South Sydney and Canterbury head into Friday’s potential powder keg showdown desperate to reverse lapses which plagued their first losses of the NRL season last week.
The 2014 grand finalists renew hostilities at ANZ Stadium 12 months on from the infamous “Bad Friday” clash which was marred by Bulldogs’ James Graham and David Klemmer confronting referee Gerard Sutton, culminating in the whistle-blowers being pelted with bottles by fans.
Both sides this week did their best to distance themselves from those memories of a match won 18-17 by the Rabbitohs, but the return clash shapes as a big challenge for different reasons.
The Bulldogs missed a mammoth 37 tackles as a runaway Semi Radradra piloted Parramatta to a 20-6 win over them last week.
Comparatively, in their opening two wins over Manly and Penrith, they missed just 22 tackles combined, according to Fox Sports Stats.
“We were disappointed in those defensive lapses,” said Bulldogs coach Des Hasler on Thursday.
Without star forward Sam Burgess (shoulder/neck) and halfback Adam Reynolds (broken jaw), South Sydney go into the clash as underdogs.
Coach Michael Maguire must find a way to mend the ill discipline which drew 14 penalties in last weekend’s 8-6 defeat to St George Illawarra, the most times a side has been pinged going back to 2014.
He said the Rabbitohs has banished last year’s Good Friday match to the dustbin of history with just eight of his charges having lined up in the same game last year.
“It’s another game now and we’ve got a lot of good performers,” Maguire said.
“Cam McInnes and Damien Cook are combining well at nine and Hymel Hunt is performing, Kirisome Auva’a is coming off the bench and performing well with Nathan Brown.
“It’s about the opportunities that our players are getting at the moment and those sort of things are all history.
“We’re about building the brand of our game at the moment. We want to make sure we’re getting out and playing for each other.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* Going back to last season, Canterbury has lost just two of their past 10 matches.
* Five of the past seven matches between these two sides have been decided by eight points or less, including two by just one point.
* Dogs fullback Will Hopoate has scored in each of his three games this season after he scored only three tries in 19 games for the Eels last season.
Source: Fox Sports Stats