Brisbane Broncos v Newcastle Knights
It’s crunch time for both these sides in the race for the finals, although the home side are in a particular spot of bother. A draw at Hunter Stadium just a month ago adds an extra layer of drama to this clash, however the Broncos’ record at Suncorp against Newcastle definitely has them as favourites. The Knights have won in Brisbane just once in the past nine seasons, and have won just three of the last 13 clashes between the two.
If you think...the Broncos can start their late run with a stirring home win against their former coach, tip Brisbane.
If you think...the Knights can all-but seal their spot in the top eight with an upset on the road, tip Newcastle.
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Wests Tigers v Souths Sydney Rabbitohs
Wests Tigers ended a six-match losing streak at the SCG last Saturday, but they face a Rabbitohs side chasing their first minor premiership in 24 years. Souths ran out heavy 54-10 winners in Round 10, and have defeated Wests in six of the past seven encounters between the two. The Tigers only victory in that period however, came on a Friday night at Allianz Stadium. The question is, do you believe in déjà vu?
If you think...the upset of all upsets could be on the cards in Benji Marshall’s 200th and final home game, tip the Tigers.
If you think...the Rabbitohs are starting to build the right momentum for a run deep into the finals, tip Souths.
Warriors v Canberra Raiders
A loss here will be fatal to the chances of both teams, but recent records say that the visitors could have the edge in this game. They’ve won the past three against the Warriors, however the drama surrounding the Raiders will definitely be a factor. Canberra won 20-16 in Round 6 in a thriller, however they’ve lost their last four in a row.
If you think...the Kiwi boys can get back on a roll and do some damage on the way to the finals, tip the Warriors.
If you think…the Raiders can bounce back with a new-look spine in place and Terry Campese back in the side, tip Canberra.
Canterbury Bulldogs v Penrith Panthers
The Bulldogs spot in the eight might be fairly secure, but they face an eager Penrith team who two wins to enter just their second finals series in nine seasons. The Panthers have won three of the last four between these two sides and recently points have been a bit harder to come by. The loss of Frank Pritchard may also be a big blow for Canterbury, with the blockbusting back rower having been on the winning side of clashes between these two on 10 of 15 meetings.
If you think...the Bulldogs will be too strong at home and secure a home final for week one, tip Canterbury.
If you think...Penrith could spring a surprise and keep their hopes of September footy alive, tip the Panthers.
Manly Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm
Here we are again - the battle of Brookvale. Far and away the biggest modern rivalry is between these two powerhouse teams, and both enter in good form. An intriguing 10-10 draw in Round 10 acts as the perfect precursor, although the Storm had won three of the four clashes prior to that. Jorge Taufua’s absence may be a blessing in disguise for the Sea Eagles, with the young winger having never beaten the Storm, however his recent try-scoring form at Brookvale will be missed.
If you think...Manly can take third spot back and get revenge for last year’s preliminary final defeat, tip the Sea Eagles.
If you think...Melbourne’s 64-4 thrashing of the Eels last week is only a sign of things to come, tip the Storm.
Cronulla Sharks v North Queensland Cowboys
A stirring win over the Roosters on Monday night breathed life back into a up and down season for the Sharks, but the Cowboys are staring down a spot in the top eight. North Queensland have won six of the past eight between the two sides, including the last two at Remondis Stadium. The Cowboys won the Round 16 affair in Townsville, and have won their last four straight, but the Sharks have lost just two of their last eight.
If you think...the Sharks have gained plenty of momentum from the win over the competition leaders, tip Cronulla.
If you think...North Queensland can continue their run to the finals and send Neil Henry off a winner, tip the Cowboys.
Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast Titans
The Roosters suffered a shock loss on Monday night, denting their momentum, while the Titans chances of finals football took a hit when they lost to the Warriors at home. The sides have traded wins over the last six meetings, and if that trend is to be followed we’ve got a Tricolours win on the way. They haven’t defeated the Titans at Allianz Stadium, however, since 2007.
If you think...the Tricolours should set up a minor premiership playoff in the final round with a victory, tip the Roosters.
If you think...Gold Coast can cause an upset and keep their slim shot at September football alive, tip the Titans.
Parramatta Eels v St George Illawarra Dragons
It might not seem like much of a contest as last plays second last, but there is plenty of pride on the line on Monday night. The Eels want to hit back after a 64-4 thrashing at the hands on the Storm, while the Dragons losing run stretched to five on Saturday. Things don’t look great for the home side however, with St George Illawarra winning nine of the last 11 meetings, with just one Eels win (in the 2009 finals series) and one draw. In some good news however, two of Parramatta’s four victories this year have come after returning home on the back of big losses the week prior.
If you think...the Eels will grab one more stirring win before the end of the year, tip Parramatta at home.
If you think...the Dragons will simply have too much structure and discipline for the young Eels, tip St George Illawarra.