We put our reputation on the line with predictions for every game in another big weekend of NRL action
Parramatta Eels vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @ANZ Stadium, Thursday, 7:50pm
Parramatta come into this clash having had the bye to freshen up, but they hey made light work of rivals St George in their last match winning 24-10 at the same stadium. Canterbury’s woes continued as they lost a tight affair in Auckland going down to the Warriors 21-14. This game represents a massive chance for the Eels to consolidate eighth spot, currently two wins ahead of ninth-placed Penrith.
In for the Eels are Cameron King, David Gower ,Nathan Davis and Tepai Moeroa while Beau Scott and Kaysa Pritchard are out. For Canterbury, Asipeli Fine, Brett Morris ,Francis Tualau and Matt Frawley are in and Greg Eastwood and James Graham are out.
Both Kaysa Pritchard and Isaac De Gois are unavailable for Parramatta, allowing third-choice hooker Cameron King will step into the crucial role for Thursday night’s encounter. He is yet to play this season and he has big shoes to fill. But he’s as tough as they come and should be able to perform.
Why Parramatta will win: Captain James Graham’s absence cannot be underestimated as he is a massive part of any Bulldogs success this season. He gains them valuable metres up through the middle (124m per game). The Eels should have an easy time without him there.
Our Tip: Eels by 12.
Gold Coast Titans vs St George Illawarra Dragons @CBUS Super Stadium, Friday, 6pm
In their last clash the Titans had it easy for most of the game, beating the Tigers 26-14, while the Dragons were made to work hard for their narrow 32-28 win over Newcastle. It’s now or never for the Gold Coast who sit three wins outside of the Top Eight but a win is also crucial for the Dragon to halt their slide down the table.
In for the Titans are Chris McQueen, Nathaniel Peteru, Paterika Vaivai and Tyrone Roberts while they have no outs. Blake Lawrie, Euan Aitken, Jack de Belin, Matthew Dufty and Will Matthews join the Dragons squad while influential forward Paul Vaughan is the only one out.
Last round against the Tigers, Jarryd Hayne scored two tries in five minutes in an outstanding performance from the million dollar man. He has six tries and three try assists in only nine appearances this year and his battle against Dragons and NSW back Josh Dugan will be one to watch. Dugan himself is averaging 167m per game this year. Both players are critical to their team’s chances of winning this game.
Why Gold Coast will win: The Titans proved they are no longer the NRL’s whipping boys last season and have backed it up again this year, claiming big scalps with wins over the Eels, Sharks and Storm. The Dragons meanwhile have suffered heavy defeats including losing by 18 to the Eels, 14 to the Bulldogs and 14 to the Eels again. Given the difference in form, the Dragons won’t be breathing fire on Friday night.
Our Tip: Titans by 18.
Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm @Suncorp Stadium, Friday, 7.50pm
The Broncos in their last game escaped Canberra with a hard-fought 10 point victory. Melbourne on the other hand led Sydney 24-12 heading into the 72nd minute before losing 25-24 courtesy of a Mitchell Pearce field goal. A loss for Melbourne possibly sees them no longer outright first at the end of the round whilst a win for the Broncos would see them keep the pressure on the Storm for first place. No matter who you support this is a must watch and is the game of the round.
In for Brisbane are Jai Arrow, Jaydn Su’A, Jonus Pearson and Korbin Sims and they have no outs. Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Joe Stimson, Jordan McLean and Will Chambers rejoin the line up for Storm at the expense of Brandon Smith and Jahrome Hughes.
Cameron Munster has performed admirably in the number six jersey vacated by Blake Green this season with seven try assists and is another gem unearthed by Craig Bellamy. In such a big game, look for him to rise to the occasion and help lead Melbourne to a win.
Why Melbourne will win: The Storm have won their past three clashes against Brisbane at Suncorp by an average margin of around 24 points. The score won’t be that big this time around but their top of the table form should see them out in what will be a thriller.
Our Tip: Storm by one.
Sydney Roosters vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks @Central Coast Stadium, Saturday, 3pm
Last round Mitchell Pearce was the hero as they won by one against the table-topping Storm in Adelaide while Cronulla were smashed 35-18 at home against Manly. A win for either side will keep them on track to be Minor Premiers…but a loss could be costly.
In for Sydney are Chris Smith, Kane Evans, Mitchell Cornish and Victor Radley with no outs. In for Cronulla are Edrick Lee, Fa'amanu Brown, Jeremy Latimore, Jesse Ramien, Joseph Paulo and Sam Tagataese while Jayden Brailey is omitted and Daniel Mortimer has been released to move overseas.
Watch out for Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird in this game. Despite State of Origin call-ups ,their club form has been questionable. Tries and try assists don’t mean everything but they have only combined for three and seven respectively this year. In a big game against opponents like these, the these two will need to step up their game.
Why Cronulla will win: Cronulla’s stocked forward pack will prove the difference. With Paul Gallen leading the way for Cronulla, everyone else follows with Andrew Fifita making 332 tackles this year and even Matt Prior 362. The Roosters’ forwards are good but might struggle to cope with Cronulla’s.
Our Tip: Sharks by six.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles vs New Zealand Warriors @ Nib Stadium, Saturday, 5:30pm
The Sea Eagles were unstoppable last round, easily beating the Sharks 35-18. The Warriors were made to fight harder for their 21-14 win over the Bulldogs. Depending on other results, a win for the Sea Eagles could see them sneak into the Top Four and the Top Eight beckons for a Warriors win.
In for Manly are Brad Parker, Cameron Cullen, Jackson Hastings, Jarrad Kennedy and Jonathan Wright while Curtis Sironen is out. Bunty Afoa, Isaiah Papalii, Kieran Foran, Ligi Sao, Manu Vatuvei and Mason Lino are in for the Warriors to replace Issac Luke and Sam Lisone.
Daly Cherry-Evans put on a show last week against the Sharks. This will be his last game to impress before the Origin squads are named for Game Three. He’ll be trying to show Kevin Walters why he deserves Johnathan Thurston’s vacated spot ahead of Corey Norman, Cameron Munster or Michael Morgan. Expect him to put on a big game.
Why Manly will win: Two factors should contribute to an easy Sea Eagles win. The first is their 11 wins from 12 games against the Warriors (including Nines). The second is their blistering form, winning their past four games including key victories over the Gold Coast and Cronulla.
Our Tip: Sea Eagles by 20.
Canberra Raiders vs North Queensland Cowboys @GIO Stadium, Saturday, 7:30pm
Canberra lost yet another close game this season as they went down to Brisbane 30-20 while Ethan Lowe was the hero for the Cowboys as he kicked a final minute conversion for a 14-12 win over the Panthers. Canberra need a win to stay in touch with the Top Eight, but the Cowboys move up from seventh to fifth if they claim victory.
The Raiders have no outs and bring in Adam Clydsdale, Dave Taylor, Royce Hunt and Scott Sorensen while the Cowboys call up Braden Uele, Kalyn Ponga, Patrick Mago and Te Maire Martin with no outs.
The Raiders should be on full-alert for Ethan Lowe. He was stellar last week against Penrith and should shine against the struggling and disjointed Raiders. He kicked the match-winning conversion last round and has made over 400 tackles already so far this season. How he plays could decide whether the Cowboys leave with two points or not.
Why Canberra will win: They must. Last year the Raiders were the surprise packages of the competition, finishing only one game off the Grand Final. Currently siting in 11th position, there’s too much on the line for them to lose.
Our Tip: Canberra by four.
Newcastle Knights vs Wests Tigers @McDonald Jones Stadium, Sunday, 2pm
The Knights will be disappointed they didn’t add to their two win tally for the year when they went down 32-28 to St George. The Tigers were poor in large parts of their last game but victory here would put them two wins ahead of the Knights. A win for Newcastle gets them equal with the Tigers but with considerably better points difference. Whoever wins will effectively hand the other the Wooden Spoon for the season.
In for the Knights are Jamie Buhrer, Joe Wardle, Josh Starling, Sam Stone and Trent Hodkinson while Luke Yates is out. Tigers bring in Alex Twal, Jack Littlejohn, James Tedesco and Joel Edwards and have no outs.
The Tigers pose plenty of attacking threat in James Tedesco, Kevin Naiqama and Elijah Taylor to test the Knights who will be relying on Nathan Ross – with 10 tries from 12 games this season - to put points on the board. If he can bag one or maybe two, Newcastle will be in with a chance.
Why Newcastle will win: No club wants two Wooden Spoons in a row. Three is absolutely horrible. Newcastle will play their hearts out t avoid this happening at home in front of their passionate fans
Our Tip: Knights by eight.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Penrith Panthers @ANZ Stadium, Sunday, 4pm
The Rabbitohs had a much needed bye last round, but the previous week they ran rampant over the Titans, winning 36-20. Despite that, It’s desperate times at Redfern as the Rabbitohs are looking very poor this season and in real danger of missing the finals. It’s now win or go home for Souths. Meanwhile Panthers will be looking to bounce back after they lost their last game 14-12 in a tight encounter against the Cowboys.
In for South Sydney are Aaron Gray, Cameron Murray, David Tyrrell, Robbie Rochow and Sam Burgess at the expense of Hymel Hunt. In for Penrith are Jed Cartwright, Kaide Ellis, Sione Katoa and Sitaleki Akauola while they have no outs.
The Rabbitohs initially seemed on their way to making the finals, winning two of their first three and the Panthers have been in the doldrums for large parts of the season. But the pressure that was once on Panthers coach Anthony Griffin is now on Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire – and Madge will be desperate for a South Sydney win this weekend.
Why Penrith will win: They are surging up the ladder with relative ease while the Rabbitohs are struggling to stay afloat. There will be no fairytale win here as Penrith should beat them with ease.
Our Tip: Panthers by 30.