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
Thursday 15th August, 7:50pm

Sea EaglesTigers
Tom Trbojevic1Corey Thompson
Jorge Taufua2Paul Momirovski
Brendan Elliot3Tommy Talau
Moses Suli4Esan Marsters
Reuben Garrick5David Nofoaluma
Dylan Walker6Benji Marshall
Daly Cherry-Evans7Luke Brooks
Addin Fonua-Blake8Thomas Mikaele
Apisai Koroisau9Jacob Liddle
Martin Taupau10Oliver Clark
Joel Thompson11Luke Garner
Jack Gosiewski12Michael Chee-Kam
Jake Trbojevic13Ryan Matterson
Manase Fainu14Matthew Eisenhuth
Corey Waddell15Elijah Taylor
Morgan Boyle16Alex Twal
Taniela Paseka17Chris 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.

Tip: Half-time/Full-time – Manly/Manly @ $1.80

Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels @ Cbus Super Stadium
Friday 16th August, 6:00pm

TitansEels
Alexander Brimson1Clinton Gutherson
Jesse Arthars2Maika Sivo
Kallum Watkins3Michael Jennings
Brian Kelly4Waqa Blake
Phillip Sami5Brad Takairangi
Tyrone Peachey6Dylan Brown
Ryley Jacks7Mitchell Moses
Jarrod Wallace8Kane Evans
Mitch Rein9Reed Mahoney
Jai Whitbread10Junior Paulo
Kevin Proctor11Shaun Lane
Sam Stone12Manu Ma’u
Jai Arrow13Nathan Brown
Michael Gordon14Peni Terepo
Moeaki Fotuaika15David Gower
Bryce Cartwright16Daniel Alvaro
Brenko Lee17Marata 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.

Tip: Total Score – Over 42.5 Points @ $1.90

Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers @ Suncorp Stadium
Friday 16th August, 7:55pm

BroncosPanthers
Anthony Milford1Dylan Edwards
Corey Oates2Josh Mansour
Kotoni Staggs3Stephen Crichton
Gehamat Shibasaki4Brent Naden
Jamayne Isaako5Brian To’o
Darius Boyd6James Maloney
Jake Turpin7Nathan Cleary
Matthew Lodge8James Tamou
Andrew McCullough9Mitchell Kenny
Payne Haas10James Fisher-Harris
David Fifita11Viliame Kikau
Tevita Pangai Junior12Liam Martin
Joe Ofahengaue13Isaah Yeo
James Segeyaro14Sione Katoa
Thomas Flegler15Spencer Leniu
Rhys Kennedy16Moses Leota
Patrick Carrigan17Reagan 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.

Tip: Handicap – Broncos -2.5 @ $1.90

Newcastle Knights v North Queensland Cowboys @ McDonald Jones Stadium
Saturday 17th August, 3:00pm

KnightsCowboys
Kalyn Ponga1Scott Drinkwater
Kurt Mann2Kyle Feldt
Hymel Hunt3Coen Hess
Tautau Moga4Tom Opacic
Shaun Kenny-Dowall5Jordan Kahu
Mason Lino6Michael Morgan
Mitchell Pearce7Jake Clifford
David Klemmer8Matthew Scott
Connor Watson9Jake Granville
Daniel Saifiti10Jordan McLean
Lachlan Fitzgibbon11Gavin Cooper
Mitch Barnett12Shane Wright
Josh King13Jason Taumalolo
Jacob Saifiti14Reuben Cotter
Herman Ese’ese15John Asiata
Sione Mata’utia16Scott Bolton
Aidan Guerra17Francis 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.

Tip: Handicap – Cowboys +5.5 @ $1.90

Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders @ AAMI Park
Saturday 17th August, 5:30pm

StormRaiders
Jahrome Hughes1Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Suliasi Vunivalu2Nick Cotric
Will Chambers3Jarrod Croker
Justin Olam4Joseph Leilua
Josh Addo-Carr5Jordan Rapana
Cameron Munster6Jack Wighton
Brodie Croft7Aidan Sezer
Jesse Bromwich8Josh Papalii
Cameron Smith9Josh Hodgson
Nelson Asofa-Solomona10Iosia Soliola
Felise Kaufusi11John Bateman
Kenneath Bromwich12Elliott Whitehead
Dale Finucane13Joseph Tapine
Tui Kamikamica14Bailey Simonsson
Tino Fa’asuamaleaui15Dunamis Lui
Joe Stimson16Corey Horsburgh
Ryan Papenhuyzen17Ryan 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.

Tip: Handicap – Raiders +6.5 @ $1.90

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @ ANZ Stadium
Saturday 17th August, 7:35pm

RabbitohsBulldogs
Adam Doueihi1Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
Dane Gagai2Nick Meaney
James Roberts3Kerrod Holland
Braidon Burns4Will Hopoate
Campbell Graham5Reimis Smith
Cody Walker6Jack Cogger
Adam Reynolds7Lachlan Lewis
Sam Burgess8Aiden Tolman
Damien Cook9Michael Lichaa
Liam Knight10Dylan Napa
Ethan Lowe11Josh Jackson
Jaydn Su’a12Corey Harawira-Naera
Cameron Murray13Chris Smith
Thomas Burgess14Jeremy Marshall-King
John Sutton15Renouf To’omaga
Dean Britt16Danny Fualalo
Tevita Tatola17Raymond 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.

Tip: Handicap – Rabbitohs -9.5 @ $1.90

Sydney Roosters v New Zealand Warriors @ Sydney Cricket Ground
Sunday 18th August, 2:00pm

RoostersWarriors
James Tedesco1Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Daniel Tupou2Adam Pompey
Latrell Mitchell3Peta Hiku
Joseph Manu4Gerard Beale
Brett Morris5Ken Maumalo
Luke Keary6Chanel Harris-Tavita
Cooper Cronk7Blake Green
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves8Agnatius Paasi
Sam Verrills9Jazz Tevaga
Isaac Liu10Leeson Ah Mau
Angus Crichton11Adam Blair
Mitchell Aubusson12Isaiah Papali’i
Victor Radley13Lachlan Burr
Nat Butcher14Adam Keighran
Zane Tetevano15Sam Lisone
Poasa Faamausili16Bunty Afoa
Sitili Tupouniua17Ligi 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.

Tip: Handicap – Warriors +13.5 @ $1.93

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v St. George Illawarra Dragons @ Pointsbet Stadium
Sunday 18th August, 4:05pm

SharksDragons
Matt Moylan1Corey Norman
Sosaia Feki2Jason Saab
Bronson Xerri3Euan Aitken
Josh Dugan4Timoteo Lafai
Josh Morris5Mikaele Ravalawa
Shaun Johnson6Gareth Widdop
Chad Townsend7Ben Hunt
Aaron Woods8James Graham
Jayden Brailey9Cameron McInnes
Matt Prior10Paul Vaughan
Briton Nikora11Patrick Kaufusi
Wade Graham12Luciano Leilua
Paul Gallen13Tyson Frizell
Kurt Capewell14Jeremy Latimore
Jack Williams15Korbin Sims
Billy Magoulias16Blake Lawrie
Braden Hamlin-Uele17Jackson 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.

Tip: Anytime Tryscorer – Sosaia Feki @ $1.83