Premiership Aspirants Lock Horns

Picture: Michael Klein/dailytelegraph.com.au
Billy Slater had his best game of the season against Canberra last weekend. Picture: Michael Klein/dailytelegraph.com.au
Last 5 Meetings

Round 6, 2013 – Melbourne Storm 17 d South Sydney Rabbitohs 10 at ANZ Stadium
2nd Qualifying Final, 2012 – Melbourne Storm 24 d South Sydney Rabbitohs 6 at AAMI Park
Round 2, 2012 – Melbourne Strom 24 d South Sydney Rabbitohs 10 at AAMI Park
Round 13, 2011 - Melbourne Storm 16 d South Sydney Rabbitohs 6 at ANZ Stadium
Round 23, 2010 – Melbourne Storm 18 d South Sydney Rabbitohs 16 at AAMI Park

Current Form

  Rd 17    Rd 18    Rd 19    Rd 20    Rd 21 
Storm

W

L

-

L

W

Rabbitohs

W

-

L

W

L



The Storm  will take an unchanged lineup into its blockbuster clash with the Rabbitohs  on Friday night, with Maurice Blair named to play despite being stretchered off early in his side’s thumping 68-4 victory over Canberra last weekend. It originally appeared as though the in-form centre had picked up a serious neck injury in the sickening tackle but he has been cleared to play after scans revealed no serious damage. Mahe Fonua bagged a hat-trick against the Raiders and retains his place in the side after being a late inclusion for Justin O’Neill, who is battling a hamstring strain.

Already without star fullback Greg Inglis, there was more bad news on the injury front for Souths this week with pivot John Sutton ruled out for up to a month with an ankle injury. Boom youngster Luke Keary will deputise for Sutton in the only change to the side that was humbled 30-12 by the Cowboys last Saturday night, with Nathan Peats returning on the interchange bench. Although his team is almost certain to finish in the top two on the ladder, boss Michael Maguire will be looking for an improved performance from his troops after a series of below par performance in recent weeks that has seen them lose two of their past three matches.


1st Tryscorer

Sisa Waqa has bagged eight tries from 15 NRL matches this season but his most recent outing was by far his most profitable. He opened the scoring in the fourth minute against the Raiders last week and finished the match with a hat-trick.

Rabbitohs flyer Nathan Merritt started the 2013 in a blaze of tryscoring glory, with 11 tries in the opening ten rounds, but has got across the line just once in eight subsequent appearances. With Souths missing several key men through injury, the 30 year-old will need to rediscover his best form against Melbourne’s in-form backline.


Prediction

Just like they did last season, Melbourne went through something of a slump during and after the State of Origin period, losing four of their five matches, but came out of it in fine style last weekend. They ended the Raiders 12 game unbeaten run in Canberra on the back of Billy Slater’s best performance of the season and will be confident of scoring a tenth win from eleven meetings between these clubs. As promising as Luke Keary is, the absence of John Sutton for the Rabbitohs is a huge blow and tips things further in the favour of Melbourne, who has an imposing record against Souths. Melbourne Storm by 6

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