Broncos v Rabbitohs
Friday 5.20pm, Suncorp Stadium
Danger looms for the Rabbitohs this Friday as they travel to Suncorp Stadium to tackle one of the form teams of the competition.
The Broncos have now won three matches on the trot to find themselves locked in a four-team logjam for third position, their latest win coming in the form of a spirited comeback over the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.
Trailing 22-10 with only a quarter of the game remaining, sparkling tries to talented backs Paul Byrnes, Tom Opacic and Ashley Taylor bridged what seemed like an insurmountable gap to hand Brisbane a thrilling two-point victory.
But it was the Broncos forwards who deserve most credit for the victory, running and tackling their hearts out to lay a foundation from which to pounce.
Props Francis Molo and Stephen Coombe both made over 150 metres, while Coombe’s 37 tackles were more than crucial.
The Bunnies also nabbed a tight win in a dour 16-12 contest over Manly.
Defence was the order of the day, with eight Rabbitohs making 20 tackles or more and hooker Cameron McInnes an astronomical 43.
It’s hard to go past the home team in this one, whose 210 points this season have them ranked third in attacking potency. With inconsistent defence at best, the Rabbitohs could well find themselves steamrolled.
Tip: Broncos by 14 points.
Bulldogs v Wests Tigers
Friday 5.20pm, ANZ Stadium
The Bulldogs will be like greyhounds waiting to spring from the box this Friday night, as they take to the field for the first time since their 50-10 pulverising of the Cronulla Sharks.
Halves Jaline Graham and Moses Mbye helped set up the spectacular victory as Canterbury ran in nine tries to Cronulla’s two.
The Wests Tigers will need to find a way of neutralising halfback Graham (one try, one try assist, seven tackle-breaks, three line-breaks) and pivot Mbye (two tries, five tackle-breaks, two line-breaks) or they will suffer a similar shellacking.
The Bulldogs were far from error-free but they proved unequivocally their ability to manufacture points from anywhere on the park.
The Wests Tigers’ hearts, meanwhile, will still be slightly aching after they squandered a 12-point lead late in the game to go down to the Broncos at home.
The Tigers tackled like men possessed all game but ultimately couldn’t hold out a fast-finishing Brisbane.
Back-rower Kyle Lovett (54 tackles) and lock Brenden Santi (52 tackles) deserve mention for their efforts, while five-eighth Mitchell Moses (two tries, two try assists, three tackle-breaks) was brilliant.
Wests Tigers are in for a real test of character on Friday and fans will be hoping neither team remembers, nor emulates, their previous outings.
Tip: Bulldogs by eight points.
Storm v Raiders
Saturday 3.15pm, AAMI Park
The Green Machine is beginning to click into gear and last year’s grand finalists will no doubt have the remaining 15 teams shaking in their boots.
This Saturday they take on the Storm in Melbourne in what will be their toughest test yet, but if they show even a quarter of the character displayed against the Cowboys last week – you’d tend to think they’ll triumph.
The Raiders conquered Townsville in a thrilling match that saw them race to a 14-0 halftime lead. But tiredness and a hostile crowd soon set in, levelling the scores at 14-all inside the last 10 minutes.
It was then that winger Jono Kent dived over out wide to throw water over the Cowboys’ sizzling comeback and prove that Canberra meant business.
Fullback Anthony Milford (165 metres, one try assist, six tackle-breaks) was brilliant and fans will be relieved he avoided suspension at the judiciary – placed on report for dangerous contact in the 63rd minute.
The Raiders meet a Storm outfit bruised by their first home loss of the season, thoroughly beaten 36-20 by a confident and impressive Warriors outfit.
Prop Cade Umaga (two tries, 33 tackles) was easily the best of a beaten bunch and the Storm will need similar spirit in bucket loads if they are to reinstate AAMI Park’s fortress status.
Tip: Raiders by six points.
Eels v Cowboys
Saturday, 5.15pm, Parramatta Stadium
With both teams entering this clash off the back of harrowing four-point losses, the result will likely come down to who wants it more.
Parramatta, now outside the top eight, were gallant in their performance against undefeated front-runners Penrith, staying with the Panthers for the full 80 minutes.
The Eels in fact stuck their necks in front in the 52nd minute, thanks to a converted try to halfback Zach Dockar-Clay, but the wind was snatched from their sails when Penrith dived over five minutes later.
Hooker Kaysa Pritchard earned a call-up to first grade with a brilliant outing that included a try, 23 tackles, five tackle-breaks and a line-break. He will be thoroughly missed.
The Eels need all the talent they can muster against a Cowboys side that showed plenty of ticker in going down to top-four specials Canberra.
Centre Javid Bowen proved it runs in the family, single-handedly turning around a 14-0 halftime deficit to move the Cowboys to within striking distance.
The centre scored two tries, ran for 174 metres and broke six Raiders tackles.
It’s hard to tell which way this one’s going, but on season form and home ground advantage, you’ve got to go with Parramatta.
Tip: Eels by two points.
Knights v Sharks
Sunday 11.45am, Hunter Stadium
How drastically different these two sides must be feeling. In one corner is the home team Newcastle, fresh from a 20-point thumping of the Gold Coast – their first victory in six weeks.
In the other, visitors Cronulla whose three-match undefeated streak came to a crushing end in the form of a 50-10 pulverising at the hands of the Bulldogs.
Trailing 8-6 at the break, the Knights blew their opponents off the park last Sunday with 20 scintillating unanswered points.
Winger Jake Mamo was nothing short of stunning in racking up two tries, 196 metres, six tackle-breaks and two line-breaks.
Up front second-rower Joseph Tapine (31 tackles, 126 metres) was also faultless.
If the Knights approach a similar standard of football on Sunday they will waltz to another thumping victory.
Their opponents Cronulla are still smarting after an error-ridden 80 minutes of football saw them slump to their biggest defeat of the season.
The Sharks missed 35 tackles in a match they can’t forget soon enough and need to perform an about-face to be even in with a sniff.
Tip: Knights by 16 points.
Warriors v Titans
Sunday 11.45am, Mt Smart Stadium
A resurgent New Zealand Warriors have now made it five matches without a loss and look the goods to extend that streak when they tackle the Titans at home this Sunday.
The Warriors caught the attention of many a fan when they triumphed 36-20 over the Storm in Melbourne, off the back of expansive play from their outside backs.
Centres Solomone Kata and David Fusitua were the most impressive pairing on the park and proved unstoppable for 80 minutes. Kata scored a try, made 116 metres, 12 tackle-breaks and two line-breaks while his partner bagged a double, earned five tackle-breaks, two line-breaks and 18 tackles.
Lock David Bhana was also on song, with 39 tackles of his own.
While there were thrilling performances aplenty from the Warriors, their opponents provided little reason to cheer in a 28-8 defeat to the Knights.
Centre Hymel Hunt’s two first half tries were the only time the Gold Coast troubled the scorers. Their 12 handling errors and 10 penalties were worrying if not alarming and they have plenty of improvement to do if they’re to climb from their current wooden spoon position.
Tip: Warriors by 18 points.
Roosters v Panthers
Sunday 12.45pm, Allianz Stadium
The unmitigated match of the round pits a hugely confident Roosters side against an undefeated Penrith and given the fact it will be served at Allianz Stadium, there’s no telling which way the cookie will crumble.
The home side enter the Moore Park thriller off the back of consecutive victories, their latest a 54-10 trouncing of the Dragons on Anzac Day.
It was a difficult 80 minutes to watch for St George Illawarra fans who suffered the indignity of a 10-tries-to-two loss.
No less than nine Roosters racked up triple figures in attack, while seven players with 20 tackles or more helped keep the Dragons to 10 points.
Utility forward Jack Noble lived up to his name with two tries, 130 metres, 28 tackles, eight tackle-breaks and two line-breaks all before bedtime.
Halfback Tyler Cornish was also brilliant, setting up three tries and making 20 tackles.
If the Roosters can replicate their performance, the juggernaut that is Penrith might just be halted.
The Panthers were far from convincing in their 22-18 win over the ninth-placed Parramatta and cracks are beginning to show in their once faultless façade.
Penrith missed 34 tackles in the narrow victory and if it wasn’t for yet another brilliant game from custodian Dallin Watene Zelezniak (two tries, one try assist, four tackle-breaks, one line-break) the result could easily have been different.
If anyone can beat Penrith it’s the Roosters this weekend at home, expect the tricolours to hoist the victory flag.
Tip: Roosters by six points.
Dragons v Sea Eagles
Monday 4.45pm, WIN Jubilee Oval
Doom and gloom cloud Monday night’s match between two teams drained of confidence and with little prospect of improvement.
The Dragons suffered a breathtaking hiding at the hands of the Roosters last week, slumping to a 54-10 humiliation at Allianz Stadium.
St George Illawarra saw little ball, and when they did they squandered it. It was easily their worst performance in two years.
Lock Kal Collins was gallant in making 56 tackles and running for 108 metres – but consolations were few and far between for the Red V who now find themselves second last and with the worst defensive record in the Holden Cup (39 points per game).
The Sea Eagles a faring little better and have now suffered three consecutive losses.
Their latest dose of pain was dealt by the Rabbitohs who triumphed in a grey 16-12 snooze-fest.
Nine Manly players made 20 tackles or more in a match where exciting ball-play was like hens’ teeth.
Prop Jake Trbojevic was close to best on park with a try, 168 metres, 33 tackles and two line-breaks.
Manly have only won once away from home this year, but given the Dragons’ abysmal display last week, it’s hard to go past the Silvertails.
Tip: Manly by 10 points.