Fri, Mar 29, 9:35am by Rob Sheeley
The first game of a Good Friday double-header is between the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. The match will be played at ANZ Stadium at 4pm and a large crowd is expected for the two fancied local teams.
The Bulldogs are yet to reach the standard that may have been expected of them this season, but with a large part of their forward pack missing along with their star full back, they have had excuses.
The Rabbitohs are on the crest of a winning wave and high on confidence. They are one of only two teams who remain undefeated so far this year. The Bulldogs appear in their biggest test to date but they look like real contenders for the title at this early stage.
Bulldogs 1-12 – $3.65
Bulldogs 13+ – $4.15
Rabbitohs 1-12 – $3.45
Rabbitohs 13+ – $4.50
Bulldogs +1.5 – $1.90
Rabbitohs -1.5 – $1.90
The Bulldogs have won 5 of the last 6 matches between the two teams.
South’s have won 6 of their last 7 at ANZ, the loss was to the Bulldogs.
Canterbury has won 10 of their last 11 games at ANZ with the only loss being the 2012 Grand Final.
The Bulldogs have the most documented return to a game for some time. All-Star fullback Ben Barba will take his place in the side after being stood down to sort out “personal problems”. The squad will no doubt be buoyed by his return. Young fullback Drury Low drops out of the squad with Barba’s return.
The side is still without giant prop Sam Kasiano as well as the suspended James Graham, however Frank Pritchard has been named in the 17 jersey on an extended bench.
The Rabbitohs have named an unchanged team to the one that defeated Penrith in a high scoring affair last weekend. Beau Champion is still missing from the line up with a shoulder injury. Veteran centre Matt King made his comeback from a broken arm for the Rabbitohs feeder club , the North Sydney Bears last weekend. In a case of extreme bad luck, King again broke the arm and will miss up to sixteen weeks.
The Bulldogs have had a tough draw to kick off 2013. They were handed a Jonathon Thurston master class in Round 1 when losing to the Cowboys 24-12. They then bounced back to beat a tenacious Eels side 20-16. Last weekend they were outplayed by the premiership yardstick the Melbourne Storm but still managed to remain in the contest. In the end, it was only a four point loss to the Storm (22-18) and the longer the game went, the more the Dogs looked a winning hope.
The Rabbitohs have taken all before them in 2013 and look as good as ever. They kicked of the season with a 28-10 victory over the star studded Roosters outfit. They then handed the Sharks their only defeat for the year with a 24-12 win. Last weekend in searing heat they were involved in a match that saw little defence. Fourteen tries in total were scored in a 44-32 win over Penrith at Centrebet Stadium.
South’s had skipped to a 34-16 lead before Penrith stormed home to make it 34-32 with just two minutes remaining. They were able to find the resilience to put the game to bed and one can’t help but think that they may have got a shock from the Panthers due to a bit of complacency.
The fact that the Bulldogs are still missing two stars from their forward pack could prove vital against the Rabbitohs. The South Sydney forwards are as big as any and have set about demoralising their opponents so far this season.
Sam Burgess, Chris McQueen, Jeff Lima and Ben Te’o team up with veteran Michael Crocker to form a fearsome pack but the depth from the bench is just as powerful. George Burgess has been unstoppable so far this season, add to that Nathan Peats and Dave Tyrell and there is no escape from the Rabbitohs brute force.
The dominance of South’s forwards to date has created endless opportunities for the scheming hooker Isaac Luke who will look to cash in on any momentum afforded to him by his fellow forwards.
Adam Reynolds has continued on from his amazing rookie year and looks an all round player. John Sutton is playing as well as he ever has and thriving on the “go-forward” the South’s pack is providing. Nathan Merritt still knows his way to the try line better than anyone in the competition and has feasted on the team’s success including a hat trick last weekend.
Have we mentioned Greg Inglis yet? “G.I” is in blockbusting form, his kick returns have been devastating. Inglis has the ability to turn a defensive situation into a try seemingly at will.
So how will the Bulldogs counter such a formidable presence?
The way that the depleted forward pack performs will be telling in this battle. Not only do they need to match it with the South’s pack, they need to dominate them and take all momentum away from players like Luke, Inglis and Merritt.
If they can go close to doing that, expect Josh Reynolds to be pivotal in the Bulldogs game. Reynolds has come of age in the last two seasons and will need to showcase all his creativity as well as his devastating running game to steer the Dogs toward a win.
That brings us to Ben Barba, the prodigal son. Can he put all the media attention to one side and bounce straight back to his best?
The Bulldogs certainly need him to. I wouldn’t be expecting too much from Barba but no doubt, given half an opportunity, he will show us that his football is still close to the best in the business.
South Sydney appears to be stronger as a unit with very few weak links.
I expect them to win the all important battle in the forwards and seize the match from there.
They know that this is the game that they will be judged on in respect to form and will be up for the challenge.
The Bulldogs gave it all last week against the Storm, if they can stay within a few points of South’s heading into the final twenty minutes of this match then we may have a ball game.
South’s by 6
Based on my prediction, I think the line bet in this match is close enough that it warrants value. An extra 10c in every dollar for winning by just 2 or more seems handy.
Given that the Bulldogs have stayed within 12 points of other premiership contenders, the South’s 1-12 option also looks amazing value at $3.45 with Sportingbet.
Big guns Nathan Merritt and Ben Barba appear skinny odds as first try scorers (both $7)
Looking outside of those two, there may be some value in Adam Everingham at $11 to score first.
The South Sydney half time/ full time double looks okay too at $2.52.
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