Today’s FREE Horse racing tips: The Betting Spy’s top picks for today’s racing at Ayr, Newbury and Chelmsford

STYLEHUNTER looks good in the Dubai Duty Free Handicap (1.45) at Newbury. 
He has been brought along steadily by soon-to-be-champion trainer John Gosden and was given a two-month break after a fair sixth in the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot.

He appreciated that and looked a different animal when running away with a decent Goodwood handicap last time, hinting that there was much more to come.
The handicapper put him up 8lb but he gets in here with just a 5lb penalty so he clearly should be a major player with Frankie doing the steering.
Gosden has an excellent record in the Cambridgeshire and this race is often an excellent trial for the Newmarket cavalry charge.
That looks to be the plan. Adamant, My Lord And Master and Mountain Angel all have solid claims without having the star potential of Stylehunter.
Derby disappointment Young Rascal can bounce backPA:Press Association
Mirage Dancer looks set to go off favourite for the 2.20.
He was quite impressive when winning a Group 3 event at Glorious Goodwood last time and has the typical progressive profile of a Sir Michael Stoute-trained middle-distance four-year-old.
He could well be too good for last year’s winner Desert Encounter and the other older horses but the unexposed three-year-old YOUNG RASCAL might be a different kettle of fish!
He has not been sighted since the Derby where he was a disappointing seventh after failing to handle the track.

GOLD CUP FEVER Latest odds, tips and TV schedule for the Ayr Gold Cup

But he was sent off 17-2 third favourite that day after impressive wins in the Chester Vase and over today’s course and distance, giving every indication he was potentially a Group 1 performer.
He may have to wait until next season to scale those heights but he can take another step up the ladder by landing this Group 3.
Karl Burke is having another fantastic season, picking up two Group 1s in Ireland last weekend, and he can add to his big-race haul by taking the Mill Reef Stakes with TRUE MASON (2.55).
He was an excellent third (with Marie’s Diamond well behind in seventh) in a Group 1 at Deauville last time, a race won by the top two-year-old filly of the season so far, Pretty Pollyanna.

Betting Spy's top tips for Saturday

1.45 Newbury – Stylehunter
2.15 Chelmsford – Mawaard
2.20 Newbury – Young Rascal
2.55 Newbury – True Mason
3.20 Ayr – Amandine
3.50 Ayr – Terentum Star

There does not look to be anything of similar quality in this line-up.
Shine So Bright was third in the Gimcrack at York last time and sets a solid standard but Burke will have a pretty good idea where True Mason stands with that one as Shine So Bright was with Burke until being sold to King Power Racing and sent to Andrew Balding on the eve of Royal Ascot.
The Irish Rover was only fourth in the Gimcrack and has since been beaten in Doncaster’s big sales race so Kessaar, who ran away with a decent event on Kempton’s Polytrack last time, could be a bigger threat.
The Ayr Gold Cup is the highlight of the Flat racing year in Scotland – and probably in the head offices of the major bookmakers!

I spy an eyecatcher…

SURREY THUNDER made a storming debut in the 1m novice event at Sandown on Wednesday.
He was very green in the parade ring and, as odds of 33-1 indicate, little was expected of Joe Tuite’s juvenile in what looked like a warm race.
But he ran a cracker, staying on to be third despite not getting the best of runs after being trapped against the rail.
As the first two home, trained by Messrs Hannon and Gosden, had already shown a fair level of ability the form is almost certainly solid.  And, with improvement virtually assured, Surrey Thunder is a name to note.

As ever it looks near-impossible, but when did that stop us having a crack? TERENTUM STAR (3.50) will carry a little of my each-way cash.
He is best on soft ground and won a very good race at York last autumn off just 1lb less than the mark he runs off here.
He was fancied for the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon last time but lost all chance when stumbling out of the stalls.
Given a level break he should go well and trainer Kevin Ryan has won this three times in the last seven years. As for dangers, there are around 24 of them!

GET ON TREND Who will win the Ayr Gold Cup this Saturday?

AMANDINE (3.20) is the standout bet on the Newmarket card.
She was second at Ascot two weeks ago in a red-hot race, the form of which was well and truly franked when the third and fourth finished third and first in a Listed race at Yarmouth on Wednesday.
Amandine is just 2lb higher now and the opposition is nowhere near as strong as she faced last time.
Chelmsford have put on another excellent Saturday card and MAWAARD is the most interesting horse on show in the 2.15.

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He has been really impressive on his last two starts at Kempton, last time defeating the well-regarded Godolphin four-year-old Dayking (runs in the 2.20 at Ayr where he is weighted to go close but the testing ground in a worry) with the third 12 lengths behind.
The rest were strung out like the finish of a three-mile chase at Chepstow! On heavy ground!
Purely on that bare form Mawaard looks fairly treated on a mark of 96 and this lightly-raced three-year-old could turn out to be much better than a handicapper.

 

Templegate’s horse racing tips: Ayr and Newbury – Top betting preview for TODAY’S ITV racing

AYR
2.00
FIRE BRIGADE is a flaming good bet. He’s yet to hit the target this summer but the heat wave has been no good to this soft-ground lover.
Fire Brigade can get us off to a good startPA:Press Association
There’s been nothing wrong with his form recently in races that haven’t set up for his hold-up style. With conditions in his favour things should pan out better today.
Gulf Of Poets beat my fancy on soft ground at Haydock in April. He’s 10lbs worse off today and didn’t run too well when returning from a summer break at Ripon last month.
Chatez was runner-up behind Fire Brigade at Leicester when returning from two-and-a-half years off the track last October.
He’s only been seen once since – over hurdles – and has clearly had his problems.
Well-bred Dayking looks a great prospect. He won a Catterick novice race in May and only went down by head when returning from a break at Kempton last month.
It’s hard to be confident he will be at his best on testing ground.
Borodin won a good little race on soft ground at Thirsk last time. He’s got more races in him and he could easily play a hand today.
It’s a big ask for Dolphin Vista to come out two days after his Listed Doonside Cup success under such a big weight on testing ground.

GET ON TREND Who will win the Ayr Gold Cup this Saturday?

2.40
AL QAHWA looks solid Silver. He started the season well when runner-up at Ripon but the quicker ground in the summer checked his progress.
Last weekend’s effort at the Curragh was a step in the right direction and today’s softer ground should be ideal.
David O’Meara’s hope is now at his lowest handicap rating since making a successful British debut at York last season.
His second to my Gold Cup fancy Flying Pursuit last season also makes him nicely weighted and he’s got plenty of form in big-field handicaps.
The ground is also the key to stablemate Cold Stare. He stormed through from the rear to win over 7f at Haydock last time.
That stamina is likely to come in handy but I’m not convinced he’s the right type for this sort of race.
Quick Look is in the form of his life but his hat-trick bid would need another career-best performance.
I can see Clive Cox’s pair running well. Snazzy Jazzy – unbeaten in three runs last season – has taken time to find his form this year.
Last month’s Goodwood sixth was better and he is proven on today’s soft ground.
Stablemate Louie De Palma is falling in the weights after some uninspiring efforts but I’m sure he has a race in him. If he handles the ground he could go well at a big price.

Templegate's TV tips

1.45 Newbury – Mountain Angel: ‘Today’s track should suit him much better’
2.00 Ayr – Fire Brigade: ‘With conditions in his favour he has a big chance’
2.20 Newbury – Desert Encounter: ‘In top form and this is his level’
2.40 Ayr – Al Qahwah: ‘Back to form with a good effort at the Curragh last week’
2.55 Newbury – True Mason: ‘Karl Burke is in flying form and this colt looks up to this’
3.15 Ayr – Firelight: ‘This looks easier than her recent tasks’
3.30 Newbury – El Astronaute: ‘Never runs a bad race and in the mix again’
3.50 Ayr – Flying Pursuit: ‘Loves the mud and is a course and distance winner already’

3.15
FIRELIGHT has the spark to land the William Hill Firth Of Clyde Stakes.
She wandered around in the closing stages but showed plenty of fight to give weight to some promising fillies from big yards at Newmarket in August.
That was a rare weekend when rain turned the ground soft and it’s a big help to be proven on today’s conditions.
Her two runs since have come on quicker going in Group races and she’s not been at all disgraced despite circumstances conspiring against her.
This is an ideal opportunity for her with Andrew Balding still going really well.
Queen Of Bermuda looks ready for the step up to 6f.
She won a French Listed prize before crossing the Channel again to chase home subsequent Flying Childers hero Soldier’s Call in a Group 3.
The easy ground could be the key to her and she looks the big danger.
Glass Slippers is a good prospect but her form is not as good. She overcome traffic problems to win at Chester but she does need to prove she’s up to this level.
Flying Pursuit (yellow) will love conditions at AyrGetty Images – Getty
3.50
PUT your William Hill Ayr Gold Cup faith in a Flying machine. Conditions have come right for mud-lover FLYING PURSUIT.
The hot summer has been no good for Tim Easterby’s speedster but he took advantage of a rare wet spell when successful at York in July.
He was second home of the stands’ side group when sixth behind Gunmetal in the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon last month and I fancy him to turn those tables on the easier ground.
My fancy was a course-and-distance winner last season and he will take some stopping if getting to the lead on the far side.
Kevin Ryan has won this race three times in the last seven years. He’s fires four bullets at this year’s prize and I reckon Tommy Taylor could be the pick of them.
He won a York Listed race last season and he bounced back from some ordinary efforts when a close third at Ascot a couple of weeks ago. He’s still nicely treated.
It’s not surprising Son Of Rest has been well backed in the ante-post market. He was only beaten half-a-length by Havana Grey in the Group 1 Flying Five at the Curragh last week.
I’m just not sure he’s anywhere near as good over 6f and the testing ground could easily stretch his stamina beyond breaking point.
Perfect Pasture, Muntadab, Major Jumbo and G Force are others capable of running well.

GOLD CUP FEVER Latest odds, tips and TV schedule for the Ayr Gold Cup

NEWBURY
1.45
MOUNTAIN ANGEL should continue to climb the ranks. He bolted up in the manner of a smart prospect at Ascot in May and he’s put in some solid efforts since.
Roger Varian’s ace found all sorts of trouble when a fast-finishing second at Sandown three weeks ago.
Today’s flatter track and long straight should suit him much better and any more rain would help his chance.
Adamant hasn’t stood much racing. His Salisbury win was his only start of last season and he returned from a three-month break this term to score at Chelmsford.
He got an easy lead that day and I can’t see him getting such a soft time today.
Stylehunter did well to finish sixth in the Britannia at Royal Ascot considering he raced further back than ideal. That was sandwiched by wide-margin wins and this definitely looks his right trip.
Beringer is wonderfully consistent. He should run another sound race and York winner Pivoine is another with obvious claims.
Roger Varian can strike with Mountain AngelGetty Images – Getty
2.20
DESERT ENCOUNTER should give David Simcock his fourth straight win in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup.
The hat-trick was completed by my fancy 12 months ago to add to impressive record outside Group 1 races.
He’s never been able to cut it at the top level but he made no mistake in a Windsor Listed race last month. It’s hard to see how he won’t go well.
Mirage Dancer is sure to be popular after a smooth Goodwood win in the Group 3 Glorious Stakes.
The penalty he picks up for that win makes life a little tricky and I’m not sure the slight drop in trip will help.
I was tempted to chance Young Rascal. There was a lot to like about the way he booked his Derby ticket with victory in the Chester Vase when seeing off Dee Ex Bee and Hunting Horn.
It was therefore disappointing to see him finished a well-beaten seventh at Epsom. He’s been off since and it’s far too early to be writing him off.

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2.55
STAY True in the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes. TRUE MASON was up against it in France last month when trying to give weight to top fillies Pretty Pollyanna and Signora Cabello.
That was a decent effort to finish third especially as he was switched off in the rear in a contest dominated by the prominent racers.
This slightly calmer waters and he should give in-form Karl Burke another Group prize.
Shine So Bright has been running well in Group 2 races since making a winning debut at Nottingham.
His third behind Emaraaty Ana in the Gimcrack at York was sound enough but I’m not sure that was the strongest race for the grade.
He also has it to find with True Mason on a line through Richmond Stakes winner Land Force.
Kessaar looks John Gosden’s first string with Frankie Dettori in the saddle. He was impressive in a Kempton Group 3 a couple of weeks ago but he might well be at his best on the all-weather.
Garrus didn’t beat much at Newcastle last month but he shouldn’t be beaten with that stick. He’s a nice prospect and he could easily be up to this level.
Gimcrack fourth The Irish Rover had the form to win a valuable sales race at Doncaster last week so it was disappointing to see him check out tamely in the closing stages. He’s not progressing.
El Astronaute (right) continues to run well and is bound to be involved againPA:Press Association
3.30
EL ASTRONAUTE is out of this world. He’s used his terrific pace to develop into a smart sprinter this season with a couple of wins at York and a string of good efforts.
There’s no doubt he’s got the potential to win a race at this Group 3 level. He was only beaten a head in a Listed contest at Doncaster last week on ground softer than he cares for.
As long as there’s no more significant rain he should have a good chance with Frankie Dettori in the saddle.
Sioux Nation will find this easier than some of the tough gigs he’s been on this season.
Four of his last five races came in Group 1 contests and the other was when taking on lightning-fast Battaash at Goodwood.
He wasn’t beaten far when third at the Curragh last weekend but it will not be easy for this three-year-old to give weight to older horses.
Take Cover was fifth in that Irish Group 1. He’s getting on a bit but still has tremendous pace as he showed when winning the Beverley Bullet earlier in the month.
He’s another who could do with the wind drying the ground out.
Equilateral didn’t achieve much when landing a three-runner race from the front at Leicester and he’d earlier had his limitations exposed in Group races.

AYR
1.25 Caballero
2.00 Fire Brigade (nb)
2.40 Al Qahwa (nap)
3.15 Firelight
3.50 Flying Pursuit
4.25 Mafaaheem
4.55 Stamp Hill
5.30 Fools And Kings
CATTERICK
1.50 Napanook
2.25 Five Helmets
3.00 Dr Richard Kimble
3.35 Kalissi
4.10 India
4.45 Preacher Man
5.20 Naples Bay
5.50 Admiral Rooke
CHELMSFORD
1.40 Brian Epstein
2.15 Poet’s Society
2.50 Anasheed
3.25 Lord Riddiford
4.00 Eternal Destiny
4.35 Archimento
5.05 Swordbill
NEWBURY
1.15 Phosphor
1.45 Mountain Angel (treble)
2.20 Desert Encounter
2.55 True Mason
3.30 El Astronaute
4.05 Coup De Gold
4.40 Nathan
5.15 Jackpot Royal
NEWMARKET
2.10 El Gumryah
2.45 Game Player
3.20 Amandine
3.55 Coeur De Lion
4.30 Rotherwick
5.00 Hameem
5.35 Captain Colby
WOLVERHAMPTON
5.10 Fly True
5.45 Langley Vale
6.15 Comete
6.45 Big Brave Bob
7.15 We Know
7.45 Howardian Hills
8.15 Felix The Poet
8.45 Javelin

Don’t miss 32Red ambassador Jamie Spencer’s latest column on his weekend rides at Newmarket

The multi-award winning online casino 32Red are the most prolific sponsor of British Racing. Every week at the 32Red blog you can read Brand Ambassadors Jamie Spencer, Josephine Gordon and Luke Morris’ thoughts on their prominent rides and the hot topics in Flat Racing, as well as get unrivalled access to Jump’s biggest names in Paddy Brennan and Adrian Heskin.
I’M back on familiar territory with a busy day at my local track today after a trip to Canada last weekend.
I’ve got five rides at Newmarket with some nice chances so I’m hoping it will work out better than the first day at Woodbine.

It turned into a bit of a nightmare. They usually go steady on the turf track there so we were expecting it to be ideal for Hawkbill. It didn’t pan out that way.
Lord Glitters had a treacherous journey getting there, he got stuck in Amsterdam for three days.
He never settled down. He ran his race beforehand. He was tense going to post and wasted energy.
It all worked out in the end as I won a Grade 1 on La Pelosa for Charlie Appleby the following day.

RACECARDS Get all the form you need to help you find those winners

Today I kick off on a well-bred filly called STORMY ROAD (2.10).
She ran well first time out when runner-up at Newmarket and then won her second start at Brighton.
She is giving away a 3lbs penalty but hopefully her experience will cover that. I’ve not sat on her but I’ve seen her a few times and she’s going well. The mile will suit and she’s a nice stayer in the making.
AMANDINE (3.20) has been placed a lot and that’s means she’s on a career-high handicap mark.

She went up another couple of pounds for running well at Ascot last time.
David Egan thought she would have won had she not hit the front too soon. That was a deeper race so hopefully we can time it right.
HANDIWORK (3.55) hasn’t run since April but that doesn’t bother me. He seems to do his winning after a break.
He has been difficult to train and Steve Gollings has done well. His last two wins came in the same race at Doncaster a year apart.
He’s up in the weights but we know two things about him, he stays and he can run well fresh.
The one to beat is Golden Spear but we’ll give it a good shot.

LATEST IN HORSE RACING

THE BETTING SPY

Don't miss Richard Robinson's top tips for Saturday's racing

FLAMING GOOD BET

Top Tipster Templegate's best bets for the racing today

LOOKING BACK

Matt Chapman talks the superstars to savour and next year's potential diamonds

OUT AND ABOUT WITH ANDY

Andy Ayres has the inside scoop from the tracks this week

KING GEORGE

Top Tipster Steve Mullen's best racing tips for Saturday

GO GLOBAL

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SATURDAY TIPS

Best bets and each-way picks for Saturday's action from the Sun Racing team

BEAT THE BATTAASH

Can Team GB's Adam Gemili beat star sprinter Battaash in a race?

GET ON TREND

Who will win the Ayr Gold Cup this Saturday?

MULLEN IT OVER

Top Tipster Steve Mullen's top racing tips for today's action

GO TO TOWN

Top Tipster Templegate's best bets for the racing today

SHINING STAR

All you need for Ayr Gold Cup day with the Sun Racing preview

SAVING GRACE (5.00) was disappointing when favourite at Leicester last time. I rode her and she was as flat as a pancake.
We didn’t go that fast and she was struggling to lay up, she was beaten a long way out.
She’s a big filly so maybe she was just going through a growing phase.
I galloped her on Wednesday and she feels in good shape. She’s had a break since her last run so hopefully she can get back on track.
Her half-sister was placed in the Oaks so she’s bred to be better than this.
HIGHLAND ACCLAIM (5.35) is  only one pound above his last winning handicap mark. He was a little disappointing at Chester last time but had a wide draw and has been dropped a couple of pounds.
The race fits the horse but I’d prefer it if he was running at Epsom. He’s got some great form around there and Newmarket is the polar opposite to Epsom.

Sydney Roosters vs South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL finals live stream and TV guide

One of the league’s oldest rivalries will reignite on Saturday night when the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs battle for a spot in the 2018 NRL Grand Final. This is The Roar’s guide to watching the game online and on TV.
The match is scheduled for kick-off at 7:40pm (AEST) on Saturday, September 22 at Allianz Stadium.
The Roosters booked their spot in the preliminary finals a fortnight ago when they outlasted the Sharks 21-12. After being installed as premiership favourites before a ball was kicked, Trent Robinson’s men appear to be hitting their straps at the right time.
Robinson knows the third week of the finals all too well. Since 2014, the Roosters have made it all the way to the preliminary finals three times and lost all three, including a 32-22 defeat to the Rabbitohs.
South Sydney won the premiership that year and have struggled since. Yet they finally have a chance to claim glory once more, after overcoming the Dragons 13-12 last week.
While the Rabbitohs may find it tough to topple a committed Roosters outfit, their task is made easier by the fact that Latrell Mitchell and Dylan Napa will be both be missing as they serve suspensions.
How to watch the game on TV
Fox League will have Foxtel subscribers covered with all the action from Saturday night’s game.
While Channel Nine will have exclusive rights to next week’s Grand Final, Foxtel customers can tune into Channel 502 this week to catch the second preliminary final.
Fox League will also be broadcasting the game in high definition on Channel 256, although this is only available if you have the relevant package.
Regardless, you will still need a valid Foxtel TV subscription complete with the sports package.
Free-to-air viewers can also catch Saturday night’s game. It will be available through the Nine Network in both high and standard definition on channels 90 and 91 respectively.
Channel Nine’s coverage will also be available for Foxtel customers on channels 209 and 100.
If you are hoping to watch the clash on free-to-air television, broadcast times may differ according to what regional area you are in. To make sure of times, check out your local listings on 9Go, 9Gem and Southern Cross TV.
How to watch the game online
Watching the game online is pretty easy too.
Foxtel subscribers can tune into Saturday night’s game through the online application Foxtel Now.
Alternatively, if you aren’t a Foxtel customer with a TV subscription, you can sign up for the Foxtel App. This service is not free though.
Those living outside of Australia can also catch the game through the online streaming service Watch NRL.
Another option is Channel Nine’s streaming application 9Now. It’s free to use but you will need a valid login and email to access this service.
If none of those choices appeal, you can always follow the game through the NRL Digital Pass.
Otherwise, we have your back here at The Roar with our own dedicated live blog and highlights.

NRL Judiciary hand down shock Billy Slater finding

Melbourne Storm champion Billy Slater has been hit with a grade 1 charge, which would see him banned from the upcoming grand final.
Slater was penalised during the Storm’s win over the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks for a try-saving shoulder charge on Sosaia Feki during the first half.
The NRL Judiciary’s findings mean that even if Slater was to make an early plea, he would still be suspended.
Slater will all but certainly challenge the finding, given he has nothing left to lose, having announced his retirement earlier this year.
“It’s pretty hard to make a conventional tackle when you’re going across at top speed trying to save a try like that,” Slater said after the Storm’s win.
“It was just a collision.”

Messages Showing Numbers, Not Contact Names? Fix

Recently, I was having this problem: Every time when I receive a message , the message app was showing its phone number instead of its contact name even though I had saved the contact information of this particular person in my iPhone. For example, I had a friend named Selma and her number was (217) XXX XXXX. I saved her (this number) as Selma. However when Selma sent a message, it was showing her number, (217) XXX XXX and not her name, Selma, even she was listed.
I was able to fix this problem. This short article explains how I was able to fix this. If you are having this problem, this article will teach you how you can troubleshoot it.  Here is how:
Phone numbers instead of Contact names (iOS devices)
Please note that we explained this issue before when users were having a very similar problem with then-new iOS 9 update. Please read that article also. If you are still having issues, then please try the following tips:

It seems that iCloud Contacts may cause this. If this is the case, here is you can fix it:

On your iPhone or iPad tap Settings > Your Name > iCloud and then turn off Contacts (you will be asked what you would like to do with the previously synced iCloud contacts on your device. Select Delete) and wait a few seconds and turn it back on (when you are asked select Merge). 

Restart your device. You can restart your device by going to Settings > General > Shut Down and start again.
Force quit the messages app and open again. To close the app (if your device have a Home button), double press the Home button, and swipe up the Messages app. If your device does not have a Home button, e.g, iPhone X, swipe up from the home screen and then swipe up the Messages app. And then reopen the Messages app.
Go to Settings > Messages and turn off MMS Messaging (under the SMS/MMS section) and then turn back on.
Try to disabling Short Name. Please tap Settings > Contacts > Short Name and toggle it off. Please note that Short Name is turned on by default. Short Name lets you see your contacts’ first names (or last name or nick name depending on your settings) instead of the full name.
Check the contact number. Make sure it is in this format: + country code (area code) phone number (like: +1 217 721 0000) if it is not in this format, change it and fit in this format. This may be an issue especially if you have international contacts saved. You may want to do this because your iOS device may not recognize it. Here is how you can change a contact name and number:

Open Contacts
Tap the name of the contact that you would like to change its number
Tap the Edit button (upper right corner)
Tap the number field
Make your changes
and then finally tap Done (upper right corner)

See also:

iPhone Not Showing Recent and Missed Calls
Block No Caller ID

If none of the tips works for you, then you may want to contact Apple support. You can chat or meet with a Genius.
The post Messages Showing Numbers, Not Contact Names? Fix appeared first on macReports.

West Coast Eagles vs Melbourne Demons AFL finals live stream and TV guide

Competition’s surprise packets the West Coast Eagles and Melbourne Demons battle it out for a spot in the 2018 AFL Grand Final. This is The Roar’s guide to watching the game online and on TV.
The match is scheduled to begin at 3:20pm (AEST) on Saturday, September 22 at Optus Stadium.
After a disappointing end to their 2017 season, where they were bundled out in the semi-finals following a 67-point loss to the Giants, the Eagles are getting closer to securing their first flag since 2006.
West Coast progressed through to the preliminary finals after a hard-fought 86-70 win over Collingwood a fortnight ago.
They have prospered in 2018 on the back of an emphasis on ball control and will need to be at their best to limit Melbourne’s chances of getting into the game.
The AFL can’t really lose out of this game, with a Demons victory setting up a possible fairytale finish in next week’s grand final.
After just missing out on a finals berth last year, Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin looks to have successfully rebuilt the club and they are now a real chance of claiming their first title since 1964.
They also have the strike to cause an upset with midfielder Jack Viney’s dynamic return proving pivotal to their finals success.
How to watch on TV
Fox Footy Channel 504 is the place to catch all the highlights from the preliminary finals.
You can also tune into the game in high definition on channel 258 but you will need the relevant Foxtel package.
For those Foxtel subscribers who would rather watch Seven’s coverage, you can catch the game on channels 107 and 207 for both standard and high definition viewing.
Regardless, you will obviously need a valid Foxtel TV subscription if you wish to watch Saturday afternoon’s game.
Of course, free-to-air viewers can catch all of the games from this year’s finals series on the Seven Network, although the exact channel each match will be shown on may vary depending on what region you are situated in.
If you can’t find either of this week’s preliminary finals on Channel Seven, they will likely be shown on digital back-up channels 7mate and Seven Two. These can be found on channels 73 and 72 respectively.
Channel Seven will be covering the game in both high and standard definition on channels 70 and 71 respectively.
If you are unsure about the exact times, make sure to check your local guides.
Where to watch the game online
Watching the game online is just as easy and there are several ways you can watch Saturday afternoon’s match.
The first alternative is through either of Foxtel’s live streaming applications. There are two applications you may choose from, either Foxtel Now or the Foxtel App.
You can also use the AFL’s Live Pass service to tune into the match online if you have the AFL app on Android, iOS or Windows mobile devices.
This service isn’t free, however, with a monthly pass available for around $14.99 per month while a weekly pass can be purchased at $4.99 per month.
If you are overseas and hoping to tune into the clash, you can do so through Watch AFL.
Of course, here at The Roar we will have all you need with a live blog of the game as well as highlights as we count down towards next week’s decider.

Five talking points from Collingwood vs Richmond

One of the pitfalls of being employed in sports media is that sometimes it’s easy to get too wrapped up in the work of providing coverage of sporting events and forget to enjoy the sport itself.
Another is that if your work involves forecasting results, it can almost be frustrating when things don’t go the way you expect – not because you’re at all wedded to your predictions, but simply because you take pride in your work.
These are both traps I’ve fallen into at times in 2018, but neither of them got me last night. Collingwood’s shock 39-point win to put themselves into a grand final and eliminate the flag favourites from finals was the kind of tour de force that simply demands your enraptured attention and deals away with all else.
It’s funny the way football works that history will be re-written pretty quick and pundits will be quick to point out all the red flags which should have tipped us off that a result like this was coming. And to be fair, in retrospect, they were there.
In my Sunday column at the end of Round 23 I pointed out that while Richmond were coming into finals on a six-game winning streak, three of their last four had been won by eight points or less.
The theory that it’s good for a premiership contender to have a loss somewhere in those last few games took another scalp on Friday night. The three teams left in the race – Collingwood, Melbourne and West Coast – all lost at least one of their last four home-and-away games.
In the same column I ranked Richmond’s fellow finals sides in order of how likely they were to topple the Tigers, and put Collingwood in first. My reasoning: “the Magpies have both the power and the confidence to upset the Tigers on the big stage.”
And in this week’s tips I said “If anything the finals series so far would suggest that September has favoured more those teams with potential than experience”, something I believe was true for both Collingwood and Melbourne this week.
Look at me trying to make myself sound smart. Don’t buy into it! I still tipped the Tigers. And these few moments where I thought a result like this could happen are needles carefully picked from a haystack of predictions that back-to-back flags for the Tigers was a fait accompli.
That however is the most beautiful thing about footy: its ability to deliver the unexpected. To paraphrase what Gandalf said about hobbits, you can learn everything there is to know about the game in a month, and after a hundred years it can still surprise you.
Last night’s game was the kind to make me fall in love with footy all over again, for perhaps the hundredth time if not the thousandth. It’s only a day on, but it was a match you know you’ll remember and speak about in hushed tones for decades to come, and even the most ardent Collingwood hater surely got swept up in it.
(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)
De Goey and Cox deliver
Let’s fast forward back to Round 1 for a moment.
Mason Cox played a stinker of a game against Hawthorn and around the media, everyone was asking the question of whether it was time for Collingwood to end the American experiment.
Meanwhile, Jordan De Goey was sitting in the stands, unable to play due to injury but would likely have missed even if fit as punishment for a drink driving incident in the pre-season.
Who could have predicted that in six months’ time they’d kick a combined seven goals to deliver a grand final berth to a team that had finished a lowly 13th the year before?
Simply the stuff of legend.
Lynch watches nervously on
Gold Coast free agent Tom J Lynch is a Collingwood supporter born and raised but like most AFL players, put his allegiances firmly aside when he entered the league.
So much so that this year when given a choice between his childhood club and the reigning premiers, he made what many would think was the smart, rational decision and picked the Tigers (expect confirmation of this any day now).
How must he have felt last night then, watching the team he loved in his youth, a team he could be playing for next year if he wanted to, so thoroughly defeat the side he’s selected?
We’re probably over dramatising it a bit. But he’d only be human if he was having some second thoughts.
Treloar’s revenge
And speaking of players choosing between the Pies and the Tigers – after copping 12 months of flak, Adam Treloar is into a grand final.
Treloar of course famously said in a pre-season camp in November 2015 that he’d chosen Collingwood over Richmond because the Magpies had a better playing list.
It’s the kind of media-managed comment that means literally nothing but of course in the otherwise mostly barren media month of November it blew up, and when Tigers fans won the 2017 flag they certainly had neither forgiven nor forgotten.
It must have felt extra sweet then for Adam Treloar in the final quarter of last night’s match to deliver the killing blow – kicking a goal to end an early run in that term from the Tigers and put to bed any hopes of an unlikely comeback.
(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Here comes a great grand final
The best part about last night’s result is that now no matter which way Saturday’s prelim between West Coast and Melbourne goes, we’re guaranteed an exciting grand final.
Taking the Tigers out of the race means there are three teams left who are all arguably on level footing or at least very close to.
The Magpies will either play West Coast who would come in with confidence remembering that they gave Collingwood a flogging at the MCG earlier this year, or meet Melbourne in a fairytale lover’s perfect match between the Flagpies and the Dreamons.
Either way after so long thinking of this year’s race for the premiership as being between Richmond and the rest of the world, it’s refreshing and exciting to see this sudden and unexpected turn of events. I can’t wait.

Seven talking points from Melbourne Storm vs Cronulla Sharks NRL preliminary final

The Melbourne Storm are the first team into the NRL grand final after cruising past the Cronulla Sharks in the first preliminary final at home. Here are my talking points from the match.
Should Billy Slater be suspended?
This is a really, really tough one.
If you look at other examples of shoulder charges and the letter of the law, he might be in a lot of trouble.
At the end of the day, Slater tucked the arm and made absolutely no attempt to tackle Feki, who probably would have scored in the corner without Slater doing what he did.
And while it wasn’t dangerous in the slightest, it was a shoulder charge.
Yet, this is the grand final, and you’d hate to see a player rubbed out for something like that.
The base penalty for a bottom grade shoulder charge is a suspension, so Slater is in a lot of trouble if the match review committee find him guilty.
Was this a shoulder charge from Billy Slater?
Given Latrell Mitchell was suspended for his ugly crusher tackle and Greg Inglis only avoided a suspension because of no carryover points, the precedent is there. And who can forget Cameron Smith being rubbed out of the 2008 grand final as the Storm went onto lose 40-0 to Manly, while Issac Luke missed the 2014 decider because of a dangerous throw?
Slater defended himself post-match.
“I was coming across at speed and actually thought Sosaia Feki was going to step back on the inside. It was a collision in the end,” Slater said after full-time,” he said.
“It was one of those things where both players were running at speed to get to a position.
“It would have been an awkward place to place my head if I had to duck down. There was no malice in it, I don’t think.”
The NRL have a huge decision to make – one I don’t envy one bit, but, if we are sticking to the rules, it’s worthy of a suspension.
» Update: Billy Slater has been handed a Grade 1 charge by the Match Review Committee.
Can anyone stop Melbourne?
Whether Slater plays or not will have a huge bearing on the answer to this question.
He is the key to any match the Storm play and proved his worth again last night, going out at the absolute top of his game.
When it comes to big matches, there is no one better and his combination with Cameron Smith is fantastic at the worst of times as they inspire their team to a level beyond what they should be capable of.
But even without Slater, the Storm are going to be hard to beat. Jahrome Hughes would be an excellent replacement, the kicking game and competitiveness of Smith still exists, the coaching of Craig Bellamy isn’t going away and the combination Cameron Munster and Brodie Croft have built is still going to be there.
More importantly, their forward pack, one of the best in the game is still going to exist.
If Slater is there, no one can stop Melbourne, which would have been the way in 2016 had he played and certainly made all the difference last year.
If he isn’t there, well, there is a chance Melbourne won’t go back-to-back.
Billy Slater of the Storm (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)
Luke Lewis – what a career
Before we go any further, let’s give a massive shoutout to Luke Lewis.
The second rower will hang up the boots following the Sharks’ loss last night, but he never deserved to go out behind on the scoreboard, and it was fitting he was the only Cronulla player with a try to his name at fulltime.
Try as he might, he simply couldn’t get Cronulla over the line last night, and by his own admission, would probably admit it wasn’t his finest night on a footy field.
Despite that, you always knew what you were going to get out of Lewis. Every time he stepped on the field, no matter where he was playing, what the circumstance was or how the game was going, you knew you were getting 100 per cent and a solid performance.
He never let anyone down did Lewis and deserves to be celebrated heading into retirement after a fantastic career.
Cameron Smith is still a master out of dummy half
While Slater is a gun – one of the best players to ever step foot on a rugby league field – he is made that much better by Cameron Smith, who seems to improve every player around him.
Whether it was organisation, picking the right plays or his incredibly good kicking game out of dummy half, he didn’t put a foot wrong last night.
I wasn’t counting, but it’s easy to pick at least three or four times Smith turned the tired Cronulla forwards around with a long-range kick, forcing Holmes to work it out of his own end and the backs to burn through plays as the forwards tried to get back onside.
Cameron Smith of the Storm (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Smith is the best dummy half kicker in the competition, and he proved it again last night.
Not just his long-range game either, with a sensational grubber kick for Billy Slater to score his second try of the game on the stroke of halftime.
That try all but sunk the Sharks, and the situational awareness to get the kick away was brilliant.
Cronulla’s halves and Holmes went missing
It was a rough night for Cronulla, and as the old saying goes, if you’re forwards aren’t in the battle, the halves may as well be in the dressing room.
While the forwards did get battered up the middle last night by Melbourne, the kicking game from Chad Townsend was particularly poor.
Even when they did get opportunities at the line, the chime in from Matt Moylan also wasn’t good enough.
Too often, they would pick out Billy Slater, take the wrong option or just put in a plain bad kick.
The impact of Valentine Holmes was also greatly diminished last night. He had some good returns from fullback after kicks, but a solid kick chase from the Storm all night kept him trapped and his popping up in support play or creation for himself was extremely limited.
After such a good game against the Panthers last week, it’s frustrating to try and work out why they were polar opposite this time around, and if the Sharks are to do anything next year, it’s a major issue they must address.
Melbourne’s forwards are hard to stop
If there was one point that could be made about the week off, it’s the obvious impact it had on the battle of the forwards.
While Cronulla were very brave in their efforts, playing understrength and busted up, the Storm dominated them in the middle third of the field all night long.
Whether it was big runs from Dale Finucane, Tim Glasby and Nelson Asofa-Solomona off the bench through the middle, or Joe Stimson chiming in from the edges, it seemed everytime the Storm needed a boost throughout the game, they would get it.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sharks had some very gallant efforts – Matt Prior was strong, and so was Aaron Woods after being called up to the starting side. Bukuya was reliable off the bench as well, but they just couldn’t match what Melbourne were throwing down.
The average metres per run prove the point.
Melbourne had 1,433 metres from 158 runs. Cronulla, 1,416 from 191. That’s a substantial difference in average per run and tells you why the hosts were able to build pressure despite not dominating possession.
Dale Finucane of the Storm celebrates with Cameron Smith (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
This is the end of Cronulla’s premiership window
The Sharks are always a side who are going to be there and about under Shane Flanagan, but this might be the end of their premiership window. It started in 2016, continued for three seasons and probably won’t in 12 months time.
Cronulla have proven the doubters wrong before. A majority thought 2017 was going to be a rough year after losing Michael Ennis, but they had a pretty strong season, as they have done this year.
So, while I don’t want to write them off, I’m saying they won’t be winning the competition.
Not only do they lose Luke Lewis, but Paul Gallen is another year older and may need a bit of luck to last the 25 rounds, Matt Prior is getting on, Jesse Ramien and Ricky Leutele are leaving the club and more importantly Luke Lewis has reired.
What the Sharks have had is a dream run. Maybe they can eek out one more year with Gallen still around, but they rely on their back row heavily, and without wanting to hurt Sharks fans, they won’t be in this position next year.
Roarers, what did you make of the match? Drop a comment below and let us know.

Roosters vs Rabbitohs: The ultra definitive NRL preliminary final stats preview

7:40pm, Saturday 22 September, Alliance Stadium. This is the last rugby league game at this ground.
In 31 seasons there have been some cracking games at Allianz Stadium. The Roosters featured in the very first game here, a 24-14 loss to the Dragons in round one 1988.
The second game at the ground was a 16-14 win to the Rabbitohs over the Roosters.
Now – after 708 games of top grade rugby league, including international and State of Origin matches – the old SFS will host its last league game. It is fitting that a ground that sits in the no man’s land between the Souths and Roosters turf should host this game as its finale.
This game pits the season’s best defensive side against the year’s best attacking side.
However, the crucial factor in this game is carry over points. Greg Inglis had none, so he’ll play in spite of his crusher tackle. Latrell Mitchel conversely had some and will sit out suspended.
That Inglis will be there – with his outstanding experience and leadership – while Mitchell and his stellar attacking game won’t is likely to be the crucial factor that decides this game.
Let’s look at why.
Defence
Team Stats – average per game 2018
Team stats

Stat
Roosters
Rabbitohs
Difference

Line breaks conceded
3.3 (#2 NRL)
3.6 (#4 NRL)
+0.4 Rabbitohs

Missed tackles
21.5 (#1 NRL)
25
+3.5 Rabbitohs

Tries conceded
2.2 (#1 NRL)
3
+0.8 Rabbitohs

Errors
10.8 (#14 NRL)
10.4
+0.4 Roosters

Meters conceded
1400.5
1344.7
+58.8 Roosters

Penalties conceded
8.1
8.3
+0.2 Rabbitohs

Offloads
11.1 (#16 in NRL)
8.6 (#3 NRL)
+2.5 Roosters

With the exception of their errors and offloads conceded, Easts have been the number one defensive side this season. While in no way miles ahead of the Rabbitohs, the tricolours consistency in defence is notable.
Further, if offloads conceded were a telling defensive stat how is it that the number one defensive side would be worst in that category?
Maybe it is about the quality of the offloads I guess, and the Bunnies have quality offloads.
Player Stats

Stat
Roosters
Rabbitohs

Tackles made
J. Friend – 42.9
R. Matterson – 30.7
B. Cordner – 26.8

D. Cook – 38.6
A. Crichton – 30.7
C. Murray – 28.5
S. Burgess – 28.2

Missed tackles
J. Friend – 2.1
L. Keary – 2
B. Cordner – 2
V. Radley – 1.9
S. Burgess – 3.2
D. Gagai – 3.1
D. Cook – 2.1
T. Burgess – 2

Penalties conceded
L. Mitchell – 1
D. Napa – 0.9
J. Friend – 0.8
J. Waerea-Hargreaves – 0.7
S. Burgess – 1.1
A. Crichton – 1.1
G. Burgess – 0.9
A. Reynolds – 0.8
C. Murray – 0.8

Errors
B. Ferguson – 1.3
D. Tupou – 1.3
L. Keary – 1.2
J. Tedesco – 1.2
A. Reynolds – 1.3
C. Walker – 1.2
S. Burgess – 1.2
A. Crichton – 1.1

There are some awesome defenders in both of these sides. Jake Friend is tackling crazy and Damien Cook is not far behind him. Where Sam Burgess’ and Dane Gagai’s missed tackles are a worry for the Rabbits – and they will be targeted – no Rooster is a liability in the defensive line.
Here is one advantage for the Roosters of Latrell Mitchell and Dylan Napa being out: they are the club’s worst penalty conceders. A bit of cold comfort there really.
From these stats, the Roosters are highly likely to win the penalty count. Gus Crichton and Sam Burgess will concede them.
Further, Sam Burgess and Crichton will make errors. He has been averaging four missed tackles and two errors a game over the last six games.
Conversely, the Roosters errors are predominantly committed in attack, not in their own red zone – as evidenced by their leading error merchants.
Attack
Team Stats – average per game 2017

Stat
Roosters
Rabbitohs
Difference

Line breaks
4.6 (#5 in NRL
5.8 (#1 NRL)
+1.2 Rabbitohs

Tackle breaks
27.8
29.2
+1.4 Rabbitohs

Tries scored
3.7 (#3 in NRL)
4 (#1 in NRL)
+0.3 Rabbitohs

Metres made
1446 (#2 NRL)
1460 (#1 NRL)
+14 Rabbitohs

Penalties received
7.8 (#14 NRL)
8.3
+0.5 Rabbitohs

Offloads
6.9
10
+3.1 Rabbitohs

If the Roosters are the season’s best defenders, the Rabbitohs are certainly the year’s best attackers.
When put against each other their strengths virtually nullify each other. The only two things where and real advantage can be gleaned is that the Rabbits overall are 69 metres and 5.5 offloads to the good of the Roosters.
Player Stats

Stat
Roosters
Rabbitohs

Tackle breaks
J. Tedesco – 5.7 (#1 NRL)
L. Mitchell – 4.4 (#4 NRL)
D. Tupou – 3.3
B. Ferguson – 3.1
B. Cordner – 1.4
J. Manu – 2.5

D. Gagai – 3.4
D. Cook – 3.1
A. Crichton – 2.8
C. Walker – 2.8
R. Jennings – 2.7

Line breaks
B. Ferguson – 23
J. Tedesco – 19
L. Mitchell – 18
L. Keary – 10
J. Manu – 10

R. Jennings – 18
A. Johnston – 18
C. Walker – 18
C. Graham – 12

Metres gained
B. Ferguson – 189 (#1 NRL)
J. Tedesco – 181 (#2 NRL)
D. Tupou – 151 (#6 NRL)
B. Cordner – 113

S. Burgess – 132
R. Jennings – 129
A. Crichton – 117
G. Inglis – 117

Tries scored
B. Ferguson – 17
L. Mitchell – 16
J. Tedesco – 9
J. Manu – 7

R. Jennings -19
C. Walker – 12
G. Inglis – 10
A. Johnston – 8

Try assists
L. Keary – 19
J. Tedesco – 18
C. Cronk – 15

C. Walker – 17
A. Johnston – 14
A. Reynolds – 14
D. Cook – 10

Line break assists
L. Keary – 17
J. Tedesco – 17
C. Cronk – 10
J. Manu – 8

C. Walker – 27
A. Johnston – 18
A. Reynolds – 14
D. Cook – 11

Offloads
J. Tedesco – 1.1
L. Mitchell – 0.9
J. Waerea-Hargreaves – 0.7
R. Matterson – 0.7
J. Manu – 0.6

S. Burgess – 1.7
A. Crichton – 1.5
D. Cook – 1.1

How will the Roosters go without Latrell Mitchell? His tackle breaks, line breaks and tries have been essential to their success this year.
However, look at Blake Ferguson and James Tedesco’s attacking stats – they are awesome. The question is how much positive influence does Mitchell’s presence have on their stats? I think it is a fair bit.
A lot rests on Tedesco, Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary to make up for Mitchell’s absence. They certainly have the credentials to do it too.
Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds are such a huge factor in Souths chances. If they are on song, I believe they will win this game.
However, if they struggle – and they can – their opponents will feed on that. Tedesco was made for matches like this.
The wild card is whether Damien Cook can inject his considerable X-factor from dummy half.
The Danger Men
James Tedesco
The number one tackle breaker and the number two line breaker in the NRL this year. Last outing he made 240 metres and eight tackle breaks, while laying on three line break assists and two try assists. He could bust this match wide open.
Blake Ferguson
He may be leaving the Roosters after this season but he’s giving his all to the club. The number one metre gainer in the NRL this season, he has 17 tries to his name. The only question is whether he can do it without Latrell Mitchell on his inside. The Rabbitohs will be hoping the answer is no.
What can Ferguson achieve without Mitchell? (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Luke Keary
The words – as reportedly delivered by Russell Crowe – “You didn’t earn your money last year” signalled the beginning of Keary’s exit from the Rabbitohs, with whom he won the 2014 premiership.
It is a safe bet that Keary would really love to show Crowe just what his value is in this game. His 19 try assists, 17 line break assists and ten tries in just 21 games this season show he is definitely earning his pay from Uncle Nick this year.
Sam Burgess
I reckon big Sam is going to put all of the distractions behind him and show us all just how good he is at football this week. That will mean huge trouble for the Roosters if I‘m right.
Damien Cook
As above, Cook needs to have a big match here. He must be at his attacking best. I reckon he’s due for a blinder.
Greg Inglis
This will be Inglis’ 24th finals appearance. He has won 15 of those. He has won four out of the five that he has played at centre. As he demonstrated in this year’s Origin series, his leadership and big game experience can be incredibly influential. Expect him to assert his dominance in this game.
Tom and George Burgess
If the Rabbitohs want to win this then the twins must dominate. It is as simple as that. They must hurl their huge bodies at the Roosters pack relentlessly and cause havoc. Will they?
The Burgess brothers must rise. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
The History
The Roosters overall record
This will be the Roosters 2378th competition game. They’ve won 1255 of them (52.8 per cent)
The Rabbitohs overall record
This is the Rabbitohs’ 2372nd game since entering the competition. The have a 52 per cent win rate.
Overall between the sides
No two Australian Rugby league sides have played each other more than these two. Dating back to 1908, this will be the 241st game between the sides in all competitions. Easts have won 110, the Bunnies 124, and there have been six draws.
In the Sydney premiership – and its subsequent iterations – this will be the 219th game between the sides. Souths have won 113, the Roosters 99, and there have been five draws.
The last ten
The Chooks have won six of the last ten. That includes four of the last five. The latest match between the two – round 22 at ANZ Stadium – saw the tricolours run out 18-14 winners. However, the Rabbits were without Campbell Graham, Robert Jennings and Greg Inglis, and the victors had Latrell Mitchell and Dylan Napa playing.
At this Venue
This will be the 39th game between these sides at Allianz Stadium. The Roosters have the upper hand, winning 24 of them (63.1 per cent). The last ten have been split five a piece.
Finals
Here’s a weird stat for you: in spite of the massive number of games these sides have played against each other, this will be only their 11th finals match. So, just 4.6 per cent of their encounters have been finals. Further, this will be only their second finals game against each other in the last 80 seasons.
In 2014, the Rabbitohs beat the Roosters 32-22 in the Preliminary final at ANZ Stadium.
The final before that was on August 27th 1938 at the SCG, with Eastern Suburbs triumphing 19-10. That means the two sides have played each other 167 times in 80 seasons with only one finals game in that time.
Last time these sides played in a prelim, the winner went on to taste the ultimate success. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Robb Cox)
This is the very last game at this stadium and also the first finals game between these two sides here.
Form
By round 11 of this season, the Roosters were sitting in seventh position, having won six and lost five of their games. They only lost three of their remaining 13 games to storm home to the minor premiership.
They’ve played 12 games against the other finalists this season, winning six and losing six. Four of those six losses have come at home. They’ve played other top four sides five times for a three and two record.
The Rabbitohs have won six of their last ten, but three of those losses were against other top eight sides (Sharks, Panthers and Storm).
South Sydney have played 13 matches against the other finalists this season – including the qualifying final and last week’s semi. They’ve lost seven and won six of them. However, against other top four sides they have won three and lost two. Their average score against the other top four sides is a 24-17 win.
The Roosters also have a three and two winning record against the other top four sides but their average score is only an 18-14 win. This suggests a 19-18 win for the Rabbitohs in this game.
Referees
Ashley Klein, Adam Gee
These two have never officiated a Roosters-Rabbitohs game together before, finals or otherwise. This is not surprising, as there has only been one final between these sides in 80 years.
Ashley Klein has run three games between these teams, and Easts have won all three, the last being the 14-12 win here at Allianz in Round 18, 2017.
Adam Gee has run one game. In Round 1, 2016 the Bunnies flogged their rivals 42-10 here at Allianz. There are only five members of the losing side backing up for this match, compared to seven winners.
Klein has controlled 34 Roosters games since 2009. The Roosters have won 19 of them (55.9 per cent). He has controlled 41 Rabbitohs games with the Cardinal and Myrtle winning 20 of them (48.8 per cent).
Adam Gee has controlled 12 Rabbitohs games – including their recent final loss to the Storm – and the Bunnies have won six of them (50 per cent). Under Gee’s control, the Roosters have won five of nine (55.5 per cent).
Finals
The Roosters lost their only finals game they’ve had under Adam Gee. That was last year’s Preliminary Final loss to the Cowboys at the venue. Conversely, the Rabbitohs have lost their only finals match under Ash Klein, their 2015 qualifying loss against the Sharks, also at Allianz Stadium.
Easts’ 40-14 2013 Preliminary final win over the Newcastle Knights was controlled by Klein, and it was also at Allianz Stadium.
Who is going to win and why
The Latrell Mitchell out is a big one, but the minor premiers still have Cronk, Cleary and Tedesco, so it’s not exactly like they are without extreme attacking class.
If that triumvirate gets on to,p then the Roosters will win. However, their pack is not stellar. They are very good and dependable, but they aren’t match winners.
Their opponents’ pack can definitely be match winners.
I’ve felt that this year the Roosters have won matches because their backline venom was so damn good it compensated for their lesser pack.
The removal of Mitchell dampens that venom – and gives the Rabbitohs a target in Joseph Manu.
If Souths are able to put off field distractions out of their minds – if – I think they’ll win narrowly.
Statistically predicted score: Roosters 20.4 – Rabbitohs 19.6
Prediction: Rabbitohs 1-12