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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Bulldogs pray for a reversal of fortune against traditional rivals
Conceding 40 points for the second time this season at Kogarah last Sunday, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be hoping to pull off the upset of the season against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the traditional Easter showdown.
Winning eight of 13 clashes against South Sydney since the Easter fixture became tradition in 2006, the Bulldogs will be hoping to defy a worrying trend having lost three of their past four matches the week after conceding 40 points in a loss.
Adding to the Bulldogs woes their standing as the worst defensive side in the league - averaging 28 points against per match - is a significant regression from last year's ninth-placed standing in the important statistic. Facing off against the second best attacking team after five rounds, coach Dean Pay will need his team to demonstrate considerable resolve if the blue and whites are to avoid equalling their worst start to a season in the NRL era.
Opting against another large scale squad overhaul, Danny Fualalo comes in for suspended forward Sauaso Sue on the bench in the only change to the team beaten 40-4 last Sunday.
Coming off one of the most dramatic weeks for the club in recent memory, the South Sydney Rabbitohs will be keen to get life after Greg Inglis off to a positive start.
Bringing forward plans to retire after suffering a shoulder injury against the Dragons in Round 2, the departure of Inglis sees Sam Burgess assume the captaincy on a permanent basis, while enabling the club to sign a replacement with the funds freed up - much to the ire of some within the NRL community.
Coming into the Round 6 contest after pulling off a late escape over the Warriors on the Sunshine Coast last Saturday, five-eighth Cody Walker will be hoping to continue his try-scoring heroics after crossing the line on four occasions in the 28-24 victory.
Winning nine of the past 13 encounters with Canterbury-Bankstown - including the past three - coach Wayne Bennett has named an unchanged line-up for Friday's clash, however Jacob Gagan could return in the centres allowing Kyle Turner to revert to his preferred position in the forward pack.
Last meeting: Round 18 2018 - Bulldogs 6 Rabbitohs 24
Who to watch: Signed by Dean Pay before the start of last season, Bulldogs playmaker Jack Cogger will be out to repay the faith shown by his coach in the absence of Kieran Foran. Playing 20 games with Newcastle after debuting as a teenager three years ago, the 21-year-old has shown moments of class since coming into the blue and white's NRL ranks a fortnight ago, including two line drop outs in the heavy loss to St George Illawarra. Representing the Australian Schoolboys and New South Wales Under 20s during his rise first grade, Cogger may not be the immediate answer to the Bulldogs woes, but given the opportunity to develop through regular first grade appearances the young pup looks set to find his bark at Belmore.
While his halves partner in the Rabbitohs 2014 premiership victory has garnered plenty of attention in the lead up to Origin, Adam Reynolds has done his chances of a representative recall no harm over the opening five rounds. Making two appearances for New South Wales three years ago, the 28-year-old halfback has produced some of the finest performances of his career under Wayne Bennett with his kicking game arguable rating as the finest in the league today. As one of only seven members remaining from the South Sydney team that defeated Canterbury-Bankstown in the grand final five years, look for Reynolds to be a prominent figure on Friday afternoon as the Rabbitohs strive to extend a recent run of victories over the Bulldogs.
The favourite: The fourth-placed Rabbitohs are heavily preferred to account for the last-placed Bulldogs.
My tip: Having scored twice as many points as their opponents, the attacking prowess of Wayne Bennett's side should see the Rabbitohs claim their fifth win of the season. Rabbitohs by 20.
1. Nick Meaney 2. Jayden Okunbor 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Jack Cogger 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Ofahiki Ogden 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 16. Adam Elliot 13. Rhyse Martin 14. Michael Lichaa 15. Danny Fualalo 17. Chris Smith
1. Alex Johnston 2. Corey Allen 3. Kyle Turner 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. Liam Knight
Referees: Henry Perenara, Tim Roby; Sideline Officials: Chris Butler, Rickey McFarlane; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;