By Stephen Gallagher
Brisbane Broncos V Canberra Raiders – Suncorp Stadium – 21.50NZT
All these non-Friday night matches are catching up with the Broncos it seems!
Three losses in a row brings them to an unfamiliar position of a ‘slump’ which is not in the dictionary of Wayne Bennett.
How can the Broncos turn it around? Especially against a red hot side who have just nailed three wins in a row.
Over the last wee while, the forwards have stopped going forward – leaving Hunt and Milford high and dry. If they can power on and get some momentum this means Canberra will be on the back foot.
The green machine need to build this consistency. To be good enough to test themselves in finals footy – they need to win big games. This is a big game.
TIP: Broncos can’t afford to lose, especially with this Origin period. Broncos 1-12
Wests Tigers V South Sydney Rabbitohs – ANZ Stadium – 21.50NZT
Nothing says a home game like playing at the home venue of the opposition. This irks me, but never mind.
The Tigers are being outplayed in every match. They’re soft up front and their backs are left to clean up way too much.
The Rabbitohs were unlucky after a good fight last week, and they will have to be up for another fight here.
The Tigers are stuck to the anchor of the table, and their fans feel this is all too common. Souths are a big side, and hard to handle. This is a mammoth task.
Due to experience, I think the green n red hoops of South Sydney have enough across the pitch to win – unless the Tigers spice things up and ambush them with support play and confidence which fuelled the beginning of their season.
Newcastle Knights V New Zealand Warriors – Hunter Stadium – 17.00NZT
Here’s a test for the Warriors – to actually build on the massive performance of last week against cannon fodder of the Knights.
Newcastle season is over, and the chance to blood players would be now – if they had any to blood. This is a squad that is weak all over the field. No big players, no leaders, and no players with ‘X Factor.
It must be hard to wake up every morning and be a Knights fan – but their young squad do show some heart despite the scorelines they lose by every week.
The Warriors need to front up again. We finally got to see them play the way they should be last week, but it’s all in vein if they don’t.
TIP: Warriors have to win, but the Knights have to fight. Warriors 1-12.
Parramatta Eels V Gold Coast Titans – TIO Stadium, Darwin – 19.30NZT
A match in Darwin will sure excite the locals – especially with these two sides playing.
Every match for Parramatta is a finals match the way their season has played out – and the Titans have some confidence back after finding ways to win close games.
The Eels are down to only one genuine half in Corey Norman – so a lot rests of his shoulders. That means the big boys in front of him need to do a stellar job.
The Titans are building nicely. They have an exciting squad that is proven to grind out the tough competition. They can score tries from all over the field and have some mongrel about them which leaves an intimidating presence to their opponents.
This match sounds like it’s going to be a thriller. If you can tear yourself away from the All Blacks match.
TIP: Titans to get the job done 1-12.
Sydney Roosters V Melbourne Storm – Allianz Stadium – 21.30NZT
A big match here. The Roosters look like they’re back, if only their position on the table wasn’t so bad.
The Storm are always big, always strong, always hard. That equals a Roosters team that will have to be ready to play.
The tri-colours need to eliminate the little errors from their game that’s holding them back. I think this side is more than capable of disarming the Victorians – but only if they get the basics right first.
The Storm don’t mess around. Any slight opportunity they get with ball in hand close to the line – more often than not they get some points out of it. That’s a task the Roosters will have to try maintain.
Discipline is also a big one. They can’t lay in the ruck, or the Storm will punish them.
TIP: The Roosters are desperate. The season is on the line. Roosters 1-12.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles V Penrith Panthers – Brookvale Oval – 18.00NZT
A loss each last week gives this game more meaning. Both these two teams are fighting for their season and fighting to win important games.
From here on out, these games are all important – especially for Manly sitting in 13th.
Back on their home turf (if there’s still grass on it after the storms last week) they need to bring back the pride and aura which once surrounded it during their golden run a few years ago.
Penrith need to work on their last play options. They’ve been slack, and they’ve been weak – and they have to get it right first time.
I think Manly have more to offer, with a fast side that can turn around the Penrith forwards and keep the pressure on their opposition.
TIP: The Sea Eagles by 1-12.
Saint George Illawarra Dragons V Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs – ANZ Stadium – 18.00NZT
Another weird one, the Bulldogs home ground but the Dragons home game…..
The Dragons had the week off, and in that week they hopefully had to address their attack – because it stinks.
They have weak fifth tackle options, and you’ll notice a lot of their tries come earlier in the count. It’s slow and stale, and it needs work.
The Bulldogs will be firing. They hate losing. They also hate losing in the last minute of the game.
I have no doubt that they will bully the Dragons off the field. They have to get a good result here.
Then again, the Dragons will be fresher, and have a lot to play for too.
TIP: Bulldogs have the better team, and will win 1-12.
Cronulla Sharks V North Queensland Cowboys – Southern Cross Group Stadium – 21.00NZT
GAME OF THE ROUND ALERT!
Call the boss and tell him you’re gonna start an hour or two later on Tuesday morning, because you don’t want to miss what this game might throw up.
Cronulla are red hot, top of the table and fresh of their 10th win in a row! A remarkable feat for a team yet to win a Premiership, while the minor premiers came from a training run win over Newcastle and some indifferent form before that.
So here’s the challenge for the North Queensladers, how are they going to stop the momentum of the Sharks?
They know all too well how momentum works – their remarkable season last year was built on the back of finding ways to win when the game looked unlikely to swing their way.
The Sharks are doing enough to win, and of recently – are picking up wins in seasons gone by they would have lost. It’s great to see the success this club has.
The Cowboys love a big challenge. This game smells like a grand final in the making. Two sides that have punched quality in every position – and not one weak player on the field.
TIP: The Sharks at home will be too strong. Sharks 1-12 and 11 wins in a row.
Follow Stephen Gallagher on Twitter