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The NRL’s first ever Magic Round will conclude with the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the North Queensland Cowboys doing battle on the hallowed (and probably quite battered after the 7 prior games) turf of Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog from 4:05pm AEST.
There is plenty to look forward to in this match, not the least of which is the superheavyweight battle between the returning Jason Taumalolo (first time named in the starting side since his injury – actually came back last week) and Sam Burgess.
While Slammin’ Sam no longer plays in the middle opposite Taumalolo, he made it clear in commentary with Fox League last week that he will go looking for the big Tongan at every opportunity. Hang onto your seats when these two rugby league giants clash because they will make the Earth shake!
For the Rabbitohs, expect coach Wayne Bennett to start No.14 Tevita Tatola in place of George Burgess as he has done the past few weeks. Big Gorgeous George has been down on form in recent weeks, despite his fearsome reputation.
There has even been some talk of him retiring at the relatively young age of 28. Expect him to come out with some serious impact off the bench to help out his brothers in the middle against Taumalolo, Scott, McLean and company.
For the Cowboys, the John Asiata at five-eighth experiment continues, with young half Jake Clifford shifting to the extended bench.
Asiata is one of those “halfback in a front rower’s body” type players, who has way more skill than his frame would suggest.
However there is plenty of risk in having him defend out wide in a position he is not used to. Expect Souths to target him in attack.
Both sides are coming off impressive wins in Round 8, with Souths putting the hapless Broncos to the sword 38-6 while the Cowboys defeated the Titans 28-14.
Given their positions on the ladder, Souths in second place will go into this match as deserved favourites to beat a Cowboys side languishing in 11th – a side which many experts had in their top four at the start of the year.
It’s hard to go past the Rabbitohs in this game. They are in second place for a reason, and have claimed some impressive scalps this year, including cross-town rivals and reigning premiers the Roosters.
However, the Cowboys with Taumalolo are undefeated this year (not counting the Cowboys versus Broncos game in which he got injured early), and while two games is a very small sample size, there’s no question they are a far better team with him on the paddock.
I think the Cowboys will come to play – there’s plenty of pressure on them to save their season and it has to start ASAP. But the Rabbitohs are in some red hot form, and should be too difficult a proposition for North Queensland.
Rabbitohs by 4.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 4:05pm AEST.
Where: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Streaming: NRL Digital Pass, Kayo Sports
TV: Channel 9, Fox League
Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Corey Allen 3. Kyle Turner 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 14. Tevita Tatola 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Ethan Lowe 17. Liam Knight 18. Jacob Gagan 19. Connor Tracey 20. Dean Britt 21. Mawene Hiroti
Cowboys: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Enari Tuala 5. Ben Hampton 6. John Asiata 7. Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Mitchell Dunn 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo 18. Corey Jensen 19. Tom Opacic 20. Shane Wright 21. Jake Clifford