South Sydney open round nine by playing Brisbane for the second time this season. In their first meeting, the Broncos ambushed the Rabbitohs and recorded an 11-4 victory at Suncorp.
Since then, both sides have shown glimpses of form, but still remain works in progress.
The Broncos most notable win came last week when they upset the high-flying Cronulla Sharks. Meanwhile, Jason Demetriou’s men enjoyed their best victory over their arch-rivals, the Roosters, in round three.
The headlines have again been dominated by Adam Reynolds return to his boyhood club. However, there are intriguing matchups all over the field that could decide which team goes home with the two competition points.
Question marks exist around how the Broncos will manage without their talismanic forward, Payne Haas. Although, a big height advantage on the edges could dictate a rather simple game plan for Reynolds to implement.
Sporting News have highlighted the three key areas where the game could be won or lost…
Corey Oates, in the corner
— NRL (@NRL) April 8, 2022
Sometimes, rugby league is simple. One of the matchups that stands out the most is Corey Oates versus Josh Mansour. The significant height advantage (192cm- 183cm) makes Oates a fantastic target for attacking kicks.
The former Queensland representative is in a rich vein of form. In fact, the six tries he has scored so far, is the same number he managed to register across the previous two years.
However, defensively he has an issue. Oates has made 11 tackles and missed nine.
The Brisbane winger could get a taste of his own medicine, and also be singled out as a weak point by the opposition.
Regardless, there is set to be plenty of traffic directed down Oates’ side of the field.
Adam Reynolds v Lachlan Ilias
Ilias is beginning to look more comfortable in first-grade, since taking over from Reynolds. They both share remarkably similar traits, which is actually highlighted by their stats.
Despite playing a game less, Reynolds has been the more productive of the two. But that was to be expected, since Ilias is only just breaking into first-grade.
The Souths halfback has laid on four assists, while Reynolds has provided seven, along with scoring two tries of his own.
Yet it is how they contribute to their teams overall, which underlines why many believed Ilias to be the perfect replacement for Reynolds at South Sydney.
He favours the right-hand side of the field and does his best work with Keaon Koloamatangi and Campbell Graham. His six linebreak assists have eventuated from his willingness to engage with the defensive line and then deliver a key pass.
Ilias ranks in the top ten in the NRL for line engagements, with 44. Meanwhile, Reynolds sits a little further back with 33.
The Rabbitohs playmaker is taking possession of the ball about an equal amount to what Reynolds is in Brisbane. So far this season, they are both situated in the 350 range.
However, Ilias has been more focused on running. In his 34 runs he has made 300m, compared to Reynolds’ 193m from 26 runs.
The Bronco holds the advantage though with his superior kicking game. Throughout the first eight rounds, his team-mates have relied on him to utilise it to get them out of trouble in yardage, or turn defence into attack.
— NRL (@NRL) April 22, 2022
Brisbane exposed in the middle?
The loss of Payne Haas to a shoulder injury will massively impact Brisbane’s ability to get up the pitch. His work-rate is unrivalled, as he continuously chews through the metres and makes his tackles.
Two of the key beneficiaries of this will be Damien Cook and Cody Walker. The duo love exploiting space through the middle of the ruck. And Cam Murray may be able to help provide it to them with his link play.
If those three start firing, it may prove difficult to halt the Bunnies momentum in the contest.
Jason Demetriou’s side lead the NRL for most post-contact metres per game. This is where Haas’ absence will also be felt, because their most powerful weapon in this regard won’t be on-hand to combat South Sydney’s powerful runners.