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NRL Preview: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Sea Eagles

Manly and Souths have cooked up an absolute cracker of a rivalry. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, a clash between the Rabbitohs and the Sea-Eagles was guaranteed to produce a few broken bones, some bruised bodies and a whole lot of dented pride. Make no mistake, these two still can’t stand each other. Manly are filthy about Jeff Lima doing a “crocodile roll” on Choc Watmough in their Round 23 clash.

Coach Geoff Toovey blew a gasket in the press conference about the penalty count, and regained his title as the Worlds Angriest Man. Souths haven’t forgotten the war that they waged on Manly in Round 7. Richie Fa’aoso was placed on report twice for vicious spear tackles on Greg Inglis, and Steve Matai, perhaps unwisely, tried to take on a few of the Burgess brothers.

Needless to say, the opening to this clash will be absolutely brutal.  Both teams rely upon dominating the ruck, and whoever can establish the upper hand will most likely move on the to first Sunday in October. Souths have one of the biggest packs in the competition, and if the Burgess brothers, Ben Te’o, Roy Asotasi and company can dominate the smaller Manly forwards, Souths will go a long way to winning this game. It’s near impossible to stop Adam Reynolds and John Sutton when they have time and space, and the week off will be just what Greg Inglis needed. He hasn’t been fully fit since Origin III, and it’s been incredibly conspicuous in the last few weeks. Souths attack suffers significantly when he isn’t producing his trademark barnstorming runs, and his absence with the ball has been noticeable in Souths win over Melbourne in Week 1 of the finals, as well as in their loss to the Roosters the week before.

What Manly lack in size, they make up for in experience and toughness. Their pack may not be as large as the Redfern crew, but players like Brent Kite, Brenton Lawrence, Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart are tough as a $5 steak. They showed they can tough it out with the best of them during their 4-0 loss to the Roosters in Week 1 of the semi-finals, and if they can replicate that performance they will be very difficult to beat. The class of the likes of Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans and the crafty Jamie Lyon may go a long way towards winning this one. The question mark lingering over Manly is fatigue. After two unbelievably tough games in the finals already, you have to ask if they can do it again against one of the most physically imposing sides in the comp.

Despite the recent form guide, I have to go with Manly in this one. Souths definitely have all the momentum, but if Manly can match them in the forwards, their backline and halves combination are far superior. Brett Stewart is back (sporting a moustache that would do Burt Reynolds proud) which will give their attack a dimension that Peta Hiku, as solid as he has been, simply can’t provide. Of course if Souths can dominate the ruck and Inglis is back to his best, the Rabbitohs are a massive chance of going to their first Grand Final in 40 years.

But if you sit on the fence, you get splinters, so I’m going with Manly by 2 points.

Fancy a punt on the Souths or the Sea Eagles? Luxbet are offering the Rabbitohs at $1.41 and Manly just behind at $3.00 with the winner to take a spot in next week’s NRL Grand Final.

Written by Nick Campton – Cover Image by Matthew F

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