Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Resurgent Sea Eagles face off against competition front runners
Widely touted as wooden spoon favourites after losing their opening two matches, the Sea Eagles will be looking to back up last week's 46-12 demolition of the Warriors by claiming a major scalp against the unbeaten Rabbitohs.
Buoyed by the return of Tom Trbojevic for the Christchurch ‘home' game, Des Hasler will be eyeing off consecutive wins as Manly coach for the first time since 2011, as his side strives to maintain a dominant run on the northern beaches against South Sydney that has resulted in nine wins from 14 clashes since returning to the NRL in 2003 following the acrimonious merger with North Sydney.
Enjoying a fierce rivalry throughout the 2010s with nine win apiece, Saturday's clash should see the Sea Eagles attract a large turnout for a match that shapes as the club's most significant since qualifying for the finals two years ago.
Replacing centre Moses Suli with Brendan Elliot in the only change from the team that triumphed against the Warriors, five eighth Kane Elgey will celebrate his 50th appearance in the NRL after debuting with the Titans in 2015.
Starting the season with three wins for the fourth time since being readmitted into the competition, the South Sydney Rabbitohs continued their strong start to 2019 by getting the better of a committed Gold Coast side 28-20 last Sunday.
Sitting alongside Melbourne on top of the ladder as the only unbeaten teams in the competition, coach Wayne Bennett will be eyeing off his best start to a season with four wins for the first time since 2003, as the Rabbitohs look to maintain strong recent form at Lottoland having recording three wins from their past four visits.
With matches between the two sides resulting in some of the best contests seen in the NRL era - most notably the 2013 classic at Brookvale Oval - the importance of getting off to a strong start will be especially important given the side leading at halftime has gone on to win in the past ten meetings.
Boosted by the return from suspension of George Burgess at the expense of last week's debutant Rhys Kennedy, captain Greg Inglis returns in place of emerging centre Braidon Burns, while former Cronulla and Newcastle outside back Jacob Gagan is on stand-by should Inglis fail to overcome a shoulder issue.
Last meeting: Round 3 2018 - Rabbitohs 34 Sea Eagles 6
Who to watch: Missing the second half of last season with a serious foot injury, Manly hooker Apisai Koroisau will be looking to assert his standing as the club's first choice hooker. Sharing minutes with Manase Fainu in the big win over the Warriors last Saturday, the 26-year-old Fijian international holds plenty of rugby league capital as a premiership winner with South Sydney, along with being discussed as a number nine option in Brad Fittler's maiden New South Wales team. Establishing himself as a starting player on the northern beaches after being blocked by Issac Luke and James Segeyaro earlier in his career, Koroisau will be out to increase his involvement on Saturday afternoon, while gauging his progress after four rounds against the reigning Dally M Hooker of the Year.
Set to make his first appearance of the season at Lottoland, George Burgess will be out to ensure the Rabbitohs maintain their unbeaten start to 2019. Copping a four-match ban for eye gouging New Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the second test last November, the 26-year-old prop will have his sights set on proving to Wayne Bennett he belongs in the starting side by displaying the form that saw the rugby league world recognise the English international as more than just ‘Sam's brother'. Linked with a move to Parramatta over the off-season, look for George to provide plenty of punch with a performance set to make the other 15 NRL clubs shudder at the thought of how imposing South Sydney will be in 2019.
The favourite: Unbeaten after three rounds, the Rabbitohs are expected to go 4-0 despite a much-improved performance from the Sea Eagles last week.
My tip: In a match deserving of the largest Manly home crowd for a number of years, look for the Sea Eagles to just come up short in a high-scoring affair. Rabbitohs by 4.
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Brendan Elliott 4. Brad Parker 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kane Elgey 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Manase Fainu 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Corey Waddell 17. Toafofoa Sipley
1. Alex Johnston 2. Corey Allen 21. Jacob Gagan 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 14. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 8. George Burgess 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Ethan Lowe 17. Kyle Turner
Referees: Grant Atkins, Liam Kennedy; Sideline Officials: Nick Morel, Phil Henderson; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Lowe;