Wests Tigers v Warriors
Wests Tigers play their final game at Leichhardt Oval in 2013, in what is set to be an emotional night for all involved at the club. With Benji Marshall informing the rugby league world of his intention to leave the game come season’s end, this will also be his last game in front of the Leichhardt faithful. Sitting on 16 competition points, the side are still hopeful of a finals berth, and anything less than a win here would be a major set back.
The Warriors have been on a roll, with a five game winning streak only being halted in Round 17 by a South Sydney side who sit atop the NRL ladder. While they didn’t take the two points on that occasion, they still would’ve taken confidence in knowing they can match it with the best. The Warriors have a poor record in this fixture, losing four of the past five. But importantly, that last victory against Wests Tigers came in the 2011 finals series.
If you think...Wests can overcome the emotion and drama of the week and keep their finals hopes alive, tip the Tigers.
If you think... the visitors will continue their mid-season resurgence and charge into finals contention, tip the Warriors.
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Canberra Raiders v Parramatta Eels
Fresh from the bye, the Raiders will be out to extend their unbeaten run at home in 2013 as they welcome Parramatta to a chilly Canberra Stadium. Terry Campese has reacquainted himself with the no. 6 jersey after years ravaged by injury, and the Green Machine seem to have unearthed a future star in the form of Anthony Milford, a young fullback who can cause plenty of damage.
Having last tasted victory in Round 9 with a one point win over the Broncos, the challenge doesn’t become any easier for the Eels this week. While they didn’t collect the points in the 17-10 loss to Penrith in Round 18, there were signs of improvement from the young Parramatta side, still without star fullback Jarryd Hayne. A win on the road would seem unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
If you think... the Raiders can send the Eels packing and return to the top eight with a win, tip Canberra.
If you think... Parramatta will provide the upset of the round, tip the Eels as point of difference.
Sydney Roosters v Cronulla Sharks
The Roosters did it easy in their last-start win over the Dragons, cruising to a 36-0 win in Round 17. Sitting in second on the ladder behind South Sydney, they’ll be keen to claw back the four point advantage that their fierce rivals currently enjoy. Mitchell Pearce, James Maloney, Michael Jennings and Boyd Cordner have all been cleared to play and will back up from the Origin decider, but Sonny Bill Williams is a late omission.
Cronulla will have gained plenty of confidence following their 19-18 victory over the Broncos on the road last week. Todd Carney was the star in that win, and will need to fire against his former club should the Sharks be victorious. Importantly, Cronulla welcome back Andrew Fifita from Origin duty, and will look towards the towering prop for inspiration with Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen sidelined for the next few weeks.
If you think...the Roosters will keep the pressure on Souths at the top of the ladder, tip the Tricolours.
If you think...the Sharks can overcome the loss of two of their best and stay in touch with the top four, tip Cronulla.
Penrith Panthers v Newcastle Knights
One of the form sides of the competition of recent weeks, the Panthers have strung three wins together and currently sit in seventh spot on the ladder with an 8-8 record. Luke Walsh has been in excellent touch, with his kicking game proving to be the different on many occasions. They will however be without the services of Nigel Plum and Matt Robinson, both ruled out through injury. If the Panthers are to go onto play finals football, this is a must-win, particularly in front of their loyal members and supporters at Centrebet Stadium.
The Knights’ finals aspirations are back on track following two wins sandwiched by two byes. In the absence of Kurt Gidley, Jarrod Mullen has stepped up and embraced captaincy, and is in some fine form. Newcastle have a good record against the Panthers, with their last loss to Penrith occurring in Round 13, 2010.
If you think...the Panthers can make it four wins in a row and leapfrog the mid-table logjam, tip Penrith.
If you think...the experience of the Knights will come to the fore and will help them to victory, tip Newcastle.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Gold Coast Titans
After a run of three losses, the Sea Eagles have burst back to life with two big wins over the Eels and Cowboys. Not totally assured of a finals spot, Manly will be looking to distance themselves from the bottom half of the top eight with a win at fortress Brookvale. Origin stars Anthony Watmough and Daly Cherry-Evans will both back up, giving the side a very familiar feel.
The Titans have had a rough few weeks, suffering two big losses at the hands of the Knights and Panthers. This has seen them drift from their spot in the top eight to 9th, equal on 20 points with four other clubs. They do welcome back David Taylor, Beau Falloon and Brad Takairangi from injury, while Greg Bird and Nate Myles might yet back up from Origin. Interestingly, the Gold Coast side have a decent record against the Sea Eagles, winning three of their last five, including their last fixture in Round 3 this year and one at Brookvale in Round 7, 2012.
If you think...the Sea Eagles will consolidate their spot in the top four and continue the Titans’ recent woes, tip Manly.
If you think...the Titans will claim another win at Brookvale off the back of the additions to this week’s side, tip the Gold Coast.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v St George Illawarra Dragons
South Sydney are flying at the top of the ladder, but were dealt a severe blow following the Origin decider with star fullback Greg Inglis sidelined for between 4-8 weeks with a knee injury. It remains to be seen who exactly will fill in at the back, but Nathan Merritt and Justin Hunt seem likely candidates. The Rabbitohs haven’t lost to the Dragons since Round 6, 2011, and will need to be on their game to ensure this streak continues.
St George Illawarra have experienced a tough few weeks, with their last win coming in Round 13 against the Knights. On that day, Josh Dugan proved to be the difference, and the Dragons will again look to their talented fullback for the spark required to get on top of the ladder leaders. Lock Trent Merrin is also set to return to the side after scoring a try on Wednesday night.
If you think...South Sydney can overcome the loss of Inglis and make it 15 wins this season, tip the Rabbitohs.
If you think...the Dragons can return to winning ways against their rivals, tip St George Illawarra.