South Sydney can secure a top-four spot with a win over the second placed Roosters in the last Thursday night game for season 2019.
There’s always a weird vibe around the last round of a regular season. More often than not there’s only really three or four ‘live’ games which have a genuine impact on the standings and 2019 isn’t really that different.
For the Roosters, they are going to finish second whether they win or lose this game, regardless of the margin. The interest here lies with South Sydney.
A Rabbitohs win guarantees them a top-four finish and the double chance in the finals. It’s a critical spot any team with premiership pretensions needs to be, because in the NRL era (since 1998) and under a variety of finals systems, eight teams have made the grand final from outside the top four – none of them have won.
If the Bunnies lose, they need to keep it contained and for Manly to lose to Parramatta so the top four stays in play. If Souths go down big and Manly wins, the Rabbitohs will be fifth and in a sudden death game against Wests or Cronulla.
So to summarise: Souths can end up third and playing the Roosters again next week at the SCG, they could end up fourth and playing their first final down in Melbourne, or fifth and against the winner of Sunday’s game at Leichhardt Oval.
It couldn’t be simpler!
Luckily for the Bunnies they’ve somewhat kicked back into gear after a run of losses, with wins over Brisbane and New Zealand away from home.
Last week Souths got the job done across the ditch 31-10 in a comfortable outing. Cam Murray scored two tries and ran for 150 metres and Adam Reynolds iced seven from seven and throw in a field goal just for show.
The Roosters cruised to a 22-6 win against Penrith which ended the Panthers’ season. The Roosters scored at regular intervals to keep themselves comfortable after Penrith had crossed first.
The Roosters only had three incomplete sets all night and Latrell Mitchell continued his chase for the first ‘double’ since Mal Meninga topped the try-scoring and point-scoring lists in 1990.
The gun centre has 249 points, well ahead of the next best of 208 from Canberra’s Jarrod Croker. His 18 tries is one ahead of wingers Ken Maumalo of New Zealand and Maika Sivo of Parramatta.
It would be a remarkable effort from a player who was celebrated as perhaps the best in the game, then doubted in 2019 after losing his spot in the New South Wales State of Origin squad.
Souths took the most recent match-up in Round 1, also a strange round to pick form and winners. After a tight first 40 the Bunnies put on 16 points in 20 minutes and took the points 26-16.
The last ten between these clubs is 6-4 the Roosters way and that includes four of the last six to the tricolours. Only two of those ten have been decided by a margin less than a try, usually it’s a double digits margin to whoever wins.
The Roosters are gunning for an eighth win on the bounce but that will mean very little with finals just one week away.
Trent Robinson welcomes back captain Boyd Cordner who has missed a few weeks with a calf issue and halfback Cooper Cronk is also named after recovering from an eye injury.
Brett Morris, Mitchell Aubusson and Siosiua Taukeiaho are out and don’t be shocked if more Roosters drop out before kickoff. The Roosters have form for making late, late changes this year and this is the perfect time to pull another one.
South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett will be pleased Sam Burgess was able to get a run in against the Warriors and the English powerhouse’s minutes will be closely watched again in this game.
The legendary coach knows what’s at stake with a decent performance and he’ll have his team in no doubt about the work needed to be done.
The Roosters can’t finish top, can’t finish third. They’re going to be second and they’ll treat this game with the compulsory attendance it requires. All they want is to get through this with no injuries before their first final. Sure, it would be nice to win but for them, the result is completely irrelevant.
That’s not to say Trent Robinson’s men won’t put up a fight. They’ll likely keep it close but there will be no burning desire to over exert themselves when there’s a game that actually matters coming up next week.
These teams don’t want to show anything to each other with a rematch likely next weekend. So don’t be surprised if we get five hit ups and a bomb for the majority of the night.
Rabbitohs by a hair. But whatever happens, don’t read too much into it.
1. Adam Doueihi, 2. Alex Johnston, 3. Campbell Graham, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Corey Allan, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Sam Burgess, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Liam Knight, 11. John Sutton, 12. Jaydn Su’A, 13. Cameron Murray
Bench/Reserves: 14. Ethan Lowe, 15. Tom Amone, 16. Tevita Tavola, 17. Mark Nicholls, 18. Bayley Sironen, 21. Mawane Hiroti
1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Joseph Manu, 18. Billy Smith, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9. Sam Verrills, 10. Isaac Liu, 11. Boyd Cordner, 17. Angus Crichton, 13. Victor Radley
Bench/Reserves: 14. Lindsay Collins, 15. Zane Tetevano, 16. Nat Butcher, 18. Sitili Tupouniua, 19. Poasa Faamausili, 21. Drew Hutchison
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