Matt Trodden, NRL.com
Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans
The Broncos suffered a disappointing loss to the Eels at Parramatta last week, lacking the killer punch in the final quarter as they dominated the home side everywhere but the scoreboard. They’ve lost Scott Prince and Ben Hannant this week, with Ben Hunt and Josh McGuire gaining starting spots for this Queensland derby.
In contrast the Titans held on for a one point victory over the Dragons after trailing mid-way through the second half, with Aidan Sezer kicking them home. Matt Srama is back on the bench, but the remainder of their side is the same from last Sunday, as they look to grab bragging rights for South Queensland.
If you think...a packed Suncorp Stadium will be all the motivation an inconsistent Broncos need, tip Brisbane in a tight one.
If you think...the momentum gained from last week’s win, as well as a full-strength forward pack, will be too strong for Brisbane, take the Titans on the road.
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South Sydney Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
The Rabbitohs are sitting pretty at the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder after nine rounds, and are winning games through sheer determination and fight rather than simply skill, as was the case last Friday night against North Queensland. Their only change is a return for Justin Hunt on the wing for the suspended Andrew Everingham.
Last week we said it couldn’t get much worse for Wests...well that’s arguably the case but things certainly aren’t any better following a 30-6 loss to Cronulla after a lackluster second half. Benji Marshall is dropped back to the bench, with a new halves pairing of Liam Fulton and Curtis Sironen.
If you think...the Burgess boys and GI will give Wests more headaches than a Todd Carney bomb, tip Souths.
If you think...Marshall’s move to the bench could be the masterstroke that helps the Tigers out of their funk, tip them at their former home.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels
The Dragons lost a tight one to the Titans on the Gold Coast last week despite missing a number of experienced backs, but this week begins a new stage of their season. Former NSW fullback Josh Dugan makes his club debut, while Matt Cooper returns from injury to push Matt Prior to the bench.
The Eels gained a confidence-boosting one point win over the Broncos last week, holding out a late surge from the visitors. Darcy Lussick is suspended, replaced by 19 year old prop Junior Paulo, while Jarryd Hayne continues his audition for the NSW fullback spot after delivering the killer blows last week.
If you think...the Dragons will be able to get Josh Dugan dominating on the field in a breeze, tip St George Illawarra in Wollongong.
If you think...the Eels have learnt to grind wins against the stronger opposition, tip Ricky Stuart’s boys against their Sydney rivals.
Penrith Panthers v Warriors
The Panthers provided the upset of the season on Mother’s Day, taking down the Storm at Centrebet Stadium with controlled and well-executed footy. They’re unsurprisingly unchanged, with coach Ivan Cleary looking to get one over his former club after falling short at home last season.
The Warriors looked all the part of 2011 grand finalists in the first half against Canterbury last week, but fell into the trap of complacency in the second half and were run down. Sam Rapira returns in the front row, while Carlos Tuimavave holds his spot in the centres as Matt Elliott returns to the home of his former club.
If you think...Penrith’s win over the Storm was no fluke and they’re starting to turn Centrebet Stadium into the fortress it once was, tip Ivan Cleary’s men at home.
If you think...Matt Elliott can harness all the energy from last week’s first half and turn it into an 80 minute performance, tip the Warriors.
North Queensland Cowboys v Sydney Roosters
The Cowboys were unlucky in Sydney last Friday night against Souths, but simply couldn’t match the competition leaders and fell by the wayside in the second half. They’re unchanged, with Jason Taumalolo added to the bench for a return home against the side they thrashed 50-12 in Darwin last year.
The Roosters conquered Fortress Brookvale last Monday night, defeating Manly 16-4 with a terrific defensive performance all round to keep the homeside to a solitary try. They did lose Jared Waerea-Hargreaves however, with the prop suspended for five weeks for a grade one reckless high tackle which saw him sent off.
If you think...the Cowboys will be determined to get their season back on track at home with Ray Thompson back at halfback, tip North Queensland.
If you think...the Roosters can use their wave of momentum and take down the Cowboys for only the second time in seven attempts, tip the star-studded Tricolours up north.
Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders
The Sharks defeated the Tigers last Friday night with a pinpoint kicking game from Todd Carney, bombing away at the inexperienced outside backs to score four tries off the boot. They’re still without Paul Gallen this week, however the form of Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington should cover for the loss of their skipper.
The Raiders have started to hit form with the ball in hand, thrashing Newcastle 44-14 at home last Sunday as Blake Ferguson ran riot on the right edge. They also have the same 17 as last week, but David Shillington and Josh Papalii come into the starting side after returning from injury on Sunday.
If you think...Todd Carney’s form could give his former side headaches at Sharks Stadium, tip Cronulla.
If you think...Blake Ferguson can force his way into Laurie Daley’s NSW lineup by running rings around Ben Pomeroy, tip the Raiders.
Newcastle Knights v Canterbury Bulldogs
Newcastle got the worst possible treatment from coach Wayne Bennett after their 44-14 loss to Canberra last week - the silent treatment. Bennett wielded the axe for their return to Hunter Stadium with Chris Houston and Timana Tahu dropped and Neville Costigan and Joey Leilua brought into the squad.
The Bulldogs look to be hitting some kind of form on the back of returns by Sam Kasiano and James Graham, and a bit more spark out of Ben Barba. Krisnan Inu is back from suspension this week, replacing Tim Lafai in the centres as Des Hasler’s side returns to full strength.
If you think...the silent treatment does actually work, tip Newcaslte.
If you think...last year’s minor premiers are back on track and they can dominate in the centre of the park, tip the Bulldogs.
Melbourne Storm v Manly Sea Eagles
The Storm suffered back-to-back losses last week, falling to Penrith at Centrebet Stadium in a clearly tired performance. Coach Craig Bellamy resisted major changes to his side, only recalling Lagi Setu to an extended bench and sticking with Maurice Blair and Slade Griffin. They’ll be out to continue their good recent record against Manly, particularly in Melbourne.
The Sea Eagles were out-muscled 16-4 by the Roosters on Monday night at Brookvale in one of the toughest games of the season. Brett Stewart is still missing at the back, with Peter Hiku his replacement, while Tom Symonds is also back after being a late scratching on Monday night.
If you think...the Storm surely can’t lose three in a row with a near full-strength side, tip Melbourne.
If you think...the Sea Eagles will be out to gain retribution for last year’s preliminary final loss, tip Manly at AAMI Park.