Rabbitohs v Tigers
Sunday 22 March, ANZ Stadium
It’s Souths against the best of the West when these two as-yet undefeated sides come together on Sunday in an attempt to separate the two on the competition ladder.
With matchups aplenty coupled with competition points, ascendency and bragging rights to boot on the line, the Rabbitohs’ second Sunday afternoon clash of the new year shapes as yet another blockbuster.
The Rabbitohs come into Sunday having defeated Premiership favourites the Roosters in a classic encounter for the ages last week. But despite claiming the two points as well as a host of accolades from fans critics and commentators alike, the men in red and green still have a point to prove, citing that there are still many areas of their game in need of attention.
Just ask halfback Adam Reynolds. The in-form playmaker was blunt in his assessment of his side’s round two win, pointing to ball-control as a major area in need of improvement when he spoke to Rabbitohs.com.au.
“I think we just need to hold onto the ball a bit more,” said Reynolds.
“We’ve been turning over a bit in the last two weeks along with our kick finishes – I’ve put a few dead and one out on the full there, so if we can turn those things around and build a bit more pressure, I’m sure it’ll be a good contest.”
Rabbitohs Head Coach, Michael Maguire, is under no illusions as to the threats that the Jason Taylor-coached Tigers pose.
“They’re a quality team,” said Maguire.
“I think their combinations – they’ve grown throughout the pre-season and you can see that they’ve got the similar style from where JT (Jason Taylor) has come from so we’re expecting a tough encounter.
“With their pack, they’ve got some good size there with their front-rowers and they ball-play.
“Also with their two halves now, they go at the line and take you on, so we’ve got to be very aware defensively when they come at you because they can step off both feet and then with the speed out wide. Right across the park they’ve got some strike.”
The men in red and green were dealt a set-back with news that back-rower John Sutton will miss up to six weeks with a partially fractured jaw, but despite the loss, the Rabbitohs will field a largely unchanged line-up to the first two rounds (minus Sutton). A decision on his replacement will be made an hour before kick-off.
Last Time They Met
A depleted South Sydney Rabbitohs made it four wins in a row in 2014 in round 14 against the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium by 32-10 - the last time the two sides met.
Without the likes of Origin representatives Greg Inglis, Chris McQueen and Ben Te’o – in addition to the loss of Dylan Walker, Joel Reddy and Bryson Goodwin through injury – the Rabbitohs set about deconstructing a Tigers side missing both Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods with strong performances from the Club’s young brigade.
The Tigers started poorly when straight off the kick-off, Martin Tapau dropped the ball on the very first tackle, giving the Rabbitohs first crack deep within Tigers territory. But a short-ball from halfback Adam Reynolds to Joe Picker was dropped by the back-rower early in the tackle-count – relieving the pressure on Wests.
The visitors went straight back onto the attack, almost scoring from their first set. Poor ball-control from the Rabbitohs aided Wests in receiving repeat sets on the South Sydney line, but after three repeat sets and a near try from Pat Richards, the Rabbitohs’ defence held strong.
A charge-down from Joe Picker on the 40 metre line saw the back-rower regather close to the Tigers line, again allowing Souths an opportunity to score. John Sutton put up a well-placed cross-field kick that was regathered by Issac Luke, who in turn passed on to Alex Johnston to score out wide. Adam Reynolds made no mistake from the touch-line for a six point lead.
After the Tigers dominated the opening exchanges, the Rabbitohs began to swing momentum in their favour with some enterprising attack that almost yielded two tries to Kirisome Auva’a – the young centre being denied by inches on both occasions.
Despite being on top for much of the half, Souths’ attack struggled to convert their opportunities into points, until Kyle Turner strode through the Tigers line straight up the middle off a scrum at close-range. Adam Reynolds added the extras from in front to make it 12-0 in the Rabbitohs’ favour with the score being the same at half-time.
The second half started just as poorly for the Rabbitohs as the first did for the Tigers, with Souths taking the ball out on the full – a moment that led to the Tigers’ first try of the night through Blake Austin next to the sticks. Pat Richards converted to make it 12-6.
But Alex Johnston was about to make a huge impact. Dashing through the Wests Tigers defence who were down a full-back thanks to James Tedesco receiving treatment, Johnston turned on the pace to race 70 metres up the middle of the field to score under the posts for his second of the night. Reynolds converted to make it 16-6.
After 13 minutes of the second half, the Rabbitohs continued to attack the Tigers line when Sam Burgess got a ball away to Nathan Merritt, who slid over from close range to extend the Rabbitohs’ lead to 24-6 with Reynolds’ conversion.
With 18 minutes remaining, James Tedesco notched up a four-pointer as Auva’a struggled with a leg injury and George Burgess left the field for treatment. Pat Richards failed to convert, with his kick hitting the upright to leave the score at 24-10.
With the clock winding down, both sides began to show signs of fatigue with silly errors beginning to creep into the game – depriving both teams of opportunities.
A line drop-out from the Tigers that went out on the full allowed Reynolds the opportunity to kick his side a further two points ahead from right in front to make it 26-10 with six minutes left.
With a minute left on the clock, Kyle Turner bagged his second of the night to make the final score 32-10.
Spotlight: GI & AJ
If there’s one combination that can set the NRL alight, it’s the one between Greg Inglis and Alex Johnston. The Indigenous All Star players are not only blessed with incredible pace, but with the ability to sniff out a try from virtually nothing – just as they did last week against the Roosters in the 12th minute of the clash.
For some, Greg Inglis simply getting out of his own in-goal successfully would have been incredible enough. To get out and link up with Johnston in such scintillating circumstances and create what is sure to be a contender for try of the year, translated to pure joy for Rabbitohs Members and supporters.