By Stephen Gallagher
FRIDAY: Brisbane Broncos V South Sydney Rabbitohs – Suncorp Stadium – 21.50NZT
The Broncos have finally hit their straps. I’ve been fairly critical of their performances this season but last week they finally put in their best performance of the season, albeit against the worst side in the competition.
The Rabbitohs need to fire now. Sitting on the edge of the top eight, losing four of their last five starts.
The X Factor is fading, and they need to find it quick. Adam Reynolds needs to get his confidence back after injury, with the likes of Sam Burgess and Paul Carter needing to start performing for the money they earn.
The Broncos are in a fine position to pick up another win here, with a favourable Friday night match at home. Milford and Hunt are in back breaking form – it’s hard to see the result being anything different.
TIP: The Broncos will be too strong. 1-12.
SATURDAY: Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs V Gold Coast Titans – ANZ Stadium – 17.00NZT
Both these sides were upset last week, and that’s a rare occurrence this season.
The Bulldogs big men turned in to a big blank and for the first time in a long time disappeared without a trace.
I find it very hard to see this happen again, so the Titans will have to watch out.
This young Gold Coast side have punched above their weight all year, and this heavy task against the Bulldogs is going to be another interesting battle.
The Titans halves lacked direction last week – they have to be better.
TIP: Bulldogs aren’t the sort of team who lose two in a row. I back them on the halftime/fulltime double. 1-12.
Canberra Raiders V Wests Tigers – GIO Stadium – 19.30NZT
Why is it that the Raiders struggle at home? Isn’t that just odd?
What can they put it down to? A strong road side, but can’t convert at home.
Well this is their game to lose. The Tigers are winless in their last five, after starting the season on FIRE!
The Raiders do have a few injury worries and will be missing Blake Austin, Sia Soliola once again missing from the Green Machine.
What can the Tigers bring to the table? Well a win, for their sake.
Golden Point was a bastard to them last week, but they blew their chances.
They have a wealth of youth in their talent pool, but not much else. They’ve seemingly lost their back up play and confidence from the beginning of the season.
Wests need to go back to their winning formula, that style of attacking football which makes them have the ability to beat any club on their day.
TIP: Don’t read this Tigers fans, the Raiders have it 1-12. Jack Wrighton to score first.
North Queensland Cowboys V Parramatta Eels – 1300 SMILES Stadium – 21.30NZT
There’s so much to play for in this one for Parramatta.
After rorting the cap, the club is in a bit of a crisis – on the verge of losing eight competition points.
I think Parramatta should be stripped of all their titles in the last 30 years – but they don’t have any. Ouch.
The Cowboys will be well aware what noise the media have made about this match, but they won’t buy in to it – the Paul Green coached side are too smart for that.
But, this Parramatta side is actually quite good. Both sides are unchanged from their wins the previous week, so with some good form behind them it will be a good game.
Thurston V Foran, a preview of the upcoming ANZAC test will be a good show. Foran is winding back the clock so his premiership winning form and there is no better 7 that JT in the world right now.
The Cowboys have them in the forwards, but the Parramatta outside back have been great this season – there’s a lot of balance between the two.
TIP: This is going to be the game of the round. Cowboys will take 2 points early and will be the difference. Cowboys 1-12.
SUNDAY: Cronulla Sharks V Penrith Panthers – Southern Cross Group Stadium – 18.00NZT
The only Sunday game this round is bound to gather an audience. The Sharkies are looking the goods, but it’s well and truly too early to say they could end their premiership drought.
Penrith are slowly clocking up wins, without wowing the crowds or scaring opponents. The fact is they’re getting wins and that’s what counts.
On a dry track on a sunny Shire Sunday, this game has a really good feeling to it.
Luke Lewis returns from injury to add more experience to this stacked Sharks side, while the Panthers are about a week or so away from James Segeyaro returning.
Penrith’s forwards dominated last week, and another big job on the cards to try run over the Sharks in their own tank. I’ve never seen a Panther take on a Shark, but there will be blood I imagine.
Cronulla will roll on I feel – too strong this season.
TIP: Sharks 13+, Ben Barba with a double.
MONDAY: Newcastle Knights V Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Hunter Stadium – 16.00NZT
The struggling Knights against the hot and cold Sea Eagles. Anything could happen here.
The Knights were absolutely pummelled last week, 53-0. They did suffer some injuries but that wasn’t the reason why.
So…. Is there a bounce back factor involved in this one? Beaten so badly, they can only go up and get a win?
Well…. Novacastrians will think so, but not me.
The Sea Eagles welcome back Matt Parcell, who I think is an underrated hooker performing well above his earnings so far in 2016. I think this guy has been the key to their success in 2016 and been great with no DCE.
The Knights are up against it, but as I said – this game could throw up anything.
TIP: Knights winger Akuila Uate scores first, but the Sea Eagles get the chocolates 1-12.
Saint George Illawarra Dragons V Sydney Roosters – Allianz Stadium – 18.00NZT
Cast your mind back to ANZAC Day last year, this clash between these two sides…. The game had to be stopped mid way through the first half because of the torrential down pour which turned Allianz Stadium in to a swimming pool!
What was an unforgettable match, like many shared between these two rivals on such a historic day. ANZAC Day.
Growing up, these were some of the best games of the NRL Season – and I expect nothing less in this one.
Four wins between them, the Roosters only having won one – there’s going to be plenty of on field excitement.
The Dragons traditionally have the bragging rights in this game, meaning yet another challenge for the Roosters.
Both sides are unchanged from last week, and that means there’s a ton of talent on display.
Josh Dugan up against Latrell Mitchell would be the best match up. Dugan has been key to playing the Red V back in to form, and Mitchell’s efforts week in and week out are enough to be rewarded with some high regards from all those watching him play.
I hope to see a high-class game. One of the best on the calendar this year. Bring it on. But lets not forget those who fell before us.
TIP: Mitch Rein scores the first try, and the Dragons win 1-12.
Melbourne Storm V New Zealand Warriors – AAMI Park – 21.00NZT
Another mouth-watering ANZAC Day clash. A Trans-Tasman rivalry that has always been full of intensity and quality.
Both sides only make one change each for this match – however it’s the Warriors losing their incredible fullback, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for the season.
Wonderkid Tuimoala Lolohea steps up at 1, and (in my eyes) is trialling for the Kiwis fullback jumper in the ANZAC test.
The Warriors played more directly last week, which caught their opponents off guard. This will be their gameplan once again, try to out pace and out power the Storm.
Melbourne will have to be sharp. They haven’t been anywhere near top form this year, and it’s these sorts of games they rise for – it’s all a matter of who brings the most muscle.
TIP: Look for another fast start by the Warriors, a 1-12 victory.
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