Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys
On a club record losing streak of seven in a row, Wests will need to find something after being demolished 54-10 by the Rabbitohs last week. They return to the home of the Tiger this week, Leichhardt Oval, and welcome Braith Anasta back into the lineup, and will need to find some inspiration to get themselves off the bottom of the ladder.
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The Cowboys up and down season continued last Saturday, falling at home in a tight one to the Roosters despite having countless opportunities to put the visitors to bed. They’re unchanged, and again their woeful record in Sydney will come into focus if they can’t put the current cellar dwellers away at a ground they haven’t won at since 2000.
If you think...the Tigers are always morals at Leichhardt and surely they’ve got to win eventually, tip Wests.
If you think...the Cowboys will be more clinical and Robert Lui can show the Tigers what they let go, tip North Queensland.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Brisbane Broncos
The Bulldogs resurgence came to a grinding halt on Sunday afternoon, taken down 44-8 at Hunter Stadium by the ruthless Newcastle Knights. Krisnan Inu’s return from suspension only lasted one week, again suspended for two weeks for grade 2 dangerous contact, with Tim Lafai returning in the centres.
Even without Justin Hodges and Scott Prince, the Broncos were far too good for the Titans at Suncorp last Friday night, however a trip to ANZ is a totally different kettle of fish. Jack Reed will be missing for this one, but Hodges has been named to return, and the Broncos have lost just twice this year with Hodges in the lineup.
If you think...the Dogs can rebound from the disaster in Newcastle last week and get back on track, tip Canterbury.
If you think...Justin Hodges’ presence will be a boost for Brisbane, and we could see an Origin One preview as he takes on Josh Morris, tip the Broncos.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Penrith Panthers
Josh Dugan had the Dragons fans dancing on the ceiling at WIN Stadium last week as they took down Parramatta 32-12. Their attack sparkled, with Jamie Soward also having his best game in a number of weeks, and welcome back Mitch Rein and Matt Cooper this week.
Funnily enough, the Panthers were even more impressive in smashing the Warriors at home 62-6, with Isaac John and Lewis Brown running riot against their former club, grabbing a hat-trick and a double respectively. Ryan Simpkins gets his first shot of 2013, replacing the injured Sam Anderson on the bench.
If you think...Josh Dugan can cruise past the Panthers defence like he did Parramatta last week, tip St George Illawarra.
If you think...Penrith have finally found some form and their momentum will be too hard to stop, tip the Panthers.
Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm
The Roosters showed off their defensive steel again last Saturday, tackling their way to a 12-8 victory over the Cowboys at a sodden 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville. Halfback Mitchell Pearce was the star of the show, all but sealing the NSW number 7 jersey (if he hadn’t already), but he has an Origin audition taking on Cooper Cronk this Saturday night.
The Storm halted their losing run on Monday night, but weren’t able to seal two points, holding on for a draw against the Sea Eagles at home in an enthralling affair. Ryan Hinchcliffe returned last week and will start again this week at lock, while the absence of centre Will Chambers means Maurice Blair has the job of containing Michael Jennings.
If you think...the Roosters will put up the Tricolour wall and keep the pressure on Souths at the top of the ladder, tip the home side.
If you think...the Storm will gain plenty of confidence and some momentum from their hard-fought draw, tip Melbourne.
Manly Sea Eagles v Canberra Raiders
Manly tackled their way to a 10-10 draw at AAMI Park last Monday, a result that is more significant in the performance than it is the outcome. They remain unchanged, although there will be plenty of banged up bodies after going 90 minutes with the defending premiers on the road, and they will certainly be looking forward to a return to Fortress Brookvale.
The Raiders travel to Manly on the back of an end-to-end 30-20 loss to the Sharks at Cronulla last Sunday. Matt McIlwrick has been dropped for this one, with Shaun Berrigan into the side alongside Joel Thompson, who returns from injury. The talking point will be the fitness of Josh McCrone, who suffered a hip injury after being hit by Sam Tagataese, as well as their record at Brookvale, where they have won just once in the past 10 seasons.
If you think...Fortress Brookvale can be back in session, tip Manly at home.
If you think...the Raiders unpredictability in attack will be exactly what is required to break down the Sea Eagles dogged defence, tip Canberra.
Parramatta Eels v Gold Coast Titans
Parramatta were disappointing in falling to the Dragons in Wollongong last Saturday night, and will require another attitude change this week to get the points. Matt Ryan comes into the side for youngster Kelepi Tanginoa, who is missing with a hand injury, but they will be looking to impress the locals in the home game they’ve taken to Mudgee Stadium.
The Titans were way off against Brisbane on Friday night, falling 32-6 in an ill-disciplined performance. Beau Falloon and David Mead will miss the trip south, but Matt Srama returns to the starting lineup, and they are boosted by David Taylor’s presence after he was successful in having a dangerous contact charge downgraded.
If you think...the Eels will again lift at the Wembley of the West on the back of Jarryd Hayne and Chris Sandow, tip Parramatta.
If you think...a number of the Titans will put on a show with Origin only a short time away, take the Gold Coast.
Warriors v Newcastle Knights
The Warriors were taken to the cleaners by Penrith last week 62-6, a sobering reminder of the work ahead for former Panthers coach Matt Elliott given to him by former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary. Kevin Locke and Dane Nielsen return to the side this weekend, although they’re going to need more than a change of personnel to turn around their last performance.
The Knights responded to Wayne Bennett’s silent treatment with a 44-8 thrashing of the Bulldogs last Sunday, with Willie Mason, Darius Boyd and Kurt Gidley all standouts in the big win. Aku Uate is the only player returning on the wing, and it couldn’t be more timely for him with Origin selectors to announce the team just hours after this game.
If you think...the home ground advantage can be a factor and you need a difference maker for your tips this week, take the Warriors.
If you think...the Knights form will be able to transfer across the Tasman and Kurt Gidley could just knab the bench utility spot for NSW, tip Newcastle.
Cronulla Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Sharks made it two from two without skipper Paul Gallen last week, taking down the Raiders 30-20, but they welcome the skipper back for this clash. Chris Heighington moves back to the bench, while Luke Lewis is also back from injury replacing Jayson Bukuya in the second row. They’ll be out for revenge after falling to Souths 14-12 in Round 2.
The Rabbitohs ran rings around the decimated Tigers last Friday night, punching holes through the middle of the field as big as Swiss cheese. Their immensely talented spine of John Sutton, Adam Reynolds, Greg Inglis and Issac Luke were the stars, and they’ll again be the key to beating the tough Sharks forward pack in the middle of the park.
If you think...the Sharks will cause an upset at home with the return of Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis to prove the difference, tip Cronulla.
If you think...the cardinal and myrtle will be singing glory glory for the 10th time this year as they stay on the top of pile, tip Souths.