We put our reputation on the line with predictions for every game in a reduced weekend of NRL action.
Penrith Panthers vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @Pepper Stadium, Thursday 7:50pm
The big talking point heading into this fiery encounter is the future of Bulldogs coach Des Hasler, despite earlier this year signing a contract extension his future is still under extreme doubt due to the teams' poor on-field performances this year. With Josh Reynold’s exit already confirmed for the end of the season another could be in the works unless Canterbury get some much needed wins, starting with this game.
What has helped contributed to Hasler’s uncertainty was the result of these two sides earlier this season when Canterbury were smacked 38-0 by Penrith in one of their most disappointing displays of the year. In that game six different players got on the score-sheet for Penrith and unless Canterbury play some defence the score could be similar this time around.
Unfortunately for Penrith one of their standout performers of that day Matt Moylan is unavailable to play and will be replaced in the starting line-up by Tyrone May, a player who has made only one appearance this entire season. Meanwhile for Canterbury influential captain James Graham returns to make their forward pack more intimidating.
Why Penrith will win: They are the only team currently outside of the Top Eight that have a realistic shot of finishing inside it. Given that St George are basically guaranteed a win on the weekend (they are playing against Newcastle) a Penrith loss would leave them two (basically three because of the points difference between them) games out of the Top Eight with only five games remaining. A loss here and their season is over, they won’t let it slip.
Our Tip: Penrith by 20.
New Zealand Warriors vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks @Mt Smart Stadium, Friday 6:00pm
Interestingly two of the last three games played at Mt Smart Stadium between these two sides have resulted in Cronulla wins and both with 18-14 scorelines. A third would surely be some piece of wonderfully crazy Rugby League history.
The last time these two teams met a James Maloney field-goal in the 87th minute gave Cronulla a dramatic 19-18 win. But for this clash he is sidelined with a broken hand and it remains to be seen how Cronulla will perform without their star five-eighth. How his replacement Fa'amanu Brown goes could go a long way to determining the result of what should be a closely contested clash.
During the week Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan called Paul Gallen the greatest player they’ve ever had, and with the hard-hitting captain trying relentlessly to get his team to catch up to Melbourne in first place, that should give him a little bit of extra motivation to ensure that his coach’s words ring true when he steps out onto the field on Friday night.
Why Cronulla will win: Despite the recent close score lines between the two clubs Cronulla still have a damning history against the Warriors, winning seven of their past nine against them. Through this games they have shown that they have been able to win when the game is going down to the wire but also when they are dominating as evident through 37-6, 28-4 and 45-4 wins during this run. No matter how the result goes down you know that Cronulla will be singing Up, Up Cronulla come full-time.
Our Tip: Cronulla by eight.