NRL Match Preview: Key match-ups v South Sydney
Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 21 - Wests Tigers 9, South Sydney 12
AT ALLIANZ STADIUM: Played 5 - Wests Tigers 2, South Sydney 3
LAST TIME: 2013 - South Sydney 54 defeated Wests Tigers 10
BIGGEST HEAD TO HEAD WINS:
Wests Tigers 56 defeated South Sydney 6 at Leichhardt Oval, 2004
South Sydney 54 defeated Wests Tigers 10 at ANZ Stadium, 2013.
Benji Marshall v John Sutton
This shapes up to be an intriguing clash between two experienced playmakers as Benji Marshall comes up against John Sutton.
Marshall will play not only his final home game for the Wests Tigers, but also his 200th NRL match this Friday night at Allianz Stadium. Playing arguably his best game of 2013 last week against the Dragons, Marshall played a roving role as debutante Luke Brooks took control in the middle. With Brooks returning to Holden Cup this week due to salary cap restrictions, Marshall moves back into the key playmaking role and will look to build on last weeks performance. The departing five-eighth made a season high 133 metres against the Dragons, with a line-break and try-assist rounding out an impressive performance. Marshall faces a tough task coming up against Sutton and the Rabbitohs as they push for the minor premiership, but will look to go out on a high in his final home game in front of Wests Tigers supporters.
Sutton has had a standout 2013, as the Rabbitohs sit equal first on the competition ladder. Called into the Blues squad earlier in the year, Sutton was unlucky to miss out on the bench utility spot to Josh Reynolds. Averaging an impressive 100 metres per game, the City Origin representative has developed a lethal halves combination with Adam Reynolds. Against the Bulldogs last week, Sutton steered his side to a 28-20 victory with one try-assist and 122 metres. Facing off with rugby-bound Marshall for the final time, Sutton will be desperate for victory as Souths sit in equal first with the Roosters.
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Robbie Farah v Isaac Luke
Two of the best hookers in the NRL come up against one another again this week with Robbie Farah and Isaac Luke doing battle at Allianz Stadium.
Farah will break the record for the most games for Wests Tigers this Friday night as he takes the field for his 202nd match. His return from injury this week is fitting with teammates Marshall (200 NRL games) and Lote Tuqiri (150 NRL games) also bringing up significant achievements in the final home game of 2013. Suffering a dislocated and fractured knuckle in the Round 21 loss to the Titans, Farah will be a huge boost as the Wests Tigers look to upset South Sydney. Earning the New South Wales captaincy in game three, Farahs leadership qualities are up there with best and he isnt afraid to do the hard work shown by his average of 43 tackles per game this season.
Luke has played every game this year for South Sydney, with the New Zealand International being an integral part of their rise to the top. Closing in on 150 NRL games at just 26-years-old, the crafty hooker made his debut in 2007 and has quickly developed into one of the NRLs best number nines. Known for his darting dummy-half runs, Luke is also a solid defender despite standing at just 1.74 metres tall. Last week against the Bulldogs, Luke made 33 tackles with no misses. Wests Tigers will need to watch Luke closely and prevent him capitalising on quick play the balls.
Curtis Sironen v Chris McQueen
Both Curtis Sironen and Chris McQueen are capable of playing numerous positions, but this week find themselves starting in the back-row for their respective teams.
A move to the back-row has seen Sironen excel in recent weeks, scoring two tries in his past two matches. After playing in the halves for the majority of the year, Sironen had a stint on the bench before starting in the back-row last week against the Dragons. As well as scoring a try last week, Sironens quick thinking offload set up Tim Simonas four-pointer right on half time for to a commanding 22-6 lead. Coming up against a monster Rabbitohs pack will be a huge test for Sironen, as he lines up for just his 24th NRL match.
McQueen was somewhat of a surprise selection in this years Queensland side, with the 26-year-old earning a spot in the starting 13 for the decider. Known for his ability to play in both the forwards and backs, McQueen has found a home in the back-row this season. Hard-working in defence, McQueen turned in another solid performance last week making 22 tackles and 88 metres in the win over Canterbury. In the Rabbitohs past four matches, McQueen has played the full 80 minutes.
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