NRL & NYC Preview - Rd 12, 2014

Rabbitohs v Dragons

ANZ Stadium

Monday 7pm

The new era at St George Illawarra could begin this week against the Rabbitohs. Just a week after sacking coach Steve Price, the Dragons – now under the mentorship of club legend Paul McGregor – will be looking to make a point. Currently sitting in 13th position just two wins behind the Rabbitohs, Michael Maguire’s men are the only thing standing in the way of getting their new era under McGregor started on the right foot.

After beating the Dragons convincingly in the Charity Shield, and then again in round five at the Sydney Cricket Ground before having three losses on the trot, the odds are stacked against the Dragons. Add to this the fact that the Rabbitohs will be bolstered by returning Origin stars Greg Inglis, Ben Te’o and Chris McQueen, and things don’t get much tougher.

The Rabbitohs’ Origin contingent returned to Redfern today (Friday) in preparation for the Monday night clash, with Ben Te’o confident not only in his team’s ability to deliver after accounting for Cronulla during the Origin period, but in the Dragons’ determination to turn around their fortunes.

 “We’re always wary against a team that has a few changes – like a head coach,” said Te’o.

“All their players will be fired up and ready to prove themselves and they obviously want to kick-start their season, so we’re very wary of them and Benji Marshall being back.”

To watch the full interview and read the accompanying article, please press click here.

The Rabbitohs have recently found a patch of form, with outside backs such as Alex Johnston, Kirsome Auva’a and Dylan Walker all providing much spark out wide, while forwards such as the giant George Burgess continue to make impressive yards and punch massive holes in opposition defences.

Expect the Rabbitohs to be looking to build on what was an effective performance in a dour game against the Sharks with a near full complement of players.

To find out more about Monday night’s match including how to purchase tickets, please click here.

 

Last Time They Met

John Sutton celebrated breaking the Rabbitohs all-time appearance record with an emphatic 26-6 victory over the St George Illawarra Dragons at the SCG, in front of 24,368 Members and supporters in round 5 of the 2014 season.

To see John Sutton's post-match reaction, please click here.

To see the post-match press conference, please click here.

With the perfect stage set in the form of the historic Sydney Cricket Ground the Rabbitohs turned on a controlled performance to help Sutton celebrate his milestone in style in the Men of League Heritage Round.

A penalty to the Rabbitohs right on the 10 minute mark allowed halfback Adam Reynolds an opportunity to boot his side two points ahead from 31 metres out. Reynolds knocked it over to give the Rabbitohs a two point advantage.

The red and greens attacked the St George Illawarra line with purpose, momentarily causing the Dragons to scramble in defence, but Souths were unable to convert the opportunity into points.

Joel Reddy seemed to score with 20 minutes in the half gone off the back of a suspected Dragons knock-on from Gareth Widdop, but the video referee concluded that Ben Te’o had knocked the ball on first before Widdop, ultimately ruling against the try.

But Souths’ patience was rewarded with 12 minutes in the first half remaining when Luke Burgess steamed onto a short-ball from Apisai Koroisau at dummy half to score right next to the uprights. Reynolds converted to give Souths an 8-0 lead.

The Dragons looked to hit-back at the other end of the field when Gareth Widdop put in a short chip-kick for a flying Josh Dugan, who tried to wrestled the ball down over three Rabbitohs defenders. The video referee ruled that Dugan momentarily lost control of the ball, denying the Dragons their first try of the night.

The Rabbitohs responded in the best way possible with Jason Clark finishing off a Rabbitoh raid that saw Sutton go to the air, Reddy bat the ball back inside to Clark who dived over the line in his return game. Reynolds converted from close-range to make it 14-0 with five minutes in the half remaining.

With a  minute to go the Rabbits’ halves provided two show and go’s with decoy runners before Reynolds put in a cut-out ball for Nathan Merritt who raced 20 metres toward the SCG corner.  But Dragons winger Brett Morris bundled the Rabbitoh into touch just shy of the line in a desperate cover tackle to end the half.

On the resumption, both sides traded opportunities, but it was the Rabbitohs who went in first through Sam Burgess, who snuck in next to the uprights to give the Rabbitohs a 20-0 lead with Reynolds’ conversion.

The Rabbitohs began to show some real steel in defence, repelling wave after wave of red v attack with some brilliant tackles and scramble, despite the Saints’ well-formed attack.

With 12 minutes in the match remaining, Greg Inglis took a beautifully timed inside ball from Sutton before palming off Josh Dugan and racing 20 metres to score the team’s fourth try of the night. Reynolds added the extras to make it an impressive 26-0.

The Dragons would not finish the match empty handed though – Jack De-Belin diving over for the red and whites’ first of the evening with seven minutes in match remaining. Gareth Widdop converted to make it 26-6.

With four and a half minutes left, Dragons winger Jason Nightingale was placed on report for a high shot on Apisai Koroisau. The Rabbitohs charged up-field and nearly grabbed another four-pointer through Dylan Walker, who picked simply put downward pressure on a Nathan Merritt toe-through. But the try was disallowed on the grounds that Walker was off-side.

But the points were enough to get the Rabbitohs their second victory of the year at a venue that has been a happy hunting ground for the men who wear red and green.

To watch all the highlights, please click here.

 

Keys to Victory

It’s all about the forwards this week. The Dragons boast an imposing pack that includes the likes of Trent Merrin, Dan Hunt and Ben Creagh – all of whom possess the innate ability to put teams on the back foot when firing. On the flip-side, the Rabbitohs too possess the same with the likes of Sam Burgess, George Burgess, Chris McQueen and more.

If the Rabbitohs forwards can march up-field in much the same way they did in round five against the Dragons, it will go a long way to victory. But it doesn’t stop there. Defensively, the Rabbitohs have an extra threat from the Red V this time around in the form of a returned Benji Marshall. Few could deny that Marshall at his best is among the most damaging players in the game, and it’s only a matter of time before he hits his straps. To combat that threat, Souths’ defence will need to put plenty of pressure on both Marshall and halves partner, Gareth Widdop – stop these two, and you go a long way to stopping the Dragons.

 

Key Matchups

Sam Burgess v Trent Merrin

John Sutton v Gareth Widdop

 

NYC

Rabbitohs v Dragons

ANZ Stadium

Monday 4.45pm

The Rabbitohs’ NYC side will take on the Dragons in the curtain-raiser to first grade this Monday night in what will be a battle between the third-placed Dragons and the eighth-placed Rabbitohs

After playing out a draw against Cronulla in a pre-season match, Ben Gardiner’s young guns managed to beat the Sharks in a see-sawing affair in the Shire in round 11 to make it three wins on the trot.

While the Rabbitohs sit in eighth place, with a forward pack lead by the hard-working likes of Cheyne Whitelaw and Eden Syme, South Sydney’s young guns are putting teams on the back-foot with some determined straight running directly parallel to the sidelines.

Add a brilliant tendency to get away second-phase ball to ever-present supporting players, and the Rabbitohs NYC side are beginning to gel in just the way Ben Gardiner will be hoping.