Hostplus Match Preview: Round 17
The Panthers travel to ANZ Stadium on Sunday to take on South Sydney hoping to maintain pressure on the top eight and put a dent in the Rabbitohs’ chances of finals football.
A clean bill of health in the aftermath of the Cowboys clash has allowed Anthony Griffin to name an unchanged line up for this weekend. Corey Harawira-Naera takes his place in the second row fresh from inking a new three-year deal at the club, while fellow resigning Sione Katoa is part of the 21-man squad.
With the Rabbitohs coming off the bye, coach Michael Maguire is able recall star forward Sam Burgess and centre Aaron Gray after both were sidelined for their last-start win over the Titans through injury. Stalwart front-rower David Tyrell also returns for the hosts in the front-row replacing George Burgess who drops back to the bench.
PANTHER BUS: Secure your seat to ANZ Stadium
After a month of miraculous victories at the death, the Panthers were given a dose of their own medicine in Townsville as the Cowboys sealed a last minute win thanks to Kyle Feldt’s acrobatic effort. Despite holding the hosts out on their own line for much of the second-half, the Panthers were caught out by Michael Morgan’s kick to his high-flying winger to leave them sitting on the periphery of the top eight.
The Rabbitohs find themselves in a more precarious position on the ladder, sitting four points behind the eighth placed Eels despite their much-needed win over the Titans a fortnight ago. Trailing 20-10 at half-time, the Rabbitohs rallied after the break to steamroll their opponents on their way to a 36-20 win. Backrower Angus Crichton was in destructive form crossing over three times and running for 200 metres as he terrorised the Gold Coast defence.
The return of captain and dual-English representative Sam Burgess will provide the Rabbitohs with a timely boost as they look to overcome the Panthers forward pack and keep their season alive. The destructive lock has led the way for his side in 2017, comfortably topping the tackle and metre counts and producing the most offloads.
Recent history between the two sides is lopsided in favour of this weekend’s hosts. The Rabbitohs have won six straight at ANZ Stadium and tasted defeat just twice in their last eight meetings against the Panthers.
The last meeting between the two sides came in Round 6 when a last-minute field goal to Adam Reynolds broke the hearts of an undermanned Panthers side. Nathan Cleary looked to have sent the game in to Golden Point when he converted a late Michael Oldfield try from the sideline but former New South Wales Origin halfback Reynolds stepped up with less than a minute on the clock to sink the decisive kick.