NRL Finals Week 2: Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles Preview & Betting Tips
A Sydney showdown with old rivals as Souths host Manly in a fight to keep 2019 alive at ANZ Stadium.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Sea Eagles – ANZ Stadium – 7:50pm
Souths entered the finals with momentum but after a nightmare loss to archrivals Sydney, they’re now back at square one and are at risk of a dreaded straight sets elimination. The 30-6 defeat was brutal with the Roosters running riot in the first half to rack up an imposing 26-0 lead.
The Bunnies failed to contain Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and would have felt sick at watching JWH dominate while their own spiritual leader Sam Burgess sat in the stands suspended. It’s a mistake to think Burgess’s return will instantly cure a well-beaten Souths forward pack but the Englishman was badly missed and the Bunnies are a different proposition with him back.
Damien Cook was well-contained with the brilliant hooker only making five runs to little effect and James Roberts’ 16 possessions were all-but-anonymous with opposite centres Joey Manu and Latrell Mitchell a class above on the night. Wayne Bennett made a positional switch with Adam Doueihi and Alex Johnston changing to wing and fullback respectively but each, unfortunately, had shockers. Doueihi’s inexperience on the flank was repeatedly exposed by the ruthless Roosters while Johnston – still working his way back into form after a long injury – never looked comfortable at the back, his unforced error from the opening Mitchell kick setting the tone for a deplorable Souths evening.
There was minor respite in the second-half with Adam Reynolds’ converted try winning the stanza but the damage was already done. It sets up a fascinating elimination final with Manly now with the Bunnies second-guessing themselves while their opposition is full of confidence. Souths aren’t the first team to cop a Rooster thrashing in 2019 but it’s a significant ask for Bennett’s boys to rebound inside a week with no margin for error. No doubt they’ll be hoping for a Burgess-inspired steaming start to avoid playing catch-up footy for the second week running.
Manly executed a textbook finals ambush last week, brushing aside poor form and a lengthy casualty list to stun Cronulla 28-16 courtesy of a hot first-half start. While focus pre-game was understandably on how many players the Sea Eagles were missing, in Daly Cherry-Evans they boast a clutch Premiership-winning halfback and his experience was crucial to give Manly control of the elimination final before Cronulla could respond – their 18-0 lead inside 20 minutes proved too much for the Sharks to chase.
Addin Fonua-Blake has formed a devastating prop tandem with Marty Taupau but with the latter suspended, Fonua-Blake stepped up in a monstrous way to have one of the best solo performances by a middle forward in 2019. 187 run metres, a try, line break and a virtual try assist for Api Koroisau via a swift play-the-ball saw Fonua-Blake unleash his full potential in a sudden-death scenario.
With Taupau returning, suddenly the Sea Eagles will become even more menacing through the middle and with offloading ability they can cause nightmares for the Bunny defence. Brendan Elliot is a perfect example of coach Des Hasler’s ability to squeeze the most out of every ounce of talent available to him. The makeshift fullback with the unenviable job of filling in for Tom Trbojevic has been an NRL journeyman but his performance last start was outstanding and demonstrates Manly cannot be taken lightly even with so many regulars still unavailable.
Cherry-Evans remains the Eagles’ pulse and the Queensland captain made a bold call late in the second-half when his side was up 18-10 with an easy chance of a penalty goal to take the sting out of a Sharks comeback. Despite Hasler – via a trainer – demanding the shot at goal, Cherry-Evans backed himself to keep the pressure on which immediately paid off with Fonua-Blake’s game-breaking try. Manly is the underdog but they’ve still got superstar talent, a master coach and suddenly a spring in their step. Hasler lives for siege mentalities and as seen last week, Manly are as capable as ever in making a September Statement against the odds.
• These sides have a 1-1 record against each other in 2019, each game decided by a field goal and each game with Souths winning the first half and Manly the second half. Manly’s first-half win last start was their first in a month.
• Campbell Graham has 3 tries in his last 4 ANZ Stadium games, including saluting against the Sea Eagles.
Best bet: Campbell Graham anytime try scorer - $2.00* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Rabbitohs 1-12 - $2.90* (BetEasy)