TWL ROUND 12 PREVIEW: WARRIORS V RABBITOHS

NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS – 7.30PM (NZT)/5.30PM (AEST) SATURDAY, MAY 26 @ MOUNT SMART STADIUM

The Storylines: The Warriors made another quantum leap progress-wise last week with a gritty win over a desperate opponent, without Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun Johnson, after a bad a loss, and in Sydney.

Crucially, they also showed plenty of poise to come from behind in the final quarter, coming home with a wet sail to give the Eels the slip 24-14. But now the Warriors are after some consistency and another big scalp after failing to win back-to-back in the past six weeks, including getting towelled up by the Storm and Roosters.

RTS should be back on deck – baby news pending – but Mason Lino is in doubt, which could see Peta Hiku shift to the halves and Gerard Beale come into the centres, where he was superb last week.

Pundits are falling over themselves to declare fourth-placed South Sydney as a bona fide premiership contender, despite getting out of jail against the Cowboys in extraordinary circumstances last weekend and going down to the up-and-down Broncos at home less than a month ago.

The Burgess boys, Angus Crichton and John Sutton are in great form in the pack, while Damien Cook is running opponents ragged from dummy-half. But Alex Johnston is out injured, which sees Greg Inglis back at fullback for the first time in 15 months and rookie half Adam Doueihi come into the centres.

A win for the Warriors would mean either taking sole possession of second spot or a share of the lead – depending on who wins the Panthers-Dragons clash – while the Rabbitohs can leapfrog the Warriors and potentially the Panthers on for-and-against with a victory.

The History: Played 32 – Warriors won 19, Rabbitohs won 13.

READ: THE RIVALRY – WARRIORS V RABBITOHS

The Stats

-South Sydney has won six of its last seven against the Warriors, including its last two at Mount Smart.
-The Rabbitohs’ last five wins over the Warriors were by 16 points or more.
-The Warriors are searching for back-to-back wins for the first time since Round 5.
-Souths are chasing consecutive wins outside NSW for the first time since 2015.
-The clubs’ last nine encounters have produced totals of 40-plus points.

3 Key Match-ups

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck v Greg Inglis: RTS is still on baby-watch, but chances are he’ll suit up Saturday night – and the Warriors need his last-line stability. ‘GI’ is in the No.1 jumper for the first time since Round 1 last year, and although he looked dangerous filling in last week against the Cowboys, it remains to be seen how he handles all the extra miles required in the custodian role for 80 minutes.

Issac Luke v Damien Cook: The livewire hookers waged a ding-dong battle in Round 1 and have both been in scintillating form since. Luke was clearly hampered by injury against the Eels but stepped up when it mattered, scooting out of dummy-half for the match-sealing try. Cook is fighting for an Origin debut and will look to expose any tired Warriors defenders around the ruck.  

Adam Blair v Sam Burgess: Adam Blair provides leadership and intimidation factor, but not a high output in statistical terms. Sam Burgess gives the Rabbitohs all of the above in abundance. The Warriors need a huge display in the middle from Blair against a massive Souths pack – 16 tackles and five runs won’t cut it, regardless of how good his line-speed and kick-chase is.

Last Time They Met: The reborn Warriors’ remarkable 2018 journey to date began with a hoodoo-busting 32-20 upset of South Sydney in Round 1 – the club’s first win in Perth in 10 visits.

Why We’ll Win: The confidence gained from an undermanned away win last week can’t be understated, and the captain’s likely return is huge. The Warriors’ Round 1 win emphatically shook their Rabbitohs hoodoo and, quite frankly, Souths aren’t going as well as the Australian media think. The Warriors also have a dreadful recent showing at Mount Smart to atone for, so complacency won’t be an issue.

Why We’ll Lose: Lino’s potential absence would pile the pressure on Blake Green – particularly his kicking game. If the Rabbitohs’ huge pack gets a roll on and the Warriors fail to stand up to them, as was the case against the Roosters, it could be a bloodbath in the middle third. Souths arrive in town with plenty of confidence and with their best players in good touch.

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Head to Head: Warriors $1.80, Rabbitohs $1.95 (Line: Warriors -1.5).

Interstate underdogs of 3.5 or less are 64-33 against the line since 2013. Souths have covered 12 of their last 16 overall. Souths have covered 8 of their last 12 off a win. The Warriors are 6-12 against the line at Mt Smart at night. FULL TAB PREVIEW

Tips – Warriors Win @ $1.80
Warriors 1-10 @ $3.20
Rabbitohs/Warriors @ $8
Last Try Scorer – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck @ $12

LISTEN: TAB NRL PODCAST – THE ADVANTAGE LINE

The Verdict: The Rabbitohs’ win over the ladder-leading Dragons in Round 10 made everyone sit up and take notice – and forget that the Warriors did a similar job on the Saints a couple of weeks earlier. Souths also have a handy win over the Roosters behind them – which gives them just as many (and the same) big scalps as the Warriors. But only one of these teams boasts a win over the other in 2018. While there’s been a couple of bad losses, the Warriors have shown up with the requisite intent, aggression, execution and composure in three-quarters of their games so far. We like those odds. Warriors by 7

 

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