Melbourne Storm v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Melbourne Storm play South Sydney Rabbitohs in the first of the NRL Telstra Premiership Qualifying Finals at AAMI Park on Friday evening.
It was a remarkable regular season, with just two points separating the eight teams to qualify for the Finals Series. The top four teams finished level on 34 points, with the remaining four finishing just a couple of points adrift. The playoffs promise to be fiercely contested as a consequence.
The Storm missed out on being crowned the minor premiers title after a weakened team went down to a 22-16 defeat at home to the Penrith Panthers, a result that enabled the Sydney Roosters to leapfrog them at the top of the table courtesy of their 44-10 win away to the Parramatta Eels. The Roosters eventually edged out the Storm by virtue of having an eight point superior points’ differential.
Both these teams have recent dips in form to address going into this game. The Storm also lost three of their final five matches in the regular season, including going down to a 30-20 defeat at the ANZ Stadium to the Rabbitohs. The Rabbitohs trounced Wests Tigers 51-10 to round-off their regular campaign, but they lost three on the spin prior to that.
With regards to team news, the Storm welcome back fullback Billy Slater (personal leave), winger Suliasi Vunivalu (hamstring) and five-eighth Cameron Munster (knee). Jahrome Hughes will move from fullback to halfback and Justin Olam, Scott Drinkwater and Ryley Jacks all drop down to the bench.
The Rabbitohs are set to be unchanged from last week’s big win over the Tigers.
Over the regular season, the Rabbitohs led the NRL in points scored, tries scored, line breaks, total run metres and line break assists and their trio of Burgess brothers (Sam, Tom and George) will be looking to establish early dominance in the middle of the park.
The Storm are narrow 1.83 favourites with bet365 for the game, with the Rabbitohs at 2.10 (also bet365) and the draw 21.00 (also bet365). The Storm to bounce win from a losing position at the interval at 7.50 with Unibet looks potentially decent.