MATCH OF THE ROUND: ROUND 23 – South Sydney Rabbitohs V Manly Warringah Sea Eagles – Friday, Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford. 19.45 local time, 21.45 NZ time.
LAST WEEK: South Sydney were in control for the majority of the match, as they won in Robina 22-18 over the Gold Coast Titans
A tight, tense affair saw Manly Warringah prevail in a 8-6 score-line over the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.
THIS WEEK: Rabbitohs fans will be happy to see their Kiwi rake Isaac Luke back from suspension. The Rabbitohs will need to build in a great run of momentum to the finals which would mirror their brilliant season. A tough top eight opposition this week is exactly what they need as the regular season draws near, so they can find out just where they do stand against good opposition. They have been brilliant up front this season despite all the injury woes, and that’s what they’ve been able to bank on all season. Their toughness.
Always the quiet achievers are the Sea Eagles. Sitting in the top four, their season has gone practically unnoticed. That’s exactly what’s always worked for them on the Northern beaches too. The reigning premiers have history on their side as they run to the finals. This week they will have to have that collective calm against what is a totally physical opposition. The no pressure approach to things is always the best way, and the Sea Eagles always relish under that. The halves have been so dominant all season, and that will continue again this week when they run the show.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Souths are a team which can produce just about anything, whenever, where ever. That’s what makes them dangerous, unpredictable, magical. There’s always one thing you can count on however, and that is 100% heart. Win or lose, Souths have always been a team which has plenty of guts and plenty of players which make the club so attractive. They will not go down without a fight, if they go down at all. They can’t really afford to drop any games going in to the finals just because momentum is a beautiful thing. I don’t expect them to drop this one – either.
Manly are a side that always seem to grow in to the match as it progresses. Very rarely you can ever count them out of a match at half time, or even with twenty minutes to go. They have a never-say-die attitude which is the reason they’ve been so successful over the last five years. Reigning premiers is a great title, back to back premiers even better. This is the sort of game that they thrive on. A big opposition sitting above Manly on the table. They won’t leave anything out on the field after 80 minutes.
THE BATTLE OF: The coaches! Michael Maguire and Geoff Toovey are both in their first season of NRL coaching, and doing brilliantly. Maguire has added an element to the Rabbitohs that they’ve lacked since they were reinstated. It’s the commitment and guts they show every week which is one of the reasons I love watching them play every week. Whatever Maguire is doing, he’s doing it very well. Could he perhaps take them all the way?
Geoff Toovey was luckily enough to be handed the saddle to a side that won the premiership last season and successfully hasn’t screwed it up. He has been around the scene in Manly since his playing days finished, and that’s why they’ve been so good this season. He is the sort of man that players looked up to growing up, and now in the head coach role – respect will come with that quite easily. Has Toovey and his side played all their cards yet? What else can Manly produce?
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Sam Burgess – When he stays injury free, he is one of the biggest players in the game on and off the field. He brings so much to this team that it rubs off on every one else. He will be putting the shoulder on whoever has the ball.
Brett Stewart. Snake is always the go to guy when things are tough. He makes everything seem to effortless and is a great asset. Bringing the ball from the back is done so well, and so dangerously. If you don’t wrap him up early, it could be all over.
I know this game will go down to the wire. Not much separates these two sides on paper or on the ladder. I think Souths have been the more consistent throughout 80 minutes lately, which can go a long way. I predict the Rabbitohs to just pip the Sea Eagles 20-16.
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