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Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers: Robert Jennings in; Aloiai to start

After keeping their season alive with last Thursday's narrow home win over Manly, the Wests Tigers watched it officially come to an end when the Broncos upstaged the Roosters two nights later.

They made it interesting with a brief late-season surge, but the Tigers probably don't deserve to make the finals anyway. They are still hampered by consistency issues, playing poorly throughout the first half last week before catching fire for 20 minutes of the second half and then slowing down again over the final 15 minutes to nearly blow it.

The Dragons and Panthers mightn't be playing any better, but Wests only have themselves to blame for missing out.

Souths looked set to arrested a two-game losing skid when they bolted to a 12-0 lead over the Raiders in the nation's capital last week.

But they didn't score again after a 26th-minute penalty goal, crashing to their third straight loss. The Bunnies will carry several question marks into their post-season campaign if they don't make a loud statement on Thursday.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers, Thursday 7.50pm at ANZ Stadium

Key match-up: Benji Marshall looked like a passenger at times last week and is obviously still carrying an injury, but it'd be good to see him turn back the clock in his battle with Cody Walker. Walker has been off the boil a little over the past few weeks and needs to warm up for the post-season with a dominant display. The clash between former club-mates Robbie Farah v Damien Cook should also be a beauty.

Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers - Round 25

For the Rabbitohs to win: The Bunnies should be extra keen for this meeting, knowing how important it is to enter the finals in a confident frame of mind. The forwards need to get back to the form that had several footy watchers proclaiming they had the best pack in the NRL. If they rattle the Tigers up front it should provide a perfect platform for their slick backs to do the rest.

For Wests Tigers to win: They are under no pressure and should have a plan to throw the ball around if they have any hope of prevailing. Benji and Luke Brooks have to click for 80 minutes and the Tigers' underrated forwards need to bring the heavy artillery to get over Souths' big pack.

Rabbitohs Stat Attack: Cook hasn't earned a reputation as the most dangerous player out of dummy-half for nothing. Cook leads the NRL in dummy-half runs (141), with Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes second (114). Souths lead the competition in line breaks (114) and decoy runs (1,337).

Wests Tigers Stat Attack: The Tigers make no secret of their fondness for a solid kicking game, leading all teams in kicks (451) and kick metres (11,412). Curiously the Tigers don't have a single player in the top five individuals for kicks and kick metres.

And another thing: Hopefully Benji Marshall's body holds up for another season, but if he does decide to pull the pin it's been a hell of a ride. An 18-year-old rookie with the Tigers in 2003, he was the designated star of the club's 2005 premiership-winning team and won the Golden Boot Award in 2010 as the game's best international player. After a failed attempt to make it in Super Rugby with Auckland in 2014, Marshall returned to the NRL, spending three seasons with the Dragons and a year with Brisbane before this season's celebrated homecoming with the Tigers.

 

Rabbitohs: The Rabbitohs will start the match 1-17. Robert Jennings (hamstring) returns on the wing. Dean Britt will play his first NRL game of the year on the bench in place of Tevita Tatola. Tyrell Fuimaono and Matt McIlwrick were the two players left out 24 hours out from game time.

 

Wests Tigers: In a late change, Josh Aloiai will start in the front row, with Matt Eisenhuth dropping back to the bench. In other news an hour before kick-off, Luke Garner and Tyson Gamble were dropped from the bench. Robbie Rochow and Malaki Watene-Zelezniak were the two players cut from the extended squad.

 

Head-to-head: Played 31; Rabbitohs 16 wins, Wests Tigers 15 wins
Previous result: Wests Tigers won 22-6 in round 19
Points per game: Rabbitohs 23.1; West Tigers 16
Points conceded per game: Rabbitohs 18.6; Wests Tigers 17.8
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League

Petero Civoniceva's prediction: It's all about findng momentum for Souths and I expect their big names to rally against the Tigers. The return of tryscoring winger Robert Jennings will help and Greg Inglis will be much better for last week's run. Souths need to rediscover their attacking strike and I think they will this week.

Tip: Rabbitohs by 12