extras to give the men in red and green the early advantage.
A high tackle on Bryson Goodwin seemed to fire up the Rabbitohs, who managed to go the length of the field with Dylan Walker capping off the advantage by picking up a well-weighted Reynolds stab kick to cross for the Rabbitohs second try. Reynolds made no mistake to put Souths ahead by two converted tries.
A penalty to Souths after a high-tackle on Sutton from Tony Williams, allowed Reynolds to kick the Rabbitohs two points further ahead – the half adding another string to his bow with the 31 metre penalty kick for the Rabbitohs to lead 14-0 three minutes from the break.
But the Bulldogs wouldn’t go to half-time empty-handed, with Sam Perrett crossing out wide to take the sides to the break at 14-6.
On the resumption, the Bulldogs came out rejuvenated, with Josh Reynolds setting the tone after the Dogs five-eighth almost sliced through the Rabbitohs defence close to the line. Mitch Brown capitalised a play later, narrowing the gap to four points between the two teams.
Souths hit right back with John Sutton putting Greg Inglis through a hole who in turn drew the Bulldogs final line of defence before passing back on the inside to Luke who crossed for his third try of the year. Reynolds converted to push the Rabbitohs out to a 20-10 lead.
On the back of three repeat sets, the Bulldogs finally crossed the line through Dene Halatau who survived a valiant defensive effort from Greg Inglis to get the ball down, bringing the score to 20-16.
Just when it looked like the Bulldogs might have turned momentum in their favour, Nathan Merritt got the Rabbitohs back on the front foot with a break, culminating tackles later with a try to Bryson Goodwin out wide. Reynolds converted from the touch-line to give Souths a 10 point buffer.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t lay down though, with Michael Ennis electing to go the short-side before passing on to Mitch Brown who carried two Rabbitohs over the line to plant the ball over the stripe to narrow the gap to six.
With the clock winding down, the Rabbitohs were awarded a penalty, with Reynolds again adding two more points to the score-card to round out the match 28-20.
Keys to Victory
As always, this game could be won and lost in the forwards, and with two monster-packs coming together, expect a fiery encounter up-front. Luke Burgess will face off with fellow countryman James Graham in what is sure to be a titanic battle for supremacy up-front, while Chris McQueen will go toe-to toe with Tony Williams in a back-row battle that could be a preview for Origin.
One thing is certain though. If the Rabbitohs can replicate last week’s defensive effort, the Bulldogs will struggle to score points. The adage ‘defence wins games’ rang true against Penrith, and will be a deciding factor again this week.
The Rabbitohs will need to be mindful of Bulldogs Hooker Michael Ennis as much for his ability to get good ball away over the advantage line consistently, as for his ability to get under the skin of his opponents. Expect Ennis to play a pivotal role for the blue and whites. Ditto for five-eighth Josh Reynolds. Reynolds is firmly in the frame for Origin selection and his form has certainly done plenty for his cause. The Rabbitohs’ outside backs will need to be up quickly on the creative pivot lest one of his pin-point kicks or passes hit the chest of outside backs such as Josh Morris.
Chris McQueen v Tony Williams
Could this be a preview of Origin? They’ve both certainly done it before, but with the interstate series still in the distant future, they have each other to contend with for now in club colours. McQueen gets his starting spot back this week following some solid performances from recent debutant Kyle Turner in the top grade. You can bet that McQueen will be looking to hold his place down. Williams provides much to the Bulldogs in both attack and defence, but when the man known affectionately as ‘T-Rex’ really hits his straps, not much can get in his way. His vicious palm giant frame, are a potent combo that a player such as McQueen will be ready to take on.
Adam Reynolds v Trent Hodkinson
There are plenty of game-breakers in both these teams who are ready and willing to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but these two could be the most vital players on the field – particularly when it gets to the last five minutes. The Bulldogs have won twice in successive weeks thanks to field goals and you can bet that if Josh Reynolds doesn’t get his hands on the ball first, Hodkinson will be the next in line. Adam Reynolds though is every bit as good off the boot with his ability to strike them from virtually anywhere inside 50 metres. Don’t be surprised if the game comes down to these two.
Rabbitohs v Bulldogs
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Rabbitohs’ NYC side. Since the beginning of the season, the team has not picked up a victory since their round two clash against Manly in Gosford. This week could however be the beginning of a turn-around.
The twelfth-placed Rabbitohs will take on the 16th placed Bulldogs in what is shaping up as a do or die match this early in the season. To the victor will go confidence, and for a Rabbitohs side simply brimming with young players with limited experience in the 20’s competition – a valuable commodity.
The Rabbitohs’ NYC are again without some players still eligible to represent the side, with the likes of Cameron McInnes and Alex Johnston both being named in an extended Rabbitohs’ first-grade outfit, but Coach Ben Gardiner is confident that his team is getting plenty out of the experience.
"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."
Kick-start your long weekend with the legendary EASTER SHOWDOWN as the South Sydney Rabbitohs battle it out against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Friday 18 April at 4:00pm. For all game day information, please click here.
Free Rail, Bus and Ferry Transport Included with Tickets or Ticketed Membership this Friday*
How to purchase tickets:
Heading to the Easter Show? Present your Easter Show ticket at an ANZ Stadium box office on Friday 18 April for a 30% discount* on General Admission tickets.