Sea Eagles v Rabbitohs
Friday, 7.55 pm
The South Sydney Rabbitohs will take on the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in week one of the NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series in what promises to be another classic encounter.
One of the game’s greatest and most fierce rivalries will be renewed when the likes of Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess and Adam Reynolds face off against Brett Stewart, Anthony Watmough and Daly Cherry-Evans for a spot in the Grand Final Qualifier. The match will be the third encounter between the two sides for the 2014 season.
The 2014 ledger currently stands at one game apiece following two matches played at a frenetic pace in rounds two and 22, and it’s not the first time that the two clubs will meet in the post-season, with Manly ending the Rabbitohs’ 2013 campaign in last year’s preliminary final on their way to a berth with eventual Premiers, the Roosters.
But the Rabbitohs won’t be thinking about history when they run onto the Allianz Stadium turf, with the team’s one week at a time philosophy ringing serving to focus the side for what will be their third successive foray into the finals.
Souths mentor Michael Maguire admits that his team has gained valuable experience from those prior appearances, but it’s all about Friday night and building on the performances of this season.
“We’re really looking forward to Friday’s game,” said Maguire.
“We’ve built all year and we’ve probably got six or seven new players in our team approaching this time of year and it adds a different dimension to us.
“The experience that we’ve had this year – it just gives us a great opportunity now with these young kids coming in and with our senior players developing the way they have, it is confidence.”
With the exception of the suspended Ben Te’o, the Rabbitohs will take the field with their strongest available side, bolstered further by the return of halfback, Adam Reynolds, who missed last week’s clash through a suspension of his own.
The match will be the twelfth time that the Rabbitohs will face the Sea-Eagles in a finals match since the north-siders entered the competition in 1947 – the Rabbitohs holding the balance of power in the finals ledger with seven victories and four losses.
Overall, both sides have met on 133 occassions, with the Manly side victorious 73 times, while the Rabbitohs have taken the points 60 times.
Last Time They Met
The Rabbitohs knocked over the then-competition leaders, in a brutal top of the table clash by 23-4 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in front of 27,062 Members and supporters.
In one of the side’s best defensive efforts of the season, the Rabbitohs continually put the Sea Eagles on the back foot throughout the match, while also managing to score some scintillating tries – notching up their fourth successive victory as a result.
But it was Manly who scored first – a penalty to the visitors for Souths laying on the play the ball, allowed the Sea Eagles to attack the Rabbitohs line with Peta Hiku diving over in the corner for the visitors. Jamie Lyon’s conversion attempt fell short, leaving the score at 4-0.
Two back-to-back penalties to the Rabbitohs marched the home-side up-field before a second-man play from Luke Keary allowed Kyle Turner to crash over in front of the Don Bradman stand to open Souths’ account for the night. Adam Reynolds converted from close range to take the lead at 6-4, with 16 minutes gone.
With 16 and half minutes left, the Sea Eagles mounted an attack on the Rabbitohs’ line that seemed would yield the visitors points. But Lote Tuqiri would have none of it – the veteran turning back the clock by intercepting the ball before racing 60 metres before being caught. From the ensuing play, Souths threw the ball out to Kirisome Auva’a who powered his way over to the sound of the elated Rabbitohs faithful. Reynolds converted from near the touch-line to make it 12-4 in their favour.
On the resumption, Souths continued to bash Manly in defence on their own line, keeping them inside their own 10 metre line for much of their sets. But Daly Cherry Evans changed the momentum of the game with a crucial forty-twenty that nearly resulted in points for the visitors had it not been for some desperate defence from Lote Tuqiri, whose one-on-one strip diffused an almost certain try.
From a line drop-out, a well-orchestrated set-play from Souths saw Kirisome Auva’a hit a hole on the 20 metre line, before passing on to Alex Johnston who crossed for the first points of the second half just inside the touch-line. Reynolds’ conversion went across the face of the uprights leaving the Rabbits two converted tries ahead at 16-4.
Some more brilliant defence from Souths saw Daly Cherry-Evans taken over the side-line to gift the Rabbitohs possession in good field position. The defence paid dividends when Sam Burgess was put through a gaping hole right in front of the sticks – the Englishman racing the remaining 15 metres to touch down in front of the Clive Churchill Grandstand. Reynolds added the extras to make it 22-4.
A late Adam Reynolds field-goal scraped over the cross-bar to make the final score 23-4, sealing the Rabbitohs’ fourth straight victory.
Wests Tigers v Rabbitohs
Friday, 5.15 pm
The South Sydney Rabbitohs’ NYC side will take on the Wests Tigers in week one of the Holden Cup Finals Series after securing seventh spot in the final week of competition.
A thrilling victory over the Roosters in round 26 put the Rabbitohs’ NYC side in prime position to grab a spot in the top-eight last week, with the side then waiting on other results to confirm their place.
Favourable results in last Friday’s Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm clash, and Sunday's Panthers and Warriors clash were enough to help the side to finish seventh, with the Warriors and Panthers just one point behind after fighting out a rare draw.
The Wests Tigers come into the match off a draw, two losses and two wins from their last five matches, while the Rabbitohs enter the finals with the ascendency having had four wins from their last five encounters.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs NYC team for the second Elimination Final is:
1) Devon Makoare-Boyce
2) Tom Hughes
3) Tevita Cottrell
4) John Olive
5) Sam Manuleleua
6) Jordie Hedges
7) Brad Wall
8) Ofa Felila
9) Aaron Booth
10) Eden Syme
11) Tulsa Saumamao
12) Jack Gosiewski
13) Cheyne Whitelaw
14) Brock Gray
15) Wallace Tangiiti
16) Clayton Williams
17) PJ Los’e
18) Elliot Gorman