South Sydney Rabbitohs vs North Queensland Cowboys: Lineups, preview and prediction
Barlow Park, Sunday 1st July, 4:00pm AEST.
The Bunnies have one of the dark horses of the competition storming into second position after an opening round loss to the Warriors. Their form thereafter has been superb and the rise in form of mainstays in the Burgess brothers and Adam Reynolds has breathed new life into the Concord club.
The Cowboys meanwhile have experienced as my colleague Bo Nicholson astutely described “organisational inertia” whereby the club has done little to nothing on or off the field to progress the club forwards and in doing so enhance their performances. The roster has remained largely unchanged as has the style of play. They are not an 80-minute team this season, they play in waves and it has come to a large cost missing out on the finals despite being amongst preseason favourites with the likes of the Storm and Roosters.
The Rabbitohs are going for eight wins in a row whilst the Cowboys are looking to avoid seven losses in a row. The fortunes of either side have been completely reversed from last season, and if you said one of these sides is second on the ladder, the other languishing in thirteenth. If asked which club was second and which is thirteenth, many would pick the Cowboys at 2nd and Bunnies as 13th watching no NRL this season, going by the sides on paper and 2017 form.
2018 – Round 11 – South Sydney Rabbitohs 20 def. North Queensland Cowboys 19 at 1300SMILES Stadium
2017 – Round 19 -North Queensland Cowboys 23 def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 10 at Barlow Park
2017 – Round 5 – North Queensland Cowboys 20 def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 6 at 1300SMILES Stadium
2016 – Round 17 – North Queensland Cowboys 20 def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 0 at Barlow Park
2016 – Round 7 – North Queensland Cowboys 44 def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 at 1300SMILES Stadium
The Cowboys have the bragging rights in Cairns winning the last two encounters in the tropical north of Queensland. They have won 4 of the last 5 clashes, suffering a demoralizing loss in an ever so close encounter in Round 11 after the siren.
However, these victories have come during a period of success for the Cowboys making the finals every year they have beaten the Bunnies over the past five clashes. Meanwhile, the Bunnies have had an early holiday each year in September.
|South Sydney Rabbitohs||North Queensland Cowboys|
|1||Alex Johnston||Lachlan Coote|
|2||Campbell Graham||Kyle Feldt|
|3||Greg Inglis||Enari Tuala|
|4||Dane Gagai||Kane Linnett|
|5||Robert Jennings||Antonio Winterstein|
|6||Cody Walker||Te Maire Martin|
|7||Adam Reynolds||Johnathan Thurston|
|8||Thomas Burgess||Matt Scott|
|9||Damien Cook||Jake Granville|
|10||George Burgess||Scott Bolton|
|11||John Sutton||Gavin Cooper|
|12||Angus Crichton||Coen Hess|
|13||Sam Burgess||Jason Taumalolo|
|14||Adam Doueihi||Ben Hampton|
|15||Cameron Murray||Shaun Fensom|
|16||Jason Clark||Corey Jensen|
|17||Tevita Tatola||Francis Molo|
|18||Bill Brittain||Justin O’Neill|
|19||Hymel Hunt||Ethan Lowe|
|20||Mark Nicholls||Mitchell Dunn|
|21||Tyrell Fuimaono||Shane Wright|
The facts that matter
The Rabbitohs are one win away from breaking a 29-year record, eight wins in a row in a regular NRL season and are currently the form team of the competition, win-wise. Whilst the record itself will matter little to the players, the momentum they have gained over the past two months will weigh in heavily on the outcome of this contest. The bunnies have beaten the likes of the Sharks, Dragons and Warriors in this run, playing an exciting brand of football many believed they were incapable of preseason.
They have named all of their representative players to back up and many of those tasted success last weekend which bodes well for the clash tomorrow. The likes of Crichton and Cook will be brimming with confidence and Inglis and Gagai keen to avenge their Origin series loss with a strong showing against the Cowboys.
Boast the best attack in the competition, whilst amassing more than 40 points on three seperate occasions. The workload has been evenly shared within the entire squad with no clear standout and as a result their roster is displaying the confidence found through supreme teamwork and trust within each other. Fringe players at the Bunnies have starred for the club and the likes of Doueihi, Hunt and Jennings have held their own in a star-studded backline. Essentially the Rabbitohs have a plethora of attacking talent in which they can rely upon to further their 380 points scored so far this season.
The Cowboys can focus on fixing their attack for next season, unleashing more of the attacking potential within their side. They have little left to play for and so the consequences are few and far between now with the top eight out of sight. In saying that it is Johnathan Thurston’s last season and pride is on the line, traditionally the Cowboys aim up against the Rabbitohs and on Sunday it can be no different to be a chance.
The Cowboys have been there or thereabouts in games this season losing narrowly to the Broncos, Storm and their opponents tomorrow the Rabbitohs. A few of those clashes go the other way and the Cowboys season might not be so derailed. However, it shouldn’t mask the multitude of problems the Cowboys are currently experiencing, the inefficiency to finish off close games can be added to the list of switching off at crucial times in the ruck, lazy marker defending and a stagnant attack with little invention. For the Cowboys to win they need to score with some creativity to ensure they back themselves late in the match if it goes down to the wire.
The Cowboys need to use Round 11 as motivation for this match. Up until the last second of the match the two points was theirs and it was one of the more spirited COwboys performances this season. Up against a big and mobile forward pack the Cowboys pack should be looking to test themselves against potentially the forwards benchmark in the NRL. If the Cowboys go forwards and gain momentum some early ball to Tuala and Feldt may cause some havoc down the Rabbitohs left side defence. Both players have looked highly motivated in every match this season and are the Cowboys most promising attacking weapons.
The Rabbitohs will be playing to retain their spot in the competitions top two and hold on to their chances of the minor premiership. Their form from here on in is pivotal given they will qualify for the finals for the first time since 2015, so a big performance is expected. Meanwhile, the Cowboys need a win to quash any fears of becoming the most talented, wooden spoon side, ever.
The Rabbitohs have too much going for them at the moment and whilst I expect the Cowboys to come out firing, I’m leaning towards the Rabbitohs by 2.
Who wins this blockbuster clash when the Cowboys and Rabbitohs meet in Cairns? Let us know in the comments below.