NRL Finals Week 1: Roosters v Rabbitohs Preview & Betting Tips
NRL’s oldest rivals square off again with the Bunnies confident they can make it three straight wins over the Roosters.
Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs – SCG – 7:50pm
The Roosters suffered a familiar 2019 fate when they battled the Bunnies last week. Just like their round one encounter, the Tricolours dominated the first half but fell victim to a second-half Souths ambush and were left ruing plenty of missed opportunities. There’s a school of thought over a defeat breaking a lengthy win streak before the finals not being a bad thing, and coach Trent Robinson post-game was immediately referring to his side having opportunities to learn and receiving a reminder of where they really are.
It was a finals-like clash and while physically they fared well against their hated rivals, the way Souths stepped up intensity in the second-half might flag concerns over the Roosters’ potential weakness in fading out late in games. Missing a string of first-choice players, the Chooks lacked attacking cohesion in the second half and weren’t helped with strike centre Latrell Mitchell having a rough night. When Angus Crichton jumped ship in the off-season the concern was the Bunnies were losing their best young forward talent but with Cam Murray having a blinder – even as a makeshift centre – the spotlight will once again focus on Crichton whose performance wasn’t up to his recent improving efforts.
The Roosters will be much closer to full strength this week with Luke Keary, Mitch Aubusson, Brett Morris and Sio Siua Taukeiaho returning, however. While there might be that mental edge in an immediate shot at revenge, the Roosters will be familiar with their epic 2013 rivalry with Manly – having a 4-0 record over the Eagles that year, including finals week one – in one NRL side potentially having the wood over another, no matter how talented they may be. Twice the Roosters have exploded early only to burn out against the Bunnies. Will it be third time lucky for the Premiers or will they become the Bunnies’ bunnies in 2019?
Souths meanwhile delivered their punters a deeply satisfying 16-10 win, richly deserved after a strong second-half resurgence led by the brilliance of Murray and the game-changing magic of hooker Damien Cook. While the Roosters may have had a revamped side, Souths also have been impacted by injuries and suffered a barrage in the final 40 minutes which they successfully overcame.
Dane Gagai limped off to deprive the Rabbitohs their most experienced outside back while a string of HIAs meant they had to finish the match with 12 players. Murray was forced to shift from the middle to centre to cover for Gagai and responded with an inspirational effort to shut down the Roosters’ desperate efforts to reclaim the lead. Liam Knight has gone under the radar of value signings this year and the prop again delivered a crucial night against a stacked Roosters’ pack, churning out 122m before suffering a sickening head clash with Lindsay Collins to end his match.
With the Bunnies’ pack leader Sam Burgess suspended after a contrary conduct charge by pulling Billy Smith’s hair, Souths will be desperate for Knight to pass concussion protocol to back up this week – it’d be a chasm to overcome otherwise. Adam Reynolds was one of those sidelined late on with an HIA but five-eighth Cody Walker stepped up second-half and the fiery pivot clearly enjoys derby matches, never afraid to back up his talk with actions.
Souths have the confidence knowing they have a 2-0 record over their rivals this year but when the sides met in the preliminary final last year, Adam Reynolds drew a blank and the Souths attack stalled. James Roberts’ return from suspension is badly needed with Gagai’s absence and “Jimmy the Jet” could be the backline sparkle needed to take the pressure off Reynolds. Wayne Bennett has seen it all and the veteran coach will have some tricks up his sleeve to give his side every shot at going 3-0 over the Premiers this year.
• The last time Souths defeated the Roosters three times in one year was 1978.
• The Bunnies though are the only side beating the Roosters twice in 2019 and have won both second halves in doing so.
• The Chooks have won every first half at the SCG in 2019.
• The Roosters’ average 2019 result was 26-15 while Souths’ was 22-17.
• Daniel Tupou scored in each of the Roosters’ three finals last year.
Best bet: Roosters first half - $1.58* (TopBetta)
Value bet: Daniel Tupou anytime try scorer - $2.10* (Bet365)