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South Sydney Rabbitohs v North Queensland Cowboys
The South Sydney juggernaut continues to roll on, but they’re also learning to win when not at their best, which is a key trait of a champion side. Their side is stable, with coach Maguire choosing to stick with the same 17 that took down the Broncos last week, adding Jeff Lima and Justin Hunt on an extended bench.
The Cowboys have often struggled in Sydney, and while that was evident last week against the Eels, they still got the two points - albeit with a touch of fortune. They’ve also maintained the same 17, adding Scott Moore and Scott Bolton to the travelling squad.
If you think...the classy Souths forward pack will get over their sizeable opponents, tip the Rabbitohs.
If you think...last week’s win over Parramatta on the road can be a turning point for North Queensland, tip the Cowboys.
Wests Tigers v Cronulla Sharks
It couldn’t get much worse for the Wests Tigers following a 40-4 thrashing at the hands of Canterbury last Friday, but they front up against several former teammates this week in an interesting battle. Suaso Sue, Tim Simona and Eddy Pettybourne have all been given starting berths, while Benji Marshall will need to improve after his return from injury last week.
The Sharks were brave in their golden point extra time victory over the Knights in Newcastle last Sunday, but lost captain Paul Gallen in the process. Chris Heighington takes his spot at lock, while Jayson Bukuya is added on the bench and Sosaia Feki retains a place on the wing.
If you think...it’s time for the Tigers to fire up, and a meeting with six former teammates might just do that, tip the home side.
If you think...the Sharks will grow an arm and a leg from their extra time win and Todd Carney is starting to hit form, tip Cronulla.
Warriors v Canterbury Bulldogs
The Warriors scored an important win over the Titans at home last week, and take this home game to their nation’s capital, Wellington. Kevin Locke and Jerome Ropati will both be missing with injury, replaced by Glen Fisiiahi and Konrad Hurrell respectively, while Manu Vatuvei will be eager to impress after signing a contract extension this week.
The Bulldogs looked like the side that took out the 2012 minor premiership last week, piling on the points against the decimated Tigers. Props James Graham and Sam Kasiano both made successful returns, and are back this week, while Trent Hodkinson is showing all of the potential Des Hasler saw in him at Manly three years ago.
If you think...the home ground advantage and form of halfback Shaun Johnson will be all the help the Kiwi boys need, tip the Warriors.
If you think...with their first choice forward pack back the Bulldogs will return to their 2012 form, tip Canterbury on the road.
Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos
Many a heart has been broken at Parramatta Stadium over the years, and last Saturday only added to that as the Eels fell just short against the Cowboys, despite an enormous effort. They’re unchanged, with Jacob Loko in the centres again and Peni Terepo maintaining a starting spot after an impressive debut last week.
The Broncos pushed Souths at Suncorp last week, but were simply outclassed in the end, sorely missing the presence of Justin Hodges on the right edge. He returns this week, with Jordan Kahu pushing out to the wing, while Josh McGuire and David Stagg are added to the bench, with both returning from injury.
If you think...the Eels’ efforts will finally be rewarded on the scoreboard, tip Parramatta at home.
If you think...the return of Justin Hodges will give the Broncos an added spark on the right edge, tip Brisbane.
Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights
The Raiders did the unthinkable last week, travelling down to Melbourne and playing them off the park with some smart, but expansive football. Glen Buttriss and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs have succumbed to injuries, with Matt McIlwrick starting at hooker, Dane Tilse at prop, and David Shillington making a welcome return from a rib injury.
The Knights suffered heartbreak at home last week, falling to the Sharks in extra time. Jarrod Mullen fell victim to a knee injury which has forced Kurt Gidley to five-eighth and Matt Hilder’s return to the bench, while Travis Waddell will start at hooker.
If you think...the Raiders home form has been irresistible this year and is set to continue, tip Canberra.
If you think...Kurt Gidley will be more comfortable in the five-eighth position and spark the Knights attack, give Newcastle a nudge.
Gold Coast Titans v St George Illawarra Dragons
The Titans put in the effort but couldn’t execute properly in the wet of Auckland last week, going down by one point. Kevin Gordon, David Mead and Ben Ridge are all named to make a return, with Steve Michaels and Anthony Don out, while Albert Kelly has been named despite suffering a minor concussion last week.
The Dragons had all the ball and all the field position against the Sea Eagles on Monday night, but a combination of wasteful attack and an off night goal-kicking from Jamie Soward meant they fell short. Matt Cooper returns in the centres, while Brett Morris has been ruled out after undergoing minor knee surgery.
If you think...a return to Skilled Park may be what the Titans need to get back on track, tip the Gold Coast.
If you think...the Dragons attack can finally click even without Morris on the flank, tip St George Illawarra.
Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm
The Panthers let a disappointing second half ruin their momentum as they were beaten 30-6 by the Roosters at Allianz Stadium last week. Isaac John will replace Tom Humble, who is out with an ankle injury, at five-eighth while Sam Anderson will make his debut off the bench. The Panthers are out for their first win over the Storm since 2005.
The Storm suffered their first loss of 2013 against Canberra last week, although coach Craig Bellamy admitted it had been coming for some weeks. Brett Finch and Maurice Blair both came back into the side last week and retain their spots, but they’ve kept the same starting 13 from the loss.
If you think...the Panthers can surprise the Storm like the Raiders last week, don’t be shy.
If you think...the loss to the Raiders will serve as a massive wake-up call for Melbourne, tip the Storm on the road.
Manly Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters
Manly got back on track with a win against St George Illawarra, despite only have 39% of possession. Brett Stewart has been ruled out with a back injury, which will force a re-shuffle, although Steve Matai is back from suspension pushing Tom Symonds to the bench alongside a returning Jamie Buhrer.
The Roosters continue to rack up the points against their opposition, putting aside a tight first half to run riot over Penrith 30-6 last Sunday. They make just one change this week with Sam Moa missing through injury, replaced by Martin Kennedy in the starting lineup, while Frank-Paul Nuuausala makes a return on the bench.
If you think...the Sea Eagles can still get the two points at Fortress Brookvale even without slippery snake Stewart at the back, tip Manly.
If you think...the Roosters can prove themselves against a high quality side and get their first Brookvale win since 2004, tip the Tricolours.