Preview of NRL Round 7 matches (all times AEST).
FRIDAY, April 13
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Newcastle Knights at Oki Jubilee Stadium 7.35pm
Head to Head: Dragons 16 Knights 9
Last clash: Round 1 2012 – Dragons 15 bt Knights 14 at Hunter Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Dragons $1.55 Knights $2.50 Draw $26.00
FootyTAB: Knights +4.5
Such is the madness of the NRL draw these teams are facing each other for the second time this season and it’s only round seven. The Dragons won 15-14 in golden point over Newcastle in the season opener. It was far from a thrilling contest as the ex-Wayne Bennett coached team cancelled out his current club. The Knights are coming off a dismal 14-6 win over Parramatta while St George Illawarra should be fired up after they were shut out 12-0 by Cronulla last week. The Dragons are deadly at Kogarah, winning nine of their past 10 games at the venue and they should take this one too.
Key: Darius Boyd has to lift for Newcastle against his old side if the Knights are to have any chance of an upset.
Brisbane Broncos v Canberra Raiders at Suncorp Stadium 7.35pm
Head to Head: Broncos 23 Raiders 17 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 14 2011 – Broncos 25 bt Raiders 24 at Suncorp Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Broncos $1.38 Raiders $3.10 Draw $26.00
FootyTAB: Raiders +9.5
Brisbane’s influential halfback Peter Wallace has been ruled out of the match with a groin injury with utility Ben Hunt to replace him at No.7. This, coupled with the loss of powerful Ben Te’o to suspension, will make life more difficult for the Broncos against a Raiders side that on their day can match it with just about any team in the comp. But Canberra have their own injury concerns with youngster Sam Williams on stand-by for five-eighth Terry Campese. Canberra have the muscle up front to make things tough for the Broncos but the home side look to have too much class all over the park and will be hard to stop.
Key: Canberra’s massive forward pack have to front up and lay a platform for their halves otherwise it could be a long night for the Raiders.
SATURDAY, April 14
Melbourne Storm v Canterbury Bulldogs at AAMI Park 5.30pm
Head to Head: Storm 13 Bulldogs 14
Last clash: Round 18 2011 – Storm 28 bt Bulldogs 18 at Adelaide Oval
Tab Sportsbet: Storm $1.25 Bulldogs $4.00 Draw $34.00
FootyTAB: Bulldogs +12.5
How could you possibly tip against Melbourne at the moment? Craig Bellamy’s side are flying and come into this clash after hammering the Cowboys 42-18. While third on the ladder, the Bulldogs were disappointing last week in their loss to Souths after a promising start. The Bulldogs were carved up the middle earlier this year by Knights hooker Danny Buderus and Melbourne’s Cameron Smith will look to do the same this week. It’s been seven years since the Bulldogs have won in Melbourne and it would take a brave person to back them to break that drought on Saturday.
Key: Canterbury defence must be tight around the ruck or else hooker Cameron Smith will carve them up.
Manly Sea Eagles v Gold Coast Titans at Brookvale Oval 7.30pm
Head to Head: Sea Eagles 5 Titans 3
Last clash: Round 10 2011 – Sea Eagles 16 bt Titans 12 at Skilled Park
Tab Sportsbet: Sea Eagles $1.22 Titans $4.50 Draw $34.00
FootyTAB: Titans +12.5
Manly bounced back from their shock loss to Parramatta by lapping Penrith at Brookvale on Monday night. The Sea Eagles could again be without fullback Brett Stewart and five-eighth Kieran Foran but they proved to have enough depth last week to cover for the loss of those two champion players. The Titans were gallant in defeat to the Roosters last Saturday and played some good attacking footy at times. But with Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans in great form it would take a miracle for the Gold Coast to land their second win of the season. Manly have 15 wins from their past 18 night games at Brookvale while the Titans have three wins from their past five.
Key: The Titans must pressure Cherry-Evans. If they hang off him and let him dictate terms then Manly could run up a cricket score.
Tip: Sea Eagles
Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys at TIO Stadium 7.30pm
Head to Head: Roosters 20 Cowboys 7
Last clash: Round 12 2011 – Cowboys 20 bt Roosters 6 at Dairy Farmers Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Roosters $2.30 Cowboys $1.65 Draw $23.00
FootyTAB: Roosters +2.5
The Sydney Roosters have defied their critics to sit fourth on the ladder with the youngest team in the NRL chalking up four wins from six games. North Queensland were belted 42-18 by Melbourne last week but have won four of their past five clashes against the Roosters. This Roosters home game will be played in Darwin where the steamy conditions will more likely suit their opponents, who are accustomed to the tropics. Both sides have plenty of pace on the edges and this should be a thriller. The re-signing of Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves should give the tricolours a huge boost. The clash of halfbacks Mitchell Pearce and Johnathan Thurston will go a long way to deciding the winner.
Key: The Roosters need to improve their completion rate – they completed just 55 per cent of sets last week in the win over Gold Coast but they face a team this week more capable of making them pay for poor discipline.
SUNDAY, April 15
Warriors v South Sydney Rabbitohs at Mt Smart Stadium 12.00pm
Head to Head: Warriors 17 Souths 7
Last clash: Round 20 2011 – Warriors 48 bt Souths 16 at ANZ Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Warriors $1.55 Souths $2.50 Draw $26.00
FootyTAB: Souths +4.5
The Warriors have been dreadful in their past two games with heavy losses to the Sydney Roosters and Canberra. Last year’s grand finalists have just two wins but would be thrilled to return to Mount Smart Stadium where they have won six of their past seven games. Souths are chasing three wins in a row after scraping home against Wests Tigers before proving too strong for Canterbury. Souths’ depth will be tested this week after losing prop Roy Asotasi for the season with a pectoral muscle injury against the Bulldogs, while the Warriors will be going around again without influential fullback Kevin Locke.
Key: The Warriors have to start well to kick this confidence side into gear. They have conceded the first try in five of their six games this year.
Cronulla Sharks v Parramatta Eels at Toyota Stadium 2.00pm
Head to Head: Sharks 39 Eels 35
Last clash: Round 11 2011 – Eels 40 bt Sharks 6 at Parramatta Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Sharks $1.50 Eels $2.65 Draw $26.00
FootyTAB: Eels +5.5
Cronulla are chasing five wins in a row for the first time since 2008 – the last year they made the finals. The Sharks will still be buzzing after beating local rivals St George Illawarra last week in front of a full house at Toyota Stadium. Sharks fans sense a premiership this year and this is the type of game good teams win. Parramatta are bottom of the table and copping it on all fronts. Expensive halfback Chris Sandow has the perfect opportunity to answer his critics by putting in a big performance against a Sharks team boasting star five-eighth Todd Carney.
Key: Parramatta’s forwards have largely escaped criticism this year with most of the critics targeting their halves but unless the big men up front aim up against the Sharks they could stung.
Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers at Centrebet Stadium 3.00pm
Head to Head: Panthers 14 Tigers 7
Last clash: Round 23 2011 – Tigers 32 bt Panthers 18 at Centrebet Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Panthers $2.50 Tigers $1.55 Draw $26.00
FootyTAB: Panthers +3.5
Both sides have been ordinary this season but at least for Penrith they’ve won a couple of games. The Tigers have lost five straight games and are staring at six consecutive losses for the first time since 2003. Penrith were belted by Manly last week and must overcome a home ground hoodoo to beat the Tigers. Penrith have lost six straight games at home with their last outing at Centrebet Stadium a 15-14 loss to Cronulla. The Tigers have lost workhorse lock Chris Heighington and the Panthers forwards will fancy their chances of getting over the top of the Wests engine room.
Key: Penrith’s star centre Michael Jennings needs to get his hands on the ball more for the Panthers to have any chance.