Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 12 matches. As always, the split round it tough to pick.
Penrith Panthers v Manly Sea Eagles @ Panthers Stadium
|Dylan Edwards||1||Brendan Elliot|
|Josh Mansour||2||Jorge Taufua|
|Isaah Yeo||3||Dylan Walker|
|Brent Naden||4||Reuben Garrick|
|Brian To’o||5||Abbas Miski|
|Jarome Luai||6||Cade Cust|
|James Maloney||7||Kane Elgey|
|James Tamou||8||Addin Fonua-Blake|
|Sione Katoa||9||Apisai Koroisau|
|Reagan Campbell-Gillard||10||Martin Taupau|
|Viliame Kikau||11||Joel Thompson|
|Frank Winterstein||12||Curtis Sironen|
|James Fisher-Harris||13||Corey Waddell|
|Mitchell Kenny||14||Manase Fainu|
|Tyrell Fuimaono||15||Jack Gosiewski|
|Moses Leota||16||Morgan Boyle|
|Tim Grant||17||Taniela Paseka|
History: Played 95, Panthers 36, Sea Eagles 57
Last Meeting: Round 20, 2018: Panthers 28 def. Sea Eagles 24
Final Thoughts: The Panthers are coming into this one off a rare win, but let’s be honest, it wasn’t pretty. They still have a lot of work to do to climb the NRL ladder. The fact they are $1.93/+1.5 Underdogs to a Sea Eagles side playing without Daly Cherry-Evans and the Trbojevic brothers says it all. Penrith’s attack won’t be helped by Nathan Cleary’s absence. Albeit in average form himself, there were signs of improvement last week.
The quality of the two sides is about even.; it’s the coaching that will help get one over the line most.
Des Hasler has Manly doing the little things. Thriving on one-percenters, they are an effort side and it translates into a strong defence. Meanwhile, Ivan Cleary has taken an expected top four team to 15th through 11 rounds while running the Kiwis captain out of town. There’s one significant advantage in this one; the coaches box.
Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Bankwest Stadium
|Clinton Gutherson||1||Corey Allan|
|Maika Sivo||2||Mawene Hiroti|
|Michael Jennings||3||Ethan Lowe|
|Josh Hoffman||4||Adam Doueihi|
|Blake Ferguson||5||Campbell Graham|
|Will Smith||6||Connor Tracey|
|Mitchell Moses||7||Adam Reynolds|
|Kane Evans||8||George Burgess|
|Reed Mahoney||9||Billy Brittain|
|Junior Paulo||10||Thomas Burgess|
|Shaun Lane||11||John Sutton|
|Manu Ma’u||12||Sam Burgess|
|Tepai Moeroa||13||Tevita Tatola|
|Peni Terepo||14||Bayley Sironen|
|Ray Stone||15||Mark Nicholls|
|David Gower||16||Dean Britt|
|Marata Niukore||17||Liam Knight|
History: Played 133, Eels 59, Rabbitohs 70
Last Meeting: Round 20, 2018: Rabbitohs 26 def. Eels 20
Final Thoughts: The Eels faithful went into meltdown last week. A side that looked so good to start the season played awful at their new home ground what was meant to bring with it so much joy. Although, the blue and gold have a chance to get them back on side this week with a gift of a game at Bankwest. Souths sit at the top of the NRL ladder, but this isn’t Souths. What they’re sending out this week is a makeshift 17 dealing with injuries, Origin selections and retirement. However, they shouldn’t be ruled out with who they have in the coaches box.
If there’s one thing Wayne Bennett does better than anybody it’s motivating his teams. He gets every player on board and playing for the others around him. It’s the catalyst to their second-ranked defence conceding just 15 points per game.
While the Bunnies have lost plenty, the still have a lot in the middle. The Burgess brothers will get them up the field; Adam Reynolds remains to steer the ship; Corey Allan, Campbell Graham and the returning Adam Doueihi can find points. This is no easy win for the Eels. Their back-three is back together after Blake Ferguson was inexplicably moved to the centres last week, but they need more in the centre-third and from the halves. It’s another tough game given the team sheets, so we’re trusting the greatest to ever do it in this one.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v Canberra Raiders @ ANZ Stadium
|Nick Meaney||1||Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad|
|Christian Crichton||2||Bailey Simonsson|
|Marcelo Montoya||3||Jarrod Croker|
|Will Hopoate||4||Sebastian Kris|
|Reimis Smith||5||Michael Oldfield|
|Kieran Foran||6||Aidan Sezer|
|Jack Cogger||7||Sam Williams|
|Aiden Tolman||8||Corey Horsburgh|
|Jeremy Marshall-King||9||Siliva Havili|
|Ofahiki Ogden||10||Dunamis Lui|
|Josh Jackson||11||Joseph Tapine|
|Corey Harawira-Naera||12||Elliott Whitehead|
|Chris Smith||13||Hudson Young|
|Rhyse Martin||14||Tom Starling|
|Raymond Faitala-Mariner||15||Emre Guler|
|Danny Fualalo||16||Iosia Soliola|
|Sauaso Sue||17||Ryan Sutton|
History: Played 70, Bulldogs 39, Raiders 30
Last Meeting: Round 17, 2018: Raiders 32 def. Raiders 28
Final Thoughts: Both sides are under pressure in this one despite all of the excuses the Raiders have to lose. It would be their fourth in a row and result in a further fall away from the NRL’s top three teams. Their English contingent should have seen the Raiders roll through this time of year, but have Josh Hodgson now injured and John Bateman only a chance of returning this week. As a result, they’re like every other good side and struggling to put a team out.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are barely affected by Origin. Dylan Napa is out, but he’s hardly been an influential figure on the side. The Dogs are close to full-strength and need to take this opportunity to hand off the wooden spoon.
It’s down to the pack for the Dogs. It’s their only real strength and can do enough on either side of the ball to trouble the Raiders. Canberra could well struggle for points here. A different halves combination and new-look back-five lends itself to teething issues in attack. If both sides are up for it, this game will be an 80-minute arm-wrestle. Opportunities to score will be few and far between.
Gold Coast Titans v North Queensland Cowboys @ Cbus Super Stadium
|Alexander Brimson||1||Jordan Kahu|
|Anthony Don||2||Kyle Feldt|
|Jesse Arthars||3||Mitchell Dunn|
|Brian Kelly||4||Tom Opacic|
|Dale Copley||5||Gideon Mosby-Gela|
|Tyrone Roberts||6||John Asiata|
|Ashley Taylor||7||Jake Clifford|
|Jarrod Wallace||8||Scott Bolton|
|Mitch Rein||9||Jake Granville|
|Moeaki Fotuaika||10||Jordan McLean|
|Kevin Proctor||11||Gavin Cooper|
|Keegan Hipgrave||12||Coen Hess|
|Jai Whitbread||13||Jason Taumalolo|
|Tyrone Peachey||14||Kurt Baptiste|
|Shannon Boyd||15||Shane Wright|
|Bryce Cartwright||16||Corey Jensen|
|Jack Stockwell||17||Francis Molo|
History: Played 23, Titans 8, Cowboys 14
Last Meeting: Round 8, 2019: Cowboys 28 def. Titans 14
Final Thoughts: These two teams come into Sunday in decent form. By their standards, anyway. The Titans picked up an impressive win last week and once again displayed their ability to pile up the points. Tyrone Roberts was outstanding for the full 80 minutes while Ash Taylor appeared to find some form in the sheds at halftime. Defence remains their biggest issue. Although, it doesn’t face the toughest of tests this week.
Even with Michael Morgan in the halves, the Cowboys manage just 16.9 points per game to be 14th in the NRL in scoring. They’re set to struggle without their superstar halfback who is only behind Damien Cook in total try assists with 11. The Cowboys can, and should, win the battle in the middle. It’s finding points during good ball sets that raises concerns.
This is another game that could be an ugly arm-wrestle with punters starved of points. The Cowboys have won the last eight games between these two, and beat the Titans 28-14 a month ago. With Taumalolo in form and sure to get the Cowboys in positions to score, they’ll find enough points – just.