SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 02: Kalyn Ponga of the Knights in action during the round 13 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Newcastle Knights at ANZ Stadium on June 2, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Brisbane Broncos vs. Cronulla Sharks

Suncorp Stadium, 7:50pm, Thursday July 26

Team News: Brisbane are 1-17, while Luke Lewis’ return in the back-row sees Scott Sorensen drop to the bench and Joseph Paulo out of the side.

Injury Watch: No immediate concerns.

Prediction: This should be a cracker, with Brisbane eager to distance themselves from the 9th placed Wests Tigers, and Cronulla keen to reimplement themselves in the top four. The Broncos were mighty impressive last weekend, but not too many teams are so switched on two weeks in a row, and with the Sharks wanting to prove that they don’t need the Bunkers help to win matches, expect Cronulla to snare a tight victory. Sharks by 1.

North Queensland Cowboys vs. Newcastle Knights

1300SMILES Stadium, 6pm, Friday July 27

Team News: The Cowboys are unchanged, while the Knights welcome back Kalyn Ponga and Sione Mata’utia with Nick Meaney and Corey Denniss dropping out. Nathan Ross and Shaun Kenny-Dowall swap spots.

Injury Watch: Ponga is touch and go after rolling his ankle at training, with Meaney on standby. Matt Scott and Jordan MacLean have both been named in the reserves for the Cowboys.

Prediction: This should be close. The Knights have found that winning edge since Mitchell Pearce returned from his pec tear, and with former Cowboy Ponga returning to Townsville for the first time since moving to the Hunter, the fullback will be keen to show North Queensland what they missed out on. The Cowboys are due for a win, but with Thurston dominating Pearce in the Origin arena for so long, expect Pearce to get one back in their final clash. Knights by 4.

Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs vs. Wests Tigers

ANZ Stadium, 7:55pm, Friday July 27

Team News: Ofahiki Ogden replaces Clay Priest on the bench for Canterbury, while Josh Aloiai’s injury sees Luke Garner move into the starting side, and Robbie Rochow join the bench.

Injury Watch: Aloiai’s broken hand will rule him out for a month.

Prediction: This isn’t as one sided as you’d think. The Tigers have a knack of lifting against the top tier sides, but then falling into complacency against the lower ranked teams. Errors creep into their game and if they allow that to strike again, the Bulldogs could get them. They’ve been flat the last two weeks, but before that Canterbury strung together some impressive form. Wests have too much to play for, and if they’re on, then they’re on. Tigers by 10.


Manly Warringah Sea Eagles vs. Penrith Panthers

Lottoland, 3pm, Saturday July 28

Team News: Dylan Walker and Jorge Taufua return in place of Tom Wright and Matt Wright, while Kelepi Tanginoa replaces Toafofoa Sipley on the bench. Jarome Luai is out, with Tyrone Peachey starting at fullback. Dallin Watene-Zellezniak replaces Christian Crichton on the wing, with Tyrone May joining the bench. Isaah Yeo shifts to lock, James Fisher-Harris to prop, Corey Harawira-Naera starts in the back-row with Trent Merrin benched.

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Injury Watch: Jarome Luai’s season is over after a serious ankle injury.

Prediction: Manly managed to get an 18-10 win over Penrith a few weeks ago, but teams seem to respond to a major reshuffle. Tyrone Peachey has never started an NRL game at fullback, but after his impressive performance floating around the middle third last week, he certainly has what it takes. Teams usually bounce back in a big way after conceding 50 points, which will be interesting with both sides letting in 50+ points last weekend. Penrith have a lot more reason to win, and with Manly’s confidence shot, this will be a good win for the Panthers. Penrith by 18.

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Parramatta Eels

ANZ Stadium, 5:30pm, Saturday July 28

Team News: South Sydney are unchanged, while Brad Arthur has dropped George Jennings, which sees Jarryd Hayne shift to the wing, Brad Takairangi to centre and David Gower joining the bench.

Injury Watch: Greg Inglis isn’t far from returning from his broken thumb.

Prediction: Their winning run had to come to an end eventually, but the Rabbitohs finally suffered their first loss since April last week against the Wests Tigers. Parramatta finally joined the winners circle and will be desperate to avoid the wooden spoon, but the Bunnies are contenders, and it’s hard to see them losing two on the trot. In milestone games, expect big matches from Adam Reynolds and Alex Johnston. Rabbitohs by 13.


Melbourne Storm vs. Canberra Raiders

AAMI Park, 7:35pm, Saturday July 28

Team News: Dale Finucane joins the starting side, with Kenny Bromwich drops back to the bench. Joe Tapine returns from suspension, pushing Sia Soliola to the bench and Jack Murchie out of the side. Nick Cotric moves to centre, pushing Michael Oldfield to the wing.

Injury Watch: No immediate concerns.

Prediction: The Raiders’ spirits are broken after the Bunker cost them a victory last weekend, while Melbourne finished the round at the top of the table, and will want to stay there. Without Jarrod Croker or Aidan Sezer, and taking place in Melbourne, a Canberra victory isn’t foreseeable in any way shape or form. The Storm are hitting form at the right time of the year, and will show it this weekend with a big show against Canberra. Melbourne by 14.


Gold Coast Titans vs. New Zealand Warriors

Cbus Super Stadium, 2pm, Sunday July 29

Team News: Will Matthews replaces Leilani Latu on the bench. Blake Green returns in place of Mason Lino. Tohu Harris is back in the second-row, pushing Simon Mannering to lock in place of the suspended Adam Blair. Sam Lisone replaces Tevita Satae on the bench.

Injury Watch: No immediate concerns.

Prediction: This could be high scoring, with the Warriors set to unleash their frustrations on the Titans. New Zealand only managed to score one try against a defensively strong Melbourne outfit, while the Titans were run down by Newcastle despite leading by 14 at one point. Blake Green and Tohu Harris’ return will add consistency to the side. Both sides will be on the attack, it’s going to come down to defence. Don’t be surprised to see a score line along the ’44-20′ line, this should be a point fest. Warriors by 18.

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Sydney Roosters vs. St George Illawarra Dragons

Allianz Stadium, 4:10pm, Sunday July 29

Team News: Isaac Liu and Mitch Aubusson return on the bench in place of Nat Butcher and Lindsay Collins. Tyson Frizell is back in the second-row, with Luciano Leilua dropping to the bench and Blake Lawrie out of the side.

Injury Watch: No immediate concerns.

Prediction: Match of the round. The Roosters had their best performance of the season last week, while the Dragons are in a form slump. A 24-10 victory over the Cowboys showed glimpses of the dominant side we saw earlier in the year, but unless they go back to the middle-third style of play that saw them dominate the opening months, they’ll have their butts handed to them. The Roosters won’t be quite as electric as they were last week, but they have enough fire power to get the job done. Roosters by 8.


Point To Prove:
Kalyn Ponga. The fullback returns from injury against his former club, and will be keen to show them what they’ve missed out on. Ponga was a short-priced favourite for the Dally M before the injury, and while players say they don’t play for the awards, they accolade will certainly be in the back of Ponga’s mind as he rekindles his formation with Mitchell Pearce for the first time in three months.

Struggle Street: Michael Oldfield. Talk about going from hero to zero. Oldfield was electric against the Cowboys with a stunning hat trick, but a shift to the centres last weekend saw Oldfield turn in one of the worst performances in his career. Shifted back to the wing this weekend, Oldfield faces off against Suliasi Vunivalu, and could be in for another long night on Saturday.

Best Bet: South Sydney 13+. The Rabbitohs will bounce back in a big way this weekend, and put a score on the last placed Parramatta outfit. The Eels scraped a win last week, but after losing John Sutton’s 300th, the Bunnies will give ‘Sutto’ a much better 301st.

Rumour of the Week: South Sydney finally unearthed a good pairing this season, with Robert Jennings on the left and Campbell Graham on the right. With Jennings set to sign a new three-year deal with the Rabbitohs, the club is chasing Anthony Don for the right wing. A backline of Johnston, Jennings, Inglis, Gagai and Don would be one of the most dynamic and reliable back fives in the competition.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Forget about Anthony Don joining the Rabbitohs that won’t happen.
    The Dogs and the Sharks are also supposed to be interested in him.

    The Rabbitohs will not be wasting money on a 30-year old when we have so much potential in our current crop of youngsters.

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