South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
Sunday, 4pm (AEDT)
It was around this time last year when David took on Goliath, and the big fella(s) went and got their pants pulled down 25-16 by a handful of preps just out of middle school.
Well, them and their own dreadlocked mini-Goliath in Martin Taupau.
The Wests Tigers ambushed South Sydney on their home turf in the corresponding fixture last season, and after the win their impact prop had these words for another brutal pack awaiting them the following week in Brookvale.
“We’re not scared of anyone… We stepped up to the Burgess brothers, we’ll do the same thing with Manly,” Taupau said at the time.
However whatever was in David’s slingshot in March went missing later on in June, when the Rabbitohs returned the favour by pumping the Tigers 32-10.
We have a hard time believing the defending premiers will underestimate their opponents this Sunday afternoon, not when the Concord Kids sit alongside them on the NRL ladder with two other undefeated teams in the opening fortnight.
All the Tigers needed was a 20-minute blur out of fullback James Tedesco to easily dispose of the Dragons in Campbelltown on Monday night, a day after the Rabbitohs roared home in their comeback win over the Roosters.
Tigers coach Jason Taylor has recalled suspended prop Matthew Lodge in place of Jack Buchanan, and added promising second-rower Lamal Liolevave on an extended bench.
His counterpart Michael Maguire has stuck with the same Rabbitohs 17, but has named a seven-man bench that includes Tim Grant, Cameron McInnes, and Daryl Millard.
Watch Out Rabbitohs: Something really needs to be done about Aaron Woods. Inspired to match the exploits of Kangaroos props Matt Scott and James Tamou, Woods has lifted his game this season and amassed a remarkable 410 metres in the first two weeks. Add a total 64 tackles and four offloads to the stat sheet and it’s no wonder the little ones have space over the advantage line.
Watch Out Tigers: While it’s literally hard to see past the Rabbitohs’ enormous pack, little man Adam Reynolds is one of many backline stars who has cannoned himself into their premiership defence. Once criticised for his tendency to play in a dinner suit, the South Sydney orchestrator has totalled nine tackle breaks over the competition’s opening fortnight – second only to fullback Greg Inglis.
Key Match-Up: Martin Taupau v George Burgess. Both players enjoy putting their opposition on their backsides, but in vastly different fashion. Taupau inspired his side last week with a brutal connection on unsuspecting Dragons prop Rory O’Brien – and Tedesco duly rolled over the line in the next set. “Gurgess”, meanwhile, stampeded many a Rooster in his transformation from Burgess follower to Burgess leader in the absence of big brother Sam. The Tigers’ new lock isn’t afraid of talking the talk – and then walking the walk – so expect these two to provide the fireworks early in the night.
The History: Played 24; South Sydney 14, Wests Tigers 10. Aside from the aforementioned Tigers victory last March, the Rabbitohs have won six of the past seven contests between these teams. And in five of those victories, they’ve scored at least 29 points. The Tigers faithful keep turning up, however, with crowds between these teams attracting at least 19,000 in all but one of their past six games.
What Are The Odds: Rabbitohs ($1.21) v Tigers ($4.45). Both sides remain unbeaten but Sportsbet customers believe they’re poles apart, with the Rabbitohs attracting 80 per cent of the money in this one. Expect South Sydney’s price to shorten even further during the week if the current weight of money continues. Rabbitohs 13+ is all the rage.
Match Officials: Referee – Ben Cummins; Assistant Referee – Alan Shortall; Touch Judges – Grant Atkins & Nick Beashel; Video Referees – Bernard Sutton & Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live 4pm (AEDT).
The Way We See It: South Sydney have opened the year with wins over heavyweights North Queensland and the Roosters, while the Tigers have stung battlers Gold Coast and St George-Illawarra. Still, the Rabbitohs won’t be underestimating these talented prodigies this time around. Rabbitohs to win by 12.