The semi-final action in the NRL continues on Saturday night as we head to Bankwest Stadium for the second semi final between the Parratmatte Eels and South Sydney Rabbitohs! Scooby has you covered with a full preview and best bets for the clash below.
Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Bankwest Stadium, Saturday 7.50pm (AEDT)
Not many people gave the Eels a hope against the Storm last Saturday, but they quickly raised a few eyebrows as they jumped to a 12-nil leader after 22 minutes. The pressure they were building in attack was generating a strong platform for their halves to work off, leading to great attacking opportunities. Unfortunately, they were unable to maintain this momentum, with the Storm clawing their way back into the contest; a 12-nil lead was soon turned into a 12-all HT score line. The teams continued to trade points until the Storm prevailed 36-24. The Eels had some positives, including scoring 24 points against the Storm with just 43% possession. However, they were also beaten in just about every area including running metres, tackle breaks, line breaks and missed tackles.
The Rabbitohs had no such issues in their 46-20 win over the Knights; although they would’ve been worried after 11 minutes being behind 14-nil. Once the possession shifted, the Rabbitohs attacking momentum prevailed, as they scored 4 unanswered tries to lead 20-14 at HT. It was another sign just how dangerous this team are in attack and how it will take a strong defensive unit to halt their momentum. This showed on the statistics, with the Rabbitohs averaging more running metres, (1,737m v 1,486m), post contact metres (673pcm v 612pcm), line breaks (8 v 5), tackle breaks (28 v 16) and kick return metres (220m v 157m). They also only missed 16 tackles; perhaps their attacking ability has their defence being overlooked. Nevertheless, they will be extremely confident against a team they defeated 28-nil back in Round 16.
The strong first half of the season for the Eels was set up by power in the middle; this is why they sit 2nd in total metres (1,817.6m v Rabbitohs 1,765.4m – 4th) and 2nd in post contact metres (655.8pcm v Rabbitohs 609.6pcm – 6th). However, it was their effectiveness with the ball which has dissipated. Since Round 15 (and including last week) they have averaged just 16.9 points (season average 19.8ppg – 9th). In the same period of time, the Rabbitohs have average 36.9 points (season average 27.0ppg – 3rd).
The attacking opportunities being created by the Rabbitohs are endless and lifted their season average significantly. They average 5 line breaks per game (3rd) compared with the Eels 3.9 (10th), 3.3 try assists (4th) ahead of the Eels 2.6 (10th) and 3.6 line break assists (2nd) with the Eels averaging 2.7 each week (8th). The Eels have a slight edge over the Rabbitohs overall, winning 17 out of the 33 matches played (1 draw). Home ground advantage may be the key as they have a 78% winning record at this ground compared to the Rabbitohs 40%. Of the past 10 meetings between these two teams, there has been a 50/50 split of results, with the away team winning 50% of the time. It also must be stated that the Rabbitohs recorded a 38-nil victory over the Eels at this ground back in Round 16.
The Rabbitohs are listed as favourites for this game and it is no surprise given the recent form of the Eels. They have been underwhelming for a number of weeks and the effort to rush Dylan Brown back from injury indicates that a major part of the issue lies within their attack. Their forwards are placing them in positive positions on the field, but they are unable to finish off attacking movements. While the Eels attack improved somewhat last week, they still conceded 36 points; while they have had difficulties scoring points since Round 15 (mentioned above), they have also allowed their opponents to average 21.1ppg in the same period. For what it’s worth, the Rabbitohs have allowed 16.6ppg in the same period.
They say that attack wins games and defence wins premierships; in both areas, the Rabbitohs have the edge over their opponents and should deliver in this game. The Eels are bound to have the Round 16 result firmly on their minds and it will undoubtedly be a motivating factor for them. Once the Rabbitohs can contain the early pressure from the Eels and halt positive attacking movements, they should be able to deliver a victory, albeit, by a very different margin to when they last met. The line option (Rabbitohs -5.5 @ $1.85) is the recommended selection based on the ‘safety’ of the pick but if you want a little more value, take the Rabbitohs to win by less than two converted tries (Rabbitohs 1-12 @ $2.90).