With Queensland leveling up the State Of Origin Series midweek attention turns back to the NRL. Round 16 will kick off tonight when the high flying South Sydney Rabbits host the Canberra Raiders.
With the Bunnies’ Origin stars named to return both sides are almost at full strength, the most notable omission of course being the suspended Blake Ferguson missing from the Raiders line up.
Souths will of course enter the match as big and deserving favourites but the result may not be as clear cut as most expect. The Raiders will be looking to return to form after a disappointing loss to the resurgent Tigers last week. The under strength Bunnies put the poor Eels to the sword and will be looking to do the same to Canberra.
Surely Canberra will improve on last weekend’s efforts. They’ll have to as if they turn up and play as they did last week the only question will be “Souths by how many?” … Personally I expect the Raiders to be far more intense than they were against the Tigers. Mentally most teams “are up” when they play teams at the top of the table and I expect the Raiders to do the same.
In saying that I do expect a comfortable win to the Bunnies. Greg Inglis returned to his destructive best against the Blues and although he faces an extremely short turnaround the smart money is on him continuing his re-found form.
Nathan Merritt, who was found out in Origin 2 will be looking to show the footballing public that it was a one off on Wednesday Night. There are two positives for Merritt, he didn’t have to wait long for a chance to redeem himself and more importantly he doesn’t have to face Greg Inglis running his way.
With Blake Ferguson out for the Raiders Jack Wighton will continue in the centres where he will be paired by Jarrod Crocker. How they fair against the pairing of the in-form Goodwin and Walker could be the key to deciding which way this game goes. Both sets of centres are capable of piling on big points, especially if McCrone and Reynolds are on song with their kicking games.
As with every game tho, both sets of halves will find it hard to create space for their outside backs if the team’s forwards don’t set a good platform. Souths have arguably the best pack in the competition although Canberra’s wouldn’t be all that far off.
Burgess, Asotasi, Teo, McQueen and co will have their hands full with Shillington, Papalii, Fensom and Thompson. If the Souths pack are able to get on top as they have done in the majority of contests in 2013 then the Canberra outside backs could be in for a long night.
The Key Battles:
Sutton vs. Campese: The battle of the almost NSW 5/8 vs. the former NSW 5/8 will be a good one. Both are big, strong and capable of putting their outside or inside men into gaps. Sutton is in career best form whilst Campese has overcome injury and looks to be settled back into the Canberra side.
Inglis vs. Robinson: Terry Campese has come out and suggested he will be looking to kick the ball dead in an effort to limit the impact of Inglis running the ball back. Inglis was kept quiet by the Sharks before Origin 1 by kicking to the corners, so the blue print to limit the impact of Inglis is there. Robinson’s good form has lessened the impact of Dugan’s sacking but he’ll have to be on his game tonight as he can expect to be peppered early and often from the boot of Reynolds especially.
Battle Of The Centres: Bryson Goodwin is in career best form; Jarrod Crocker seems to be scoring points for fun. This could be an exciting battle and one which leads to plenty of points.
Reynolds vs. Crocker: Neither man seems to miss often when converting tries so it’s likely that both sides will go up in 6’s. A missed conversion could be key.
Battle Of The Big Men: The obvious one … the team who’s forward pack can lay the foundation by winning the metre eating battle will be well on the way to winning this match. Burgess and Shillington will lead the lines and could clash in the first set. Both men have great supporting casts. This could be brutal.
Prediction: Souths by 12
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com