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Rabbitohs v Roosters: Burns to start for Graham, Roosters unchanged

Last week's come-from-behind win over NRL premiers Melbourne was exactly what the Rabbitohs needed to prove beyond any doubt they are worthy contenders to the throne.

It's rare that the Storm get run down after leading at half-time, but the Bunnies showed in no uncertain terms they were up for the challenge.

Scariest of all is the fact a handy footballer named Greg Inglis has to come back into this team in the next week or two and he should return fresh and focused for the finals.

The Roosters were on track to make a strong statement of their own before falling asleep and almost blowing it against a Johnathan Thurston-inspired Cowboys.

They got away with the win and Trent Robinson will be demanding an 80-minute performance against the Chooks' traditional rivals.

Key match-up: Too hard to go with one key head-to-head clash, so let's pick two. Dane Gagai has a difficult assignment on his hands against the white-hot Latrell Mitchell. Gagai can't afford to relax for a moment defensively. By the same token, Damien Cook managed to out-shine the great Cameron Smith last week and has another test on his hands against the in-form Jake Friend. 

Rabbitohs v Roosters - Round 22

For the Rabbitohs to win: Despite being without Inglis and prolific try-scorer Robert Jennings against the Storm, the Bunnies still managed to rack up 30 points against arguably the competition's best defensive side. But they also gave up 20 points and Anthony Seibold is the first to admit his team has to iron out a few defensive chinks before September rolls around.

For the Roosters to win: Trent Robinson would also be making sure his team doesn't stray from their defensive game plan after they noticeably dropped their intensity in the final 15 minutes against the Cowboys. The Chooks have shown how stingy they can be when it comes to giving up points and they will need to be at their very best against the offensive-minded Rabbitohs.

Rabbitohs Stat Attack: This is almost a clash between the best attacking team and best defensive team, but not quite. The Bunnies are second in attack with 24.35 points per game - narrowly behind the 10th-placed Raiders (24.45)

Roosters stat attack: The numbers say the Roosters are the NRL's best defensive side. The Chooks are conceding 15.05 points per game, slightly better than the Storm (15.6). The Bunnies are next (17.35), followed by the Tigers (17.45) and Sharks (18.15).

And another thing: While some Origin players might've struggled or taken time to re-energise themselves upon returning to their respective clubs, Latrell Mitchell has hit the ground running. In the past three games Mitchell has scored six tries and also notched five line-breaks, 18 tackle busts and a try assist.

 

Rabbitohs: Campbell Graham will come off the bench, with Braidon Burns to start on the wing. Tyrell Fuimaono has been promoted to the bench, with Dean Britt and Billy Brittain omitted an hour before kick-off. Kyle Turner was cut on Thursday night.

Roosters: The Roosters are unchanged. Nat Butcher and Lindsay Collins were the last reserves cut an hour prior to kick-off, while Kurt Baptiste and Matt Ikuvalu were dropped on Thursday.

Head-to-head: Played 217; Rabbitohs 113 wins, Roosters 99 wins, 5 draws
Previous result: Rabbitohs won 26-14 at Allianz Stadium in round 6
Points per game: Rabbitohs 24.4; Roosters 23
Points conceded per game: Rabbitohs 17.4; Roosers 15.1
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League

Petero Civoniceva's prediction: This will be an absolute cracker. The Rabbitohs were very impressive against the Storm but I'm wondering if that game may have taken a lot out of Seibold's men. The Roosters were less impressive but still got the job done and thart's the sign of a good side. The Bunnies are slight favourites but I'll go for a mini upset and tip the Roosters.

Tip: Roosters by 6