Schick Hydro Preview: Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Wests Tigers and South Sydney clash for the second time this season after opening the 2017 Telstra Premiership in style back in Round 1 with the occasion dubbed the Robbie Farah v Jason Taylor showdown over two months ago.
Ding, ding, ding.
The Wests Tigers reigned supreme to dominate the Bunnies in slippery conditions on the opening night but it’s been all downhill since then for the joint venture with Taylor dismissed after three games and star trio Aaron Woods, James Tedesco and Mitchell Moses all announcing their exits from Concord.
You could say Farah had the last laugh in the end, however the Rabbitohs aren’t exactly setting the world on fire either with injury and suspension impacting the side’s cohesion and overall performance.
Both sides find themselves in a similar position with a sluggish three-win, six-loss record to sit in 13th and 14th on the ladder respectively after nine rounds.
While it’s not the end of the world, desperate times are looming for both clubs with the representative fixtures set to take priority for many players in the coming weeks.
Ivan Cleary’s men were dealt a double blow on Tuesday with Jamal Idris ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL knee injury. The loss of the former Australian international and Wests Tigers skipper Aaron Woods (hamstring) leaves the side lacking in the size department.
Sauaso Sue starts in Woods’s place in the No.8 jersey while Tim Grant has been added to the interchange bench after missing the loss against Cronulla with a shoulder complaint.
Mid-season recruit Malakai Watene-Zelezniak is a chance to make his Wests Tigers club debut after shifting from Penrith a fortnight ago.
For South Sydney, Braidon Burns has replaced Robert Jennings in the backline in an otherwise unchanged line-up that were thrashed by Manly at Allianz Stadium in Round 9.
Aaron Gray has been named in the reserves for the first time this season after suffering a knee injury in the NRL Auckland Nines tournament and could be a late inclusion.
Why the Wests Tigers can win: The futures of key men Tedesco, Woods, Moses, Nofoaluma and Brooks have all but been confirmed which will ensure the side has more stability moving forward. While Moses’s impending release to the Eels is the only question mark hanging over the side’s head, they should go into the clash with a clearer focus. Tedesco has struggled a little in recent weeks with speculation surrounding his exit but now that his Bondi move is confirmed and with State of Origin around the corner, he will be doing everything he can to prove his commitment with the joint venture is there until the end of the season.
Why the Rabbitohs can win: It is do or die for the Rabbitohs. They were horrible against Manly and that only means one thing – a bounce-back. While their defence was non-existent in the 38-point loss to the Sea Eagles, they’re the fourth best in the NRL Telstra Premiership in terms of fewest missed tackles and fewest errors, as opposed to the Wests Tigers who have been struggling in both departments. The Representative Round came at the right time for the Bunnies with a number selected for their nations or City-Country duties, while players like Adam Reynolds benefited from a week off after an injury-riddled start to the season.
The history: Played 29, Rabbitohs 15, Tigers 14. Cleary’s men have won the last four encounters between these teams, scoring 30+ points on each occasion after the Bunnies had a strong overall hold on the Wests Tigers for a six-year period before 2015.
South Sydney have a shocking record at ANZ Stadium since lifting the NRL Telstra Premiership back in 2014, winning only four of their last 17 clashes at the venue. In comparison, the Wests Tigers have won seven of their past 11 games with Tedesco scoring on 17 tries from 23 appearances at Sydney Olympic Park. Rabbitohs fullback Alex Johnston has scored five tries from five games against the joint venture.
What are the odds: Wests Tigers have been backed big time by Sportsbet customers. Five times as many dollars have been invested on the Tigers and Tigers 13+ is the best-backed option in the winning margin market. Moses Suli is the most popular in the first try scorer market. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara; Assistant referee: Chris James; Touch judges: Ricky McFarlane and Jeff Younis; Review Officials: Luke Patten and Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel 9 & Fox League – Live from 7:30pm.
NRL.com predicts: It’s time to flip a coin. Both sides have struggled this season to build any consistency but will be refreshed following their week off from representative round. The odds favour Souths but we are yet to see a complete 80-minute performance from them, while the recent form of the Wests Tigers has looked more promising. Under Cleary the joint venture have had a win, a loss, a win, and then a loss and if the trend continues, they’re due for another victory so that’s the way we’ll go. All aboard the bus but with no guarantees. Wests Tigers by 6.