Matt Trodden,, NRL.com
Melbourne Storm v Canterbury Bulldogs
The tough schedule and gruelling conditions has not halted the Storm’s momentum whatsoever, as they’ve put away both the Dragons and Cowboys with clinical displays in attack and defence. Cooper Cronk is in scintillating form and that should continue in the grand final replay.
The Bulldogs bounced back to beat the Eels last week, with Josh Reynolds and Aiden Tolman leading the way in the tight win. They’ll be seeking revenge for the loss last year, but also need to start getting momentum before any possible return of Ben Barba.
If you think...we will see a repeat of last year’s decider as Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater prove too good for the Bulldogs at home, take the Storm.
If you think...Canterbury will be geared up for revenge for last year’s Grand Final defeat, tip the Bulldogs.
Wests Tigers v Parramatta Eels
The Tigers were vastly improved at Campbelltown on Sunday afternoon, proving too good for the Panthers. Benji Marshall, Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods all impressed for Wests, but they are without Keith Galloway for an extended period after the former NSW Origin prop suffered a pectoral injury.
The Eels went down in a nailbiter to the Bulldogs, but their fans will be very pleased with the display as they constantly threatened Canterbury’s line. Chris Sandow controlled the game well, while Jarryd Hayne and Jacob Loko busted plenty of tackles.
If you think...Wests Tigers’ return to a regularly packed Leichhardt will be motivation enough in this western derby, tip the home side.
If you think...the Eels are in too good of form to drop a game to the inconsistent Tigers, take Ricky Stuart’s men.
Gold Coast Titans v Manly Sea Eagles
The Titans scored a record 36-0 victory over Canberra at home last week, with exciting young halves combo Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer completely dominating the game. Fullback Will Zillman also had a field day, as they grabbed their first points of the season.
Conversely it was Manly’s more experienced players such as Jamie Lyon and Anthony Watmough who showed the young kids the way to go upon returning to Fortress Brookvale. They have an imposing forward pack, even without Jason King and Glenn Stewart, while two young halves of their own are starting to mature nicely.
If you think...Skilled Park will be the scene of another great Titan triumph as Kelly and Sezer become the Foran and Cherry-Evans of 2013, tip the Gold Coast.
If you think...Manly haven’t missed a beat and will continue to power through their opponents, take the Sea Eagles.
Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos
The Roosters finally got their season off and running with a tight win at Eden Park, and will be looking to make it back-to-back wins at Allianz Stadium. Forwards Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Moa were standouts, while centres Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Michael Jennings created havoc on each edge.
The Broncos toughed out a very good win in Wollongong, winning with minimal possession and field position, as well as having Josh McGuire and Justin Hodges go down with injuries. Ben Hannant and Alex Glenn produced powerhouse displays, while Corey Norman is slotting nicely back to fullback.
If you think...SBW will have the Broncos fans screaming OMG, tip the Roosters.
If you think...the Broncos have found their groove away from home, take Brisbane on the road.
Cronulla Sharks v Warriors
Another valiant display from the Sharks on Monday night wasn’t enough as they lost to South Sydney, but back at Sharks Stadium there will be plenty of feeling in this one. Paul Gallen and Michael Gordon were in everything, but the final pass was just a bit wayward on a number of occasions.
The Warriors had a much improved display at Eden Park against the Roosters, with Shaun Johnson showing his class, but they still have a long way to go if they want to reach the heights of their 2011 Grand Final appearance.
If you think...the Sharks will produce another inspiring performance at home driven by a vocal Shire crowd, tip Cronulla.
If you think...the Warriors are due for a big performance and need a point of difference in your tips, take the Kiwi side.
Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Panthers were disappointing against the Tigers after losing Lachlan Coote early to a pectoral injury. Tom Humble is his replacement, and he will need to fit right in if they are to take down one of the competition heavyweights.
South Sydney were far from the polished side we saw on opening night against Cronulla, but importantly they picked up the two points. Adam Reynolds showed his class in taking control of the game late with some great kicking, while Sam Burgess’ return will provide the extra size and power in the forward pack.
If you think...Penrith will be able to produce another good performance at home, and want to take a smokey, tip the Panthers.
If you think...last Monday night was just a one-off for the Rabbitohs, take South Sydney at the foot of the mountains.
Canberra Raiders v St George Illawarra Dragons
It’s hoodoo time in the nation’s capital, as Canberra look to put the past two weeks behind them and get off the mark for 2013. Glen Buttriss returns at hooker to provide some more structure around the ruck, and Jack Wighton and Edrick Lee get another chance in the backline.
If the Dragons are ever going to break the hoodoo, this will have to be the year. Neither side has a win to their name as of yet, but St George Illawarra have just lacked the last pass in attack on many occasions, particularly last week when they dominated possession and field position.
If you think...you believe in hoodoos, tip the Raiders plain and simple.
If you think...it’s about time the Dragons got that win in Canberra that they’ve been working to for so long, take St George Illawarra.
Newcastle Knights v North Queensland Cowboys
The Knights were brought back to earth with a thud by Manly at Brookvale, kept scoreless as they lacked the forward punch they were allowed in Round 1. Willie Mason and Dane Gagai are both injured this week, paving the way for returns to NRL for Timana Tahu and David Fa’alogo, both of whom will start.
The Cowboys fought hard at home, but were simply outclassed by the defending premiers in the end. Johnathan Thurston again had his moments of brilliance, but he has a new halves partner in Michael Morgan after Ray Thompson’s injury, and Tariq Sims drops off the bench, one which welcomes Anthony Mitchell back.
If you think...the Knights will again rampage through their opposition at Hunter Stadium, take the Knights
If you think...JT and Morgan will recreate the great combination that led them deep into the 2012 finals series, take the Cowboys.