Rabbitohs v Cowboys
After a resurgent second half saw them fall just short of a win last week, the Rabbitohs will be desperate to show that the humidity in Cairns won't affect them when they take on the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.
The Cowboys will be in a very different state of mind after a near-perfect performance against the Canberra Raiders in Round 17 before having a week off during their final bye of the season.
The location of the game and the timing is ideal for the Cowboys, but definitely hinders the Rabbitohs' chances. North Queensland will have a refreshed squad coming into the match, with the exception of Michael Morgan, Coen Hess and Gavin Cooper who will back up from State of Origin Game III on Wednesday night.
The Rabbitohs' key motivation in front of a hostile North Queensland crowd will be keeping their faint finals alive, with a win desperately needed to get themselves anywhere near eighth position, currently occupied by the Eels on 22 points, compared to South Sydney's 16.
Why the Rabbitohs can win: They're desperate and they're underdogs. Couple that with a stinging sensation left over from losing to old rivals the Sydney Roosters and they'll be eager to steal victory from the Cowboys in Cairns. They have the team to do it too. A forward pack consisting of Thomas and Sam Burgess as well as David Tyrell gives them the engine, and Alex Johnston's five-try performance against the Panthers a fortnight ago has rocketed the winger into contention for top try-scorer of the season. Adam Reynolds has an excellent kicking game and he'll need it to be on song if Souths are to keep the Cowboys' forwards pinned in their own half.
Why the Cowboys can win: Three Origin stars, a huge boost in confidence and a team refreshed from a week off. It starts in the forwards: with Jason Taumalolo, Scott Bolton and John Asiata being backed up by Coen Hess off the bench and Gavin Cooper and Ethan Lowe on the edges, the Cowboys have go-forward and strike from one side of the field to the other. Taumalolo alone has averaged over 200 metres a game this season, while Hess is averaging 110 coming off the bench. Meanwhile Bolton averages 32 tackles a game and Asiata has put in 15 kicks and four try assists this season, making him a forward who has the potential to make defenders second-guess themselves, especially close to the line. This is all backed up by the new halves pairing of Michael Morgan and Te Maire Martin, who proved they're a dangerous combination with four tries between them from a single game.
The history: Rabbitohs v Cowboys – Played 31, Rabbitohs 14 wins, Cowboys 16 wins, one draw. These teams met in warm conditions in Round 5 this year, where the Cowboys took a way a 20-6 victory. The Rabbitohs will be confident they can get the job done in Cairns, having travelled their four times for two victories.
Match officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant referee: Jon Stone. Touch Judges: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski and Michael Wise. Review officials: Jared Maxwell and Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine and Fox League – live coverage from 4pm
How we see it: The Cowboys will be full of confidence and running after their bye, and even the Origin players will be rested after a four day break after Game III. Michael Morgan's performances in the past two months have only gone from strength to strength, and backed up by Martin, Lachlan Coote, Jake Granville and the Cowboys' forwards he'll be eager to prove his controlling performance against the Raiders was no fluke. Cowboys by 12.
First published on NRL.com.