After 26 gruelling rounds of NRL action, the finals are finally upon us and tonight’s contest between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Melbourne Storm should provide fans with a fantastic opening to what should be a high quality finals series. Join us for live scores and commentary from 7.45pm AEST
The Rabbitohs were ambushed by the Sydney Roosters last week and need to improve considerably if they are to defeat a Melbourne Storm side that has won its past six matches against the Redfern based club.
The Storm once again enjoyed a stellar season, finishing in third position on the back of yet another strong start to the season.
Despite struggling during the back end of the year, the reigning premiers once again approach finals footy as one of the teams to beat.
Despite losing the race for the minor premiership, the Rabbitohs have also enjoyed terrific success this year, finishing inside the top four for the second successive season.
With a home preliminary final on the line tonight, expect both Melbourne and South Sydney to give their all tonight in a contest that should go down to the wire.
The last time these two teams played at ANZ Stadium, the Storm managed to secure a tough seven point victory back in round six in arguably one of the games of the season.
It was probably Melbourne’s best win of the year, given how well they played against a previously undefeated Rabbitohs outfit away from home.
If the Storm are to win tonight, they will have to replicate the sort of intensity that allowed them to beat the Rabbitohs back in round 6.
On that occasion, Cooper Cronk was the star of the show, setting up two tries before scoring a field goal that allowed the Storm to secure victory.
South Sydney will be well aware of the danger that Cronk represents, so expect the home side to really rush up in defence in a bid to unsettle the Storm halfback.
Of course, the performances of superstars Billy Slater and Cameron Smith will also have a huge say on whether Melbourne can secure a home preliminary final.
If Slater and Smith are allowed to dictate terms tonight, Melbourne will most likely play at their best, and if they do, the Rabbitohs are going to have a real tough time defending a Storm attack that can run like clockwork.
For South Sydney to win tonight, they have to take a leaf out of Manly’s book and look to outmuscle Melbourne upfront.
Over the past fortnight, the Storm have really struggled to dominate upfront against the Sea Eagles and Titans.
When Melbourne find themselves outmuscled, they tend to lose a lot of direction in attack and this in turn leads to a lot of handling errors.
With this in mind, the performance of forwards such as Ben Te’o, the Burgess brothers and Chris McQueen will be crucial for the Rabbitohs tonight.
If South Sydney can just focus on playing direct and winning the territory battle, then the likes of Greg Inglis, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds and Issac Luke may just have enough of a platform to shine in attack.
With both teams fairly evenly matched, the result of tonight’s contest will largely come down to whether or not Melbourne’s supreme attacking spine is allowed to click.
If the Rabbitohs can keep Slater, Cronk and Smith quite, they will win. If not, Melbourne will once again find themselves one game short of yet another grand final appearance.
Storm by 6