We’ve already covered the big Panthers v Tigers match with Troy Dodds’ preview, but Peter Lang has cast his eye over the other seven NRL matches this weekend…
Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos
Watching the Roosters sometimes it seems that they’re such a well-oiled side that they could probably win with 11 men on the field for the entire game. The Broncos meanwhile came oh so close to defeating a rejuvenated Dragons outfit up at Suncorp Stadium last weekend. Whether Cooper Cronk actually plays this week is anyone’s guess but the Chooks may not win this one if he doesn’t because they’ll find Brisbane a far more formidable opponent than their last two. I actually think the Broncos can win this one on the back of their strong forward pack and dynamic backline. Tip: Broncos by 6
New Zealand Warriors v Gold Coast Titans
Once were Warriors, well they were after round one when everyone was touting them as the ‘real-deal’ in 2019. Two crushing defeats later and many (including me) are questioning does this team have the resolve and hunger to win one of the hardest sporting competitions in the world. The Titans meanwhile are the only side without a win to their name after three starts and will be desperate to get off their ‘duck egg’ over in the island of long white cloud. The Titans have assembled an excellent roster and there can be no more excuses for coach Garth Brennan who is finding the NRL a helluva lot tougher to coach than the lower grades at Penrith. Tip: Warriors by 10.
Manly Sea Eagles v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Des Hasler Version II has breathed life back into a Sea Eagles side that were looking like wooden spoon favourites over the first two rounds of the competition before a 46-12 thumping over the Warriors last start. The Bunnies meanwhile made it three-in-a-row against the Titans. Manly have a great spine in Trbojevic, Cherry-Evans and Koroisau but will it be enough? On the surface this looks like a slam dunk for South Sydney who are bristling with confidence and talent across the paddock but I wouldn’t bet my life on it…but maybe a Powerball ticket. Tip: Rabbitohs by 14.
North Queensland Cowboys v Canberra Raiders
Life without JT in 2019 is proving…well…no different to life with him in 2018 really. After a quality performance first up, the Cowboys have once again fallen into bad habits and lost their last two matches convincingly. The Raiders meanwhile showed their ‘mean green’ side with a nice win over the Knights down in the nation’s capital. Surely though this is the weekend when it all clicks for the Cowboys, Michael Morgan is playing injured but coach Paul Green doesn’t have too many other options to call upon. Canberra look a better side this season but will they leave the tropical north wearing ‘all smiles’. Tip: Raiders by 8.
Parramatta Eels v Cronulla Sharks
Are the Eels the ‘real deal’ in 2019? Well the jury may still be out on that one but there’s no denying that this Parramatta side is a far different beast to the one which collected the wooden spoon in 2018. In saying that they’ll have their hands full against a Sharks side which doesn’t appear to have skipped a beat since 2018 and is well on its way to another Top 8 appearance. Cronulla will also only get better when a few of their big guns including Wade Graham return later in the season. The loss of Matt Moylan is a big one but is it big enough for the Sharks to lose this encounter? Tip: Sharks by 16
Melbourne Storm v Canterbury Bulldogs
Even though the game was played on land, the Panthers looked all at sea and were easy prey for a clinical and well drilled Melbourne outfit last week. Magnificent goal line defence by the Storm in the first half set up a second half try scoring frenzy and the Melbourne machine powered on to an easy 30 point victory. The Dogs on the other hand looked a lot hungrier than the Tigers and subsequently got the win. It’s hard however to see anything but a purple victory in this one although I’m not expecting Melbourne to have it all their own way. With each win, the Storm come closer to a loss – but it won’t be this game. Tip: Storm by 12.
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Newcastle Knights
Has the bubble burst for the Newcastle Knights already? Touted as Top 8 contenders at the start of the season, the Knights have looked devoid of attacking ideas in their last two games. The return to fullback for Kaylan Ponga should help their attack flow better especially close to the line. The Dragons meanwhile produced a real Houdini effort to come away with a last gasp win in round 3. I’m expecting Newcastle to bounce back in a big way against a Dragons side which is still trying to find its feet with a thousand playmakers in their side, well…one less now that Gareth Widdop is out for an extended period. I’m afraid it will be that vital omission which will cost St George any chance of victory here. Tip: Knights by 8.
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.