By Stephen Gallagher
THURSDAY: Saint George Illawarra Dragons V Sydney Roosters – WIN Stadium – 21.50NZT
The Dragons have swung the axe on Corey Norman as they still push to make the eight.
They fought hard against the Roosters last time, and they’ll back themselves against them here.
The Tri-colours are such a good side though, so the Dragons will have to be at their very best.
Roosters are suffering from injury concerns, but their roster is very deep and tested well.
TIP: Roosters 1-12
FRIDAY: Manly Sea Eagles V New Zealand Warriors – Lottoland – 20.00NZT
More injury concerns for the Sea Eagles as they come up against a Warriors side who have exceeded all expectations under Todd Payten.
Whatever’s going on in camp is working for the makeshift side.
Manly at home will be tough to beat, and Manly are their own worst enemy with poor errors and defence in crucial parts of the game.
Very tight one, can go either way.
TIP: Warriors 1-12
South Sydney Rabbitohs V Brisbane Broncos – ANZ Stadium – 21.55NZT
More trouble for the Broncos as they come up against an inspired Rabbitohs side.
Despite Kotoni Staggs having the best foot work in the game, he’ll need good ball early to be effective.
Souths have to roll on the back of a good forwards performance, which as a pack they’ve been inconsistent this year.
Brisbane need to show more fight every week.
TIP: Rabbitohs 1-12
SATURDAY: Melbourne Storm V Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs – Sunshine Coast Stadium – 17.00NZT
They put up a good battle last week, but the Bulldogs just couldn’t execute effectively.
Melbourne are missing their livewire fullback, and their inspirational skipper, but should still put up a good scoreline against the Bulldogs.
I would imagine the physicality will be there for the early stages for the Bulldogs, but Melbourne are a class above and should overcome them eventually.
TIP: Storm 13+
Newcastle Knights V Wests Tigers – McDonald Jones Stadium – 19.30NZT
The curse of the 9 jersey strikes again for the Knights, but luckily they have Mr Fix It Kurt Mann to fill the role with the addition of Blake Green in the halves.
Wests will be raging to go after blowing a lead and losing against the Warriors a week earlier, but the Knights have shown a lot of heart all season and it’ll be a tough game.
This is a game the Tigers have to win to prove they are worthy of a finals spot. A game the Knights also want to secure the two points for.
TIP: Knights 1-12
Penrith Panthers V Canberra Raiders – Panthers Stadium – 21.30NZT
There’s no doubting the form of the Panthers this year. They’re fantastic to watch.
The Raiders will dig their heels in against Penrith, and I can see this game playing out in a grinding sort of fashion.
Penrith’s side is almost unchanged as they look to keep their winning streak alive.
Canberra have an experienced side who will know what it takes to knock the Panthers off their perch.
Game of the round. Do not miss it.
TIP: Panthers 1-12
SUNDAY: Gold Coast Titans V North Queensland Cowboys – CBus Super Stadium – 16.00NZT
It’s been an unfavourable season for both sides, but things are looking up.
The Titans are definitely better than they were in the first six rounds, and the Cowboys are getting plenty of injured players back at the right end of the season.
This all-Queensland battle should show off a lot of ticker for both of these sides, but I think the Cowboys will relish in the experience of having Michael Morgan back.
TIP: Cowboys 1-12
Cronulla Sharks V Parramatta Eels – Netstrata Jubilee Stadium – 18.00NZT
These Sunday footy clashes have been great over the last few weeks, and this one is just as good.
Cronulla have found their feet at the right time, with their balance of powerful forwards and energetic backs clicking over the last month.
Parramatta haven’t been sensational, but they are still notching up wins. A sign of a quality side.
Both sides have plenty to play for in this one, and I think the Sharks just have the edge on form.
Parramatta will need to finish stronger than they have in the last couple of weeks.
TIP: Sharks 1-12
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