Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys
The Broncos produced an impressive second-half display to run down one younger brother in the Titans last week, and they face the other at home this Friday night. Sam Thaiday returns after suspension last week, but Andrew McCullough was the standout and he will again work the ruck over with smart runs from dummy half.
The Cowboys were clinical in the opening quarter of their clash with the Panthers at home last week, but despite the 30-0 scoreline weren’t at their best beyond that. Rob Lui is out with a dislocated knee, replaced by Michael Morgan at halfback, while Ashley Graham is back on the wing and Tariq Sims forces his way into the starting lineup.
If you think...the Broncos will build off their impressive second half and Andrew McCullough will run the big Cowboys forwards wild, tip Brisbane.
If you think...the Cowboys can rattle the Broncos with their powerful runners on the edge of the ruck, take North Queensland.
Sydney Roosters v Canterbury Bulldogs
The Roosters looked at ease early on against the Raiders, but were ambushed in the second half and couldn’t contain the Green Machine as they ran through them late. Daniel Tupou is back in place of Michael Oldfield, but the big story is Sonny Bill Williams taking on his former club, one sure way to fire up the Kiwi powerhouse.
The Bulldogs enter the game in the seemingly unbelievable position of one win from five after a 20-6 loss to the Sea Eagles last Friday night. Greg Eastwood is back for Canterbury, but the battle between five-eighths Josh Reynolds and James Maloney could steal the show as both push for representative football.
If you think...SBW will have the Bulldogs fans screaming “OMG! Why did you leave?!”, tip the Roosters.
If you think...Ben Barba will finally settle back into his usual top form and move the Bulldogs from the bottom of the ladder, tip Canterbury.
Newcastle Knights v Penrith Panthers
The Knights travelled to WIN Jubilee Oval last week and fell to the Dragons in a disappointing but very close game. Danny Buderus returns on the bench, with Kurt Gidley still at hooker, however the form of Adam Cuthbertson from the bench will certainly make a difference here.
The Panthers were completely outplayed by the Cowboys in Townsville, not executing anywhere near the required levels to take down top teams on the road. They now travel to Newcastle with an unchanged side, allowing Tom Humble and Blake Austin to grow their halves partnership after precious little opportunity last week.
If you think...Newcastle’s home form is too good to resist, tip the Knights at Hunter Stadium.
If you think...the Panthers can bounce back from their struggles last week and win on the road, tip Penrith.
Canberra Raiders v Warriors
The Raiders grabbed their second win of 2013 with a dominant second half display against the Roosters in Canberra, as halfback Sam Williams controlled the game. They welcome back Terry Campese this week (on an extended bench), which could see a reshuffle as Josh McCrone moves into dummy half where he helped change the game last week.
The Warriors had their best performance of the season last week despite falling to the Rabbitohs, coming back from two early runaway tries to lead them into the final stages, only to suffer a heart-breaking two point loss. Russell Packer’s return definitely provided a difference, but centre Konrad Hurrell is the player to watch as his destructive displays on the right edge could give Jarrod Croker headaches.
If you think...Terry Campese will return to his top form at Canberra Stadium and shift Josh McCrone to a better spot at hooker, top the Raiders.
If you think...the Warriors will gain plenty from their close loss and transfer it to Canberra, take the away team in an upset.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Melbourne Storm
An easy pick for match of the round, with the undefeated Rabbitohs heading into this game on the back of a win across the ditch and with plenty of confidence. They’re unchanged from that success, and the form of both Burgess brothers along with fullback Greg Inglis will be the biggest concern for Melbourne.
The Storm got a bit of a scare from the Tigers in the first half, but their class shone through to secure the win on Monday night. They’re unchanged with some additions on the bench, however fullback Billy Slater is in serious doubt with a foot injury. His loss could force major changes, with Gareth Widdop possibly back to fullback and Brett Finch to the halves.
If you think...the form of the Burgess brothers has been irresistible and Melbourne will wish they never let Greg Inglis go, tip Souths.
If you think...the Tigers may have awoken a sleeping giant by poking the Storm, tip Melbourne on the road.
Manly Sea Eagles v Cronulla Sharks
The Sea Eagles rose to the occasion last week and downed the Bulldogs in typically clinical style, 20-6 away from home. They return to Brookvale this Sunday with an unchanged side, as the form of Brenton Lawrence keeps co-captain Jason King on the bench, while Brett Stewart came to life on Friday night in some good signs for NSW fans.
The Sharks continued their up-and-down season last Saturday with a 13-6 loss to the Eels as they struggled to take advantage of their chances. Chad Townsend is still at five-eighth with Todd Carney missing again through injury, but the form of their custodian Michael Gordon will make for an interesting battle with Stewart.
If you think...Fortress Brookvale will be too much for the Sharks to handle, then tip the Sea Eagles.
If you think...the Sharks can lift emotionally again and beat the Sea Eagles through the middle, take Cronulla.
Wests Tigers v St George Illawarra Dragons
The Wests Tigers pushed the Storm for an hour last Monday, but were outgunned in the final stages to suffer their second straight loss. As they commemorate the 1963 Grand Final Liam Fulton returns, however Benji Marshall has been ruled out with a toe ligament injury meaning a possible reshuffle where Tim Moltzen moves to the halves and James Tedesco to the back.
St George Illawarra conversely enter the game in top form with back-to-back wins, including a strong 19-16 victory over Newcastle last Sunday. They’ve lost Gerard Beale for the season with an ACL season, but Jason Nightingale moves to fullback and Daniel Vidot comes onto the wing, as the two sides continue a storied rivalry.
If you think...the Tigers have turned a corner with the performance in Melbourne and loss of Benji Marshall won’t impact them enough, tip Wests.
If you think...the Dragons have found their niche under Steve Price and the Jason Nightingale/Brett Morris double team at the back will carve the Tigers up, take St George Illawarra.
Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels
The Titans run came crashing to a halt last Friday as the Broncos ran them ragged in the second half. They’ve been significantly impacted by injury and ill-discipline, with (most notably) Aidan Sezer and Dave Taylor missing, along with heavy doubts surrounding the fitness of Albert Kelly ahead of Sunday evening’s game.
The Eels turned around a 50 point thrashing in Round 4 to down the Sharks in an emotional victory last Saturday night. They’re unchanged to take on the Gold Coast, but will rely on Jarryd Hayne and Chris Sandow to stand up again this week in what will be a tough clash.
If you think...the major changes at the Titans won’t impact their chances in this game, take the Gold Coast at home.
If you think...the Eels can ride the wave of momentum up the coast to Robina, tip Parramatta on the road.