Charity Shield Preview - 2015

South Sydney Rabbitohs v St George Illawarra Dragons
ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park
NRL: 7:35pm

For the 32nd time in their history, the South Sydney Rabbitohs will take on the St George Illawarra Dragons in the pre-season Charity Shield clash.

But despite the time of year, the Charity Shield is far from a trial match, with the traditional rivalry bearing all the hallmarks of a regulation NRL clash, complete with the desire to lift a piece of silverware at the culmination of the clash.

Both the Rabbitohs and Dragons have named strong line-ups for the match. For the Rabbitohs, Auckland Nines MVP, Adam Reynolds will start at halfback alongside internationals such as Dylan Walker, George Burgess and Kangaroos squad member Alex Johnston, in many ways showcasing Head Coach Michael Maguire’s desire for victory.

 

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In addition though, the Charity Shield is also an opportunity to look at Rabbitohs new recruits, as well as the depth of youth.

On the new recruit front, both Tim Grant and Glenn Stewart will both don the red and green for the very first time coming off the bench. Both newcomers will be looking to cement their place in Maguire’s Premiership-winning line-up.

When it comes to youth, Junior Kiwi Sam Manuleleua and the likes of Setefano Taukafa – who saw time during the Nines – will also be looking to impress. The same goes for young Scott Sorensen – a lock forward who made his first grade debut with Cronulla late in 2014 – and fresh out of school Rugby convert, Angus Chricton.

Expect a high quality clash of two of the game’s most traditional Clubs come Saturday night, with all the fast paced action that’s come to characterise their encounters.

 

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Last Time at the Charity Shield

The South Sydney Rabbitohs retained the Charity Shield in 2014 after accounting for the St George Illawarra Dragons by 38-20 in a controlled performance.

In the first Charity Shield to ever be played outside of Sydney, the Rabitohs put in a polished performance to come away with victory, despite missing regular halfback Adam Reynolds, while also not having the services of Greg Inglis for much of proceedings.

The game started poorly for the cardinal and myrtles when Dylan Walker sailed the kick-off over the dead-ball line on the full, giving the Dragons early possession. But despite four repeat sets on the Rabbitohs line, Souths held strong to keep the Saints at bay.

The defence proved to be vital when Souths were able to score off their first real attacking opportunity of the match – Beau Champion finishing off a bizarre movement after a Sam Burgess kick. Bryson Goodwin added the extras from out wide to give the Rabbitohs an early 6-0 lead.

Saints’ promise in the early stages of the match began to seem a distant memory by the time former Rabbitoh Dylan Farrell’s kick-off also sailed over the dead-ball line, gifting Souths field position. Souths capitalised immediately through Bryson Goodwin who bagged a converted try off the back of some great lead-up work from John Sutton and Dylan Walker.

The Dragons then bombed an opportunity when Gareth Widdop threw a bullet-like pass to an unmarked Brett Morris for a certain try, but the winger couldn’t hold onto the pill.

But the poor execution wasn’t confined to the Saints. Dylan Walker failing to find touch from a penalty again gifted the Dragons field position, but this time they made no mistake – Jason Nightingale finishing off a backline movement to score in the corner.

With just under 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Greg Inglis kicked into gear to link up with Lote Tuqiri, who raced 30 metres to score in the corner. Goodwin failed to convert the try leaving the score at 16-4.

Shortly after, Sutton showed his play-making skills with a double-pump and a short ball to Joe Picker at close range for the former Raider to race in under the posts. Goodwin added the extras to make it 22-4 going into half-time.

After the break, Rabbitohs fans held their collective breath as Greg Inglis stayed down after a head-clash with Dragons player Dan Hunt. Inglis left the field, but from the very next play, Sutton put in a cross-field kick for Chris McQueen to touch down in the in-goal to make it 26-4.

Souths went on with the job when Issac Luke scored a sneaky try from dummy-half under the sticks. Goodwin converted to make it 32-4 in the red and green’s favour.

With just over 22 minutes in the match remaining, George Burgess added his name to the score-card in typical fashion under the sticks, taking Josh Dugan out of the match in the process with a knee injury when the larger George hit his head against Dugan's knee. Goodwin converted to make the score 38-4.

The Dragons weren’t dead yet though, with a sharp backline movement splitting the Rabbitohs’ defence to allow Peter Mata’utia to score virtually untouched. They backed it up with another try to Adam Quinlan, who took a beautiful pass from Jack de Belin to score. Gareth Widdop converted to make it 38-14.

Mata’utia bagged his second of the match with just two minutes remaining for the Dragons with Gareth Widdop converting to bring the final score to 38-20.

Re-live all the highlights from the 2014 Charity Shield.

 

Spotlight

Alex Johnston: While AJ has made a name for himself on the wing by becoming the Club’s top try-scorer in 2014, the Kangaroos Four Nations Squad member gets his chance at fullback in the absence of Greg Inglis. Boasting a similar physique to the Rabbitohs’ skipper and arguably the quickest feet in the Club, Johnston will be an integral part of Souths’ Charity Shield title defence. Expect AJ to grow into a more senior role in 2015 as his confidence continues to rise.

Jason Clark: Jason Clark has proved to be a solid player off the bench in previous seasons, but will be hoping to nail down a starting 13 jumper in 2015. If Clark’s Auckland Nines performance is anything to go by, this could be the Souths Junior’s year to achieve just that. Showing plenty of diversity during his time in Auckland, Clark did more than play the role of a battering ram, instead showing some fancy footwork as well as some handy short kicking. Clark could put some of those skills on display on Saturday in his role at lock.

 

South Sydney Rabbitohs v St George Illawarra Dragons
ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park
Holden Cup: 5:15pm

The Rabbitohs’ NYC outfit will take on the St George Illawarra Dragons in the Charity Shield curtain-raiser at 5:15pm at ANZ Stadium in what will be the new look side’s first opportunity to mesh under game conditions.

With a wealth of talent from the 2014 NYC season returning alongside plenty of new faces, Ben Gardiner’s Rabbitohs are a talented group of footballers, and there are some familiar names to boot.

South Sydney has previously boasted names such as Coleman, Ellison and Garlick in years gone by, and they are set to now go round again this Saturday, when Liam Coleman, Josh Ellison and Bronson Garlick take the field – all sons of former Rabbitoh greats in Craig Coleman, Mark Ellison and Sean Garlick.

Expect more established NYC players such as Cheyne Whitelaw, Aaron Booth, Wallace Tangiiti, PJ Los’e and Eden Syme to lead the way in the match, while the enthusiasm of the side’s new contingent is sure to bolster the aforementioned, hardened Rabbitohs.