By Stephen Gallagher
Penrith Panthers V South Sydney Rabbitohs – Pepper Stadium – 21.50NZT
Fresh from the bye, the Panthers will be wanting to add to the woes of the Rabbitohs.
Their season is going from bad to worse and could well and truly be over if they lose to Penrith here.
The Panthers will look to build on a steady season, with an emphatic victory here. Their forwards have been hot and cold all year.
The Rabbitohs have to win, every game must have that mentality for them. They’ve gone off the boil and they look done and dusted. There are a lot of players who need to be accounted for who have not led when needed.
I think the Rabbitohs will get a win in this game. The Panthers won’t go down without a fight however.
South Sydney’s Burgess clan, and their Origin stars will have to be prepared to fight for 80 minutes – if they don’t: they’re done.
TIP: Rabbitohs, just. 1-12
Newcastle Knights V Saint George Illawarra Dragons – Hunter Stadium – 17.00NZT
With the season well and truly over, the Knights may as well throw out the playbook which hasn’t worked for them anyway and play with reckless abandon.
I would like to see the young halves take the line on, make the Dragons D think twice.
The Dragons are ugly winners, and ugly losers. This is the sort of game that may end up being a points fest, but the Dragons have to learn to execute. They’ve been doing just enough. They need to do more to scare teams.
The Knights have to play with some pride, unlike the previous 15 rounds.
TIP: Dragons will win it, it’s gonna be another ugly one. 1-12.
Cronulla Sharks V New Zealand Warriors – Southern Cross Group Stadium – 19.30NZT
This is going to be a peach of a match!
The Sharks are looking to improve to 11 straight wins, with 4 of their Origin best backing up for a defining match for both teams.
The Warriors need to show they’ve turned a corner. Three on the trot, two pretty and one butt-ugly win – but they’re now 7-7 and just outside the top eight.
The Sharks have the mental and physical output to take the win here, and on their quest to become champions, they need to continue to win. Win. Win. Win.
Cronulla were robbed at the death by Shaun Johnson last time these two teams met here – and the Sharkies will know that they won’t want to come away with anything less than a victory.
The Warriors line up is stable and improving on the pitch each match. The biggest game of their season for sure.
TIP: Cronulla, even after a bye will have momentum. 1-12.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs V Brisbane Broncos – ANZ Stadium – 21.30
The Broncos are out of sorts and desperate, the Bulldogs not so much.
Here lies two big sides, with big packs, big backs, and big time players in a Saturday night feast that will light up the boarders for a club edition of State Of Origin.
Canterbury Bankstown will know their fans will head out to support them, and they want a great result.
The Bulldogs kicking game needs work, and hopefully with a week off – Des Hasler has given Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds a lesson or two, because it’s been their weakpoint over the last month.
The Broncos won leading in to the bye, but not without leaking late points. If they’ve been working over the bye week, they must have been doing so on their goal line D. They’ve been a bit slow to react around the ruck, and that could be deadly.
TIP: Bulldogs to win by 1-12.
Gold Coast Titans V Canberra Raiders – CBUS Super Stadium – 16.00NZT
8 V 7 in a game that could end up being crucial if one of these two miss out on the eight by two points.
The Titan rolled on in a big way against the hapless Sea Eagles, and the bye treatment from Ricky Stuart on the Raiders I imagine focused on line speed and containing the ball.
The Titans need a test, and this is it. Their backline is looking the goods, and the forwards are all as reliable as one another.
The Canberra Raiders need to show that grit that opponents fear in them. The Green Machine can turn it on at ease it seems, and if the Titans give them a head start, it could be over before half time.
TIP: Raiders to win it, they’ve all round a better side. 13+
Melbourne Storm V Wests Tigers – AAMI Park – 18.00NZT
The Storm will want to pick themselves up after a loss last week, and pick apart the Tigers.
Mind you, this is the kind of game the Tigers would throw themselves in the mix and create an upset win.
To eliminate that, the Storm will have to stick to what they know best. Dominance.
If they can turn the Tigers around, make them camp in their own half – and wait to capitalise on an error – they will find a way to win.
For Wests – they need to to adapt. Find some form out of dummy half and catch out the markers. If they can get a couple of repeat sets every time they get down the other end – they can tire out the Storm that way.
I do think the Storm will be too strong however.
TIP: Storm 13+
North Queensland Cowboys V Manly Warringah Sea Eagles – 1300 SMILES Stadium – 21.00NZT
I will put this pretty straight forward. If this result is anything other than a Cowboys win – I will be extremely surprised.
They are the reigning premiers after all, and they live to beat down the little guys. The Cowboys at home are a force, and the Sea Eagles won’t stand much chance I don’t think.
The Sea Eagles are injury ravaged and disinterested
In my opinion, even with Cherry-Evans back, unless something drastic changes – 2016 is done for them.
TIP: Cowboys 13+. Sorry Sea Eagle fans; avoid this match.
Follow Stephen Gallagher on Twitter