Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 22 matches. It’s one that could decide the Top 8.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers @ Lottoland
|Tom Trbojevic||1||Corey Thompson|
|Jorge Taufua||2||Paul Momirovski|
|Brendan Elliot||3||Tommy Talau|
|Moses Suli||4||Esan Marsters|
|Reuben Garrick||5||David Nofoaluma|
|Dylan Walker||6||Benji Marshall|
|Daly Cherry-Evans||7||Luke Brooks|
|Addin Fonua-Blake||8||Thomas Mikaele|
|Apisai Koroisau||9||Jacob Liddle|
|Martin Taupau||10||Oliver Clark|
|Joel Thompson||11||Luke Garner|
|Jack Gosiewski||12||Michael Chee-Kam|
|Jake Trbojevic||13||Ryan Matterson|
|Manase Fainu||14||Matthew Eisenhuth|
|Corey Waddell||15||Elijah Taylor|
|Morgan Boyle||16||Alex Twal|
|Taniela Paseka||17||Chris Lawrence|
History: Played 29, Sea Eagles 15, Tigers 13
Last Meeting: Round 1, 2019: Tigers 20 def. Sea Eagles 6
Final Thoughts: In hindsight, Manly’s loss to the Warriors isn’t a shock. They’d played out a massive fortnight and caught a desperate team looking to lift at home. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Round 22 poses as the week the Sea Eagles take flight again.
Tom Trbojevic won’t be that quiet again. Nor will Daly Cherry-Evans. Losing Brad Parker and Curtis Sironen will have an impact on Manly’s edge, but not enough that Des Hasler will be panicking. The Tigers, on the other hand, will really miss Robbie Farah’s influence on the attack out of dummy half. He’s papered over a few cracks in the Tigers attack with his nifty play from behind the ruck. Jacob Liddle might be more dangerous further up the field and in open play. However, Farah’s absence will be noticed throughout Wests good ball sets in which they already struggle to turn into points.
If the Tigers were a legitimate Top 8 team, they would be there now following a win over the Bulldogs last week. Their inconsistencies got the better of them, though. The Sea Eagles should this week as well.
Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels @ Cbus Super Stadium
|Alexander Brimson||1||Clinton Gutherson|
|Jesse Arthars||2||Maika Sivo|
|Kallum Watkins||3||Michael Jennings|
|Brian Kelly||4||Waqa Blake|
|Phillip Sami||5||Brad Takairangi|
|Tyrone Peachey||6||Dylan Brown|
|Ryley Jacks||7||Mitchell Moses|
|Jarrod Wallace||8||Kane Evans|
|Mitch Rein||9||Reed Mahoney|
|Jai Whitbread||10||Junior Paulo|
|Kevin Proctor||11||Shaun Lane|
|Sam Stone||12||Manu Ma’u|
|Jai Arrow||13||Nathan Brown|
|Michael Gordon||14||Peni Terepo|
|Moeaki Fotuaika||15||David Gower|
|Bryce Cartwright||16||Daniel Alvaro|
|Brenko Lee||17||Marata Niukore|
History: Played 19, Titans 11, Eels 7
Last Meeting: Round 21, 2018: Eels 28 def. Titans 12
Final Thoughts: The Titans are a horror show, but they’ve got some talent. With Jai Arrow back to lead the pack and AJ Brimson at fullback, they’ve got strong players in key positions. It’s those around them that will determine the Gold Coast’s fate on Friday evening. Playing at home will help; the Eels have struggled away from Bankwest Stadium for most of the season. It’s ultimately going to come down to defence, though.
As it stands, the Titans are the worst defensive team in the NRL conceding 26.5 points per game. Especially bad in recent weeks, the Gold Coast outfit has let through 98 points in their last 160 minutes of football. The Titans aren’t a chance of beating anybody with a defence that bad let alone an Eels side that is flying towards a top-four spot.
The best bet for the Titans is to compete in the middle. Arrow, Jarrod Wallace and Moeaki Fotuaika hold the keys to success. With Nathan Brown getting better every week and the Eels pack laying a fairly consistent platform, it’s difficult to see the Titans staying in the arm-wrestle for the full 80-minutes.
Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers @ Suncorp Stadium
|Anthony Milford||1||Dylan Edwards|
|Corey Oates||2||Josh Mansour|
|Kotoni Staggs||3||Stephen Crichton|
|Gehamat Shibasaki||4||Brent Naden|
|Jamayne Isaako||5||Brian To’o|
|Darius Boyd||6||James Maloney|
|Jake Turpin||7||Nathan Cleary|
|Matthew Lodge||8||James Tamou|
|Andrew McCullough||9||Mitchell Kenny|
|Payne Haas||10||James Fisher-Harris|
|David Fifita||11||Viliame Kikau|
|Tevita Pangai Junior||12||Liam Martin|
|Joe Ofahengaue||13||Isaah Yeo|
|James Segeyaro||14||Sione Katoa|
|Thomas Flegler||15||Spencer Leniu|
|Rhys Kennedy||16||Moses Leota|
|Patrick Carrigan||17||Reagan Campbell-Gillard|
History: Played 57, Broncos 34, Panthers 21
Last Meeting: Round 19, 2018: Broncos 50 def. Panthers 18
Final Thoughts: This game will have massive implications on the finals aspirations for both teams. Sitting at 7th and 8th on the NRL ladder, the winner of this one will be in the box seat to remain inside the Top 8 until the end of Round 25. It’s the first of three straight at home for the Broncos. For the Panthers, it’s the first three in a row on the road.
The two teams come in off very different form guides despite both winning in Round 21. Brisbane’s victory over North Queensland might be the ugliest of the season so far. It was a dire affair with Jake Turpin’s last-second try doing nothing to cover up what was a horrible 80 minutes of football. Penrith, on the other hand, impressed in their win over Cronulla. While they fell away in the second half, Nathan Cleary played his best game of 2019.
With the total of just 37.5 points set, the expectation is that this is a close one. The two sides are fairly even despite the Broncos carrying more bonafide talent into this one. Side with the Suncorp factor.
Newcastle Knights v North Queensland Cowboys @ McDonald Jones Stadium
|Kalyn Ponga||1||Scott Drinkwater|
|Kurt Mann||2||Kyle Feldt|
|Hymel Hunt||3||Coen Hess|
|Tautau Moga||4||Tom Opacic|
|Shaun Kenny-Dowall||5||Jordan Kahu|
|Mason Lino||6||Michael Morgan|
|Mitchell Pearce||7||Jake Clifford|
|David Klemmer||8||Matthew Scott|
|Connor Watson||9||Jake Granville|
|Daniel Saifiti||10||Jordan McLean|
|Lachlan Fitzgibbon||11||Gavin Cooper|
|Mitch Barnett||12||Shane Wright|
|Josh King||13||Jason Taumalolo|
|Jacob Saifiti||14||Reuben Cotter|
|Herman Ese’ese||15||John Asiata|
|Sione Mata’utia||16||Scott Bolton|
|Aidan Guerra||17||Francis Molo|
History: Played 38, Knights 19, Cowboys 18
Last Meeting: Round 20, 2018: Cowboys 20 def. Knights 18
Final Thoughts: Nathan Brown has changed his spine AGAIN! Looking to avoid their seventh-consecutive defeat, the Knights are trying yet another combination of key playmakers. What makes it so difficult to succeed is the fact the Knights pack can’t get up the field. They’re last in the NRL for running metres.
While the Cowboys aren’t much better at 13th in the competition, Jason Taumalolo is the games premier metre-eater in the middle and is flanked by Matthew Scott and Jordan McLean. The Cows will get up the field if the Knights don’t muscle up through the middle.
There isn’t a lot to be excited about in this one. It shapes as an ugly arm-wrestle and one that won’t produce many points given the attacking form of the two sides. The Knights still have their season to play for this week. That should be all the motivation they need to get up. The Cowboys to match-up well, though.
Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders @ AAMI Park
|Jahrome Hughes||1||Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad|
|Suliasi Vunivalu||2||Nick Cotric|
|Will Chambers||3||Jarrod Croker|
|Justin Olam||4||Joseph Leilua|
|Josh Addo-Carr||5||Jordan Rapana|
|Cameron Munster||6||Jack Wighton|
|Brodie Croft||7||Aidan Sezer|
|Jesse Bromwich||8||Josh Papalii|
|Cameron Smith||9||Josh Hodgson|
|Nelson Asofa-Solomona||10||Iosia Soliola|
|Felise Kaufusi||11||John Bateman|
|Kenneath Bromwich||12||Elliott Whitehead|
|Dale Finucane||13||Joseph Tapine|
|Tui Kamikamica||14||Bailey Simonsson|
|Tino Fa’asuamaleaui||15||Dunamis Lui|
|Joe Stimson||16||Corey Horsburgh|
|Ryan Papenhuyzen||17||Ryan Sutton|
History: Played 42, Storm 31, Raiders 11
Last Meeting: Round 2, 2019: Storm 22 def. Raiders 10
Final Thoughts: The Raiders are yet to beat a fellow top-five side in the NRL and are unlikely to get past the best of the lot this week. Winners of seven of the last eight between the two clubs, the Storm come into this one following a clinical win over the Rabbitohs in Round 21. They’re the best team in the competition and continue to prove it every week.
Canberra’s style of play could trouble Melbourne, though. The Raiders are willing to throw the ball around and play a little more ad-lib than other clubs. It’s a method that has troubled the Storm in the past. As much as the Storm can be troubled, anyway.
While banking on the ad-lib to come off is risky, expecting the Raiders to keep it close isn’t. The Storm have the best defence in the NRL conceding just 12.4 points per game. Just behind them, the Raiders allow only 15 points per game. It may not result in a Raiders win, but their defence should be strong enough to stay in it until the final siren.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @ ANZ Stadium
|Adam Doueihi||1||Dallin Watene-Zelezniak|
|Dane Gagai||2||Nick Meaney|
|James Roberts||3||Kerrod Holland|
|Braidon Burns||4||Will Hopoate|
|Campbell Graham||5||Reimis Smith|
|Cody Walker||6||Jack Cogger|
|Adam Reynolds||7||Lachlan Lewis|
|Sam Burgess||8||Aiden Tolman|
|Damien Cook||9||Michael Lichaa|
|Liam Knight||10||Dylan Napa|
|Ethan Lowe||11||Josh Jackson|
|Jaydn Su’a||12||Corey Harawira-Naera|
|Cameron Murray||13||Chris Smith|
|Thomas Burgess||14||Jeremy Marshall-King|
|John Sutton||15||Renouf To’omaga|
|Dean Britt||16||Danny Fualalo|
|Tevita Tatola||17||Raymond Faitala-Mariner|
History: Played 173, Rabbitohs 80, Bulldogs 86
Last Meeting: Round 6, 2019: Rabbitohs 14 def. Bulldogs 6
Final Thoughts: The Bulldogs love this time of the year recently. Having spent most of the season towards the bottom of the NRL ladder, they’ve caught the Panthers and Tigers out in back-to-back weeks. While the results haven’t been there, the Dogs are an effort side. They’re constantly sniffing out an upset. Wayne Bennett will know that and have his team ready on Saturday.
Sam Burgess is back and will be a huge boost to the side. The feeling has been that Souths will kickoff their premiership push when he’s fit and healthy. With it coinciding against a very beatable Bulldogs outfit, expect Bennett and the Bunnies to approach this one with a renewed focus and intensity. It’s been a nice six weeks for the Bulldogs, but there’s a good chance they’re hit with a reality check on Saturday evening.
Sydney Roosters v New Zealand Warriors @ Sydney Cricket Ground
|James Tedesco||1||Roger Tuivasa-Sheck|
|Daniel Tupou||2||Adam Pompey|
|Latrell Mitchell||3||Peta Hiku|
|Joseph Manu||4||Gerard Beale|
|Brett Morris||5||Ken Maumalo|
|Luke Keary||6||Chanel Harris-Tavita|
|Cooper Cronk||7||Blake Green|
|Jared Waerea-Hargreaves||8||Agnatius Paasi|
|Sam Verrills||9||Jazz Tevaga|
|Isaac Liu||10||Leeson Ah Mau|
|Angus Crichton||11||Adam Blair|
|Mitchell Aubusson||12||Isaiah Papali’i|
|Victor Radley||13||Lachlan Burr|
|Nat Butcher||14||Adam Keighran|
|Zane Tetevano||15||Sam Lisone|
|Poasa Faamausili||16||Bunty Afoa|
|Sitili Tupouniua||17||Ligi Sao|
History: Played 41, Roosters 17, Warriors 22
Last Meeting: Round 10, 2018: Roosters 32 def. Warriors 0
Final Thoughts: The poor Warriors will have finished up at Mt Smart Stadium with a glimmer of hope for finals football after beating the Sea Eagles. It will have taken a hit when seeing the Roosters next up on the schedule, though. No team has a tougher schedule over the last month of the NRL season.
While the Roosters haven’t been at their best this season, they still sit second on the ladder. We’ve seen a glimpse of what they can do in recent weeks. With 80 points scored in the last fortnight, the Roosters attack is on fire. James Tedesco has proven himself to be the best player in the competition while Luke Keary is getting back to full strength and looking better every week.
There’s little doubt that the Roosters will take the chocolates. However, it’s not outrageous to think the Warriors keep this close. They have a solid history against the Roosters and come into this one in decent form. Playing for their season and coming in off an encouraging win, anticipate a competitive match.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v St. George Illawarra Dragons @ Pointsbet Stadium
|Matt Moylan||1||Corey Norman|
|Sosaia Feki||2||Jason Saab|
|Bronson Xerri||3||Euan Aitken|
|Josh Dugan||4||Timoteo Lafai|
|Josh Morris||5||Mikaele Ravalawa|
|Shaun Johnson||6||Gareth Widdop|
|Chad Townsend||7||Ben Hunt|
|Aaron Woods||8||James Graham|
|Jayden Brailey||9||Cameron McInnes|
|Matt Prior||10||Paul Vaughan|
|Briton Nikora||11||Patrick Kaufusi|
|Wade Graham||12||Luciano Leilua|
|Paul Gallen||13||Tyson Frizell|
|Kurt Capewell||14||Jeremy Latimore|
|Jack Williams||15||Korbin Sims|
|Billy Magoulias||16||Blake Lawrie|
|Braden Hamlin-Uele||17||Jackson Ford|
History: Played 44, Sharks 20, Dragons 22
Last Meeting: Round 11, 2019: Sharks 22 def. Dragons 9
Final Thoughts: This is it for the Sharks. Their finals hopes are all but gone if they flake on this one. John Morris and the players know it. There’s no room for a poor first half like we saw against the Panthers in Round 21. The Sharks have the talent. Shaun Johnson proved his worth last week while Wade Graham has been tormenting opposition defences since his return from injury. This should be a comfortable two points for the Sharks.
The Dragons come in off a win, but it wasn’t pretty. Sure, they scored 40 points. They were made to work hard by an awful Titans outfit, though. It’s not the sort of performance that sparks confidence.
Cronulla’s middle has been disappointing this season and Andrew Fifita misses this one. But, there’s enough on the edges to find points. The Red V’s edge defence has been sub-standard all year and looks set to cost them on Sunday afternoon.