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
Thursday 30th May, 7:50pm

PanthersSea Eagles
Dylan Edwards1Brendan Elliot
Josh Mansour2Jorge Taufua
Isaah Yeo3Dylan Walker
Brent Naden4Reuben Garrick
Brian To’o5Abbas Miski
Jarome Luai6Cade Cust
James Maloney7Kane Elgey
James Tamou8Addin Fonua-Blake
Sione Katoa9Apisai Koroisau
Reagan Campbell-Gillard10Martin Taupau
Viliame Kikau11Joel Thompson
Frank Winterstein12Curtis Sironen
James Fisher-Harris13Corey Waddell
Mitchell Kenny14Manase Fainu
Tyrell Fuimaono15Jack Gosiewski
Moses Leota16Morgan Boyle
Tim Grant17Taniela 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.

Tip: Handicap – Sea Eagles -1.5 @ $1.90

Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Bankwest Stadium
Friday 31st May, 7:55pm

EelsRabbitohs
Clinton Gutherson1Corey Allan
Maika Sivo2Mawene Hiroti
Michael Jennings3Ethan Lowe
Josh Hoffman4Adam Doueihi
Blake Ferguson5Campbell Graham
Will Smith6Connor Tracey
Mitchell Moses7Adam Reynolds
Kane Evans8George Burgess
Reed Mahoney9Billy Brittain
Junior Paulo10Thomas Burgess
Shaun Lane11John Sutton
Manu Ma’u12Sam Burgess
Tepai Moeroa13Tevita Tatola
Peni Terepo14Bayley Sironen
Ray Stone15Mark Nicholls
David Gower16Dean Britt
Marata Niukore17Liam 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.

Tip: Head-to-head – Rabbitohs @ $2.31

Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v Canberra Raiders @ ANZ Stadium
Saturday 1st June, 7:35pm

BulldogsRaiders
Nick Meaney1Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Christian Crichton2Bailey Simonsson
Marcelo Montoya3Jarrod Croker
Will Hopoate4Sebastian Kris
Reimis Smith5Michael Oldfield
Kieran Foran6Aidan Sezer
Jack Cogger7Sam Williams
Aiden Tolman8Corey Horsburgh
Jeremy Marshall-King9Siliva Havili
Ofahiki Ogden10Dunamis Lui
Josh Jackson11Joseph Tapine
Corey Harawira-Naera12Elliott Whitehead
Chris Smith13Hudson Young
Rhyse Martin14Tom Starling
Raymond Faitala-Mariner15Emre Guler
Danny Fualalo16Iosia Soliola
Sauaso Sue17Ryan 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.

Tip: Total Points – Under 37.5 @ $1.93

Gold Coast Titans v North Queensland Cowboys @ Cbus Super Stadium
Sunday 2nd June, 4:05pm

TitansCowboys
Alexander Brimson1Jordan Kahu
Anthony Don2Kyle Feldt
Jesse Arthars3Mitchell Dunn
Brian Kelly4Tom Opacic
Dale Copley5Gideon Mosby-Gela
Tyrone Roberts6John Asiata
Ashley Taylor7Jake Clifford
Jarrod Wallace8Scott Bolton
Mitch Rein9Jake Granville
Moeaki Fotuaika10Jordan McLean
Kevin Proctor11Gavin Cooper
Keegan Hipgrave12Coen Hess
Jai Whitbread13Jason Taumalolo
Tyrone Peachey14Kurt Baptiste
Shannon Boyd15Shane Wright
Bryce Cartwright16Corey Jensen
Jack Stockwell17Francis 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.

Tip: Handicap – Cowboys +2.5 @ $1.90