The seasons first controversy erupted from it’s very first game this year with the now infamous “prowler tackle” by Riley Brown on Craig Wing which resulted in Wing missing 12 weeks to the she shoulder injury he sustained (he had a sore wing). The Bunnies will be fired up to make amends for their subsequent loss and Craig Wing will be out to potentially put the first nail in the coffin of the Roosters’ top 4 aspirations. Both sides have struggled for any real form over the last two months with the Roosters claiming just 2 wins from their last 8 matches while the Rabbitohs have managed 3.
Of the two though, the Roosters look the better side on paper and have a lot more to play for by finishing in the top half of the 8.
Roosters by 10
Tigers vs Sharks
Again the Tigers look ready to stumble at the end of the season always finding ways to lose games that they should be winning. This is another of those games. The Sharks, though they will deny it, will be somewhat scarred from the fallout over this week’s Greg Bird incident and should be ripe for the picking. Robbie Farah is out of the Tigers side with an ankle injury and Brett Hodgson will likely miss his farewell match at Leichardt Oval due also to injury.
The absence of these two cannot be used as an excuse with the Tigers having won matches this year including their match earlier in the year against the Sharks. They have shown they have players capable of filling the gaps. Amazingly, the Tigers have not lost any of their previous 9 games against the Shire Boys, a run stretching back to round 18, 2003.
Tigers by 10
Knights vs Storm
The Knights will tell us they want to win this game for inspirational skipper Danny Buderus who sustained a season, hence NRL career given his retirement plan, ending injury last weekend. Whoever plays hooker for them for the rest of the season will not be wearing the number 9 jersey as it has been retired for the rest of the season out of respect for one of the greatest players of the modern era. With Buderus though go the Knights’ hopes of a premiership and perhaps even a top 8 finish.
Meanwhile, the Storm boys have been on a rampage over the last 5 weeks amassing 136 points while conceding only 34 for a match average of 27 – 7(ish). Once again, they are head and shoulders above the competition at the right end of the season and should have no trouble getting through this game with the two premiership points. This will undoubtedly secure them the minor premiership for the third consecutive season.
Storm by 20
Cowboys vs Raiders
The Cowboys may as well start packing their bags for this year’s end of season trip because things are not going to get any better for them over the next two weeks. Jonathan Thurston seems to be playing a lone hand and quite rightly might decide to holiday without his team mates this year. They come into this game with no form apart from one win three weeks ago against fellow cellar dwellers, the Bulldogs.
The Raiders had yet another great win last weekend and have now got the second highest points for record in this years comp. Each week they seem to struggle to find 17 fit players to run onto the park yet every week they produce the most exciting football the NRL has seen since the Tigers in 2005. More of the same in this one.
Raiders by 16
Dragons vs Eels
Apart from the Dragons’ loss to the Tigers 3 weeks ago, they have been one of the better teams of the last month with wins over top 8 aspirants, the Warriors, and top 4 contenders, the Broncos. Ben Hornby has stepped up to the half back spot with aplomb (no surprise) and Mark Gasnier has shown he wants to leave the NRL still considered the best attacking centre in the game. These two have been assisted by a forward pack that is short on the pretty stuff but big in the hard work department.
The Eels have been winning games but, apart from the Roosters, they have been games that one would expect them to win – Cowboys, Bulldogs, and Tigers. As they say though, with wins comes confidence and rarely has this side lacked that. With potentially the most dominant backline in the game they will give it a real shake as long as their forwards take a leaf out of their opponent’s book. Forget the glamour and just get the job done.
Dragons by 8
Bulldogs vs Broncos
Bulldogs have stumbled from one loss to the next with last win against the Broncos back in round 18. I think things may go the other way this time though.
The Broncos will remember the embarrassment that that loss caused and will be out to rack up a big score. Broncos showed last week that they have the ability to win tough, close matches and by comparison this will be a walk in the park.
Broncos by 38
Warriors vs Panthers
The Warriors are once again proving great value near the end of the season with home wins against the Storm, Cronulla and Brisbane in recent weeks highlighting how different they are when playing at home as opposed to across the Tasman. They will be disappointed with a terrible effort last start against the Dragons where they completed only 65% of their sets and committed 17 errors. These numbers are more often associated with wooden spoon contenders.
The unrest again this week in the Panthers camp will have done their chances of a win here no favours at all. Apart from one win against whipping boys, the Bulldogs, the Mountain Men have lost their three other previous games all by big margins and even conceded a huge 74 points to the Raiders. Yes, form reversals do happen but never quite of the magnitude they require.
Warriors by 14
Sea Eagles vs Titans
The one time second favourites, Manly, seem to be hitting every second hurdle in the race for the minor premiership. Their recent loss to Souths showed they are not as far in front of the field as some had suggested. Matt Orford is the key for them and must execute fifth tackle options better than he has been in recent weeks.
The Titans proved last week they are still capable of taking it to the big guns in the competition with a heart breaking extra time loss to the Broncos. The loss of Preston Campbell to a broken jaw though may just be too much for them though. Scott Prince has made a terrific come back from his broken arm and Mat Rogers has played strongly in the last few weeks, running the ball more than expected. Their away record, coupled with the Brookvale curse for visiting teams, will see them come unstuck.
Sea Eagles by 16
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