Rabbitohs vs Roosters
The two remaining foundation clubs go head to head in what should be a great contest. The Rabbitohs had their most successful year last year in nearly twenty years and the Roosters finished the season with five wins and a draw in their last eight matches.
One of those wins was in the final round against the Rabbitohs 26-12. With the addition of O’Meley and Mason to their forwards I don’t see things going any differently this time round and their forwards should be far too dominant.
Rooster by 10
Titans vs Cowboys
An all QLD affair for the first NRL match at the Titans new stadium. Jonathan Thurston is rumoured to be returning early from injury for this clash to bolster the Cowboys attack. If he does it will really put the icing on the cake of what I am tipping as the match of the round.
This will pit him directly against the guy from whom he took the QLD and Australian no.7 jersey. I can’t the only thing separating the two sides is the outside backs with the Cowboys slightly better off with the experience of Bowen, and Williams. However with the home ground advantage I think the Titans will scrape home.
Titans by 6
Eels vs Bulldogs
Only a brave man or a fool would tip the Dogs to win this one. All through last season they scraped home on the back of their forwards but have lost their two best, O’Meley and Mason, to the Roosters.
The Eels have probably the best back line in the competition, though Hayne is out and Tahu crossed codes in the off season, and a more than capable forward pack. Mateo is named as the 5/8 for the match, and outside Brett Finch, he will have a lot of space to attack the line and off load as he did so well last year.
Eels by 16
Sea Eagles vs Sharks
The Sea Eagles lost Michael Monaghan at the end of last season but still should be one of the dominant sides in 2008, while the Sharks consistently start a season well then fade mid year. Brookvale is a real advantage to the Sea Eagles having lost just one game there in their last 15.
This could be a close game though with the packs and halves fairly evenly matched. The big difference though is the outside men with the Sea Eagles boasting a couple of genuine try sniffers and the Sharks having some “passable” players. I think the standout match up will be Lyon vs Seymour at 5/8. Lyon is one of the best centres going around, and much like Gasnier last season at the Dragons, seems wasted with less room to move.
Sea Eagles by 10
Knights vs Raiders
The early battle for the wooden spoon.
The Knights start their first full season in 15 years without Andrew Johns and with Danny Buderus in his last season at the club. Steve Simpson will add some go forward. SHOULD have an excellent 9/7/1 combination in Buderus, Jarrod Mullen and Kurt Gidley. The rest of the troops are ordinary.
Canberra boast a promising full back in William Zillman, QLD hard man Neville Costigan and tackling machine Alan Tongue. Again, the rest are average for this level. I’ll stick with the home side.
Knights by 8
Broncos vs Panthers
Last year the Panthers were the best wooden spooners in a long time. They won three of their last five, including one against a top eight side, with the other two matches both 4 point losses to eventual top four sides. Star signing and new captain Petero Civoniceva (Broncos) will bring a much needed attitude change that should see them able to get up in close games. Will look to use their massive forwards to make space for Wesser, Rooney and Jennings.
The Broncos mean while are placing all their trust in off new signings Wallace (Panthers), Clinton (Panthers), Sims (Dragons) and Marsh (Eels). It will take time for them to work properly as an attacking unit and Brisbane’s chances probably revolve more around defence at this stage. I’ll tip the Panthers for a first up away win.
Panthers by 10
Tigers vs Dragons
Win number one for the season coming up for the Tigers. Benji Marshall is back from surgery and from all accounts, looks better than he has in two years. Throw in Robbie Farah, the number one hooker last year, and Brett Hodgson and the Tigers already have three of the best game breakers going around. With the reduction of the interchange down to 10 per team from 12 in previous seasons the Tigers smaller forwards should cause the Dragons no end of problems.
The Dragons need to give their two major signings as much game time as possible. Kirk Reynoldson (Knights) is a workaholic and Rangi Chase (Tigers), who grew up beside Benji Marshall, resembles the Kiwi international not only in looks but also ability and how he plays the game.
Tigers by 14
Storm vs Warriors
Won’t be an easy win for the Storm but it will be a win none the less. Cameron Smith returns at hooker after missing the World Club Challenge loss to Leeds and will give the Storm much needed direction. Greg Inglis is still absent though making the halves look slightly vulnerable.
The Warriors though are a very capable side on their day and opened last season with four wins in a row before consecutive losses to eventual Grand Finalists, the Storm and Sea Eagles. Steve Price last year broke the NRL record for metres gained, 4515 at an average of just under 200 per game. If he can manage that this Monday night and gets some back up from the rest of the forwards, the Warriors will trouble the Storm.
Storm by 12
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