Preview of NRL Round 12 matches (all times AEST).
FRIDAY, May 25
Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos at AAMI Park 7.35pm
Head to Head: Storm 18 Broncos 11 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 20 2011 – Storm 26 bt Broncos 6 at AAMI Park
Tab Sportsbet: Storm $1.45 Broncos $2.75
FootyTAB: Broncos +6.5
Broncos coach Anthony Griffin has rested all of his Queensland State of Origin stars bar interchange forward Matt Gillett and possibly Ben Hannant, while the Storm’s star Maroons trio Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater will all back up 48 hours after Origin I. As a result what would have been one of the biggest games of the regular season has assumed lesser status and Melbourne go into the game as warm favourites. The Storm will be keen to bounce back from their first loss of the season last round against Cronulla while Brisbane have lost two games in a row against the Warriors and Manly.
Key: How the Storm’s star trio of Smith, Cronk and Slater back up after another bruising Origin encounter will determine this match.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canberra at ANZ Stadium 7.35pm
Head to Head: Souths 17 Raiders 27 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 23 2011 – Souths 47 bt Raiders 18 at Canberra Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Souths $1.28 Raiders $3.75
FootyTAB: Raiders +10.5
The Rabbitohs go into this game as one of the form teams of the NRL winning three straight and four of their last six, while the Raiders are fighting to keep their heads above water since losing Terry Campese to a season ending knee injury in round seven. The Raiders are without star attacking duo Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson who were stood down for disciplinary reasons. Canberra need to win to keep their season alive, the Rabbitohs need to win to prove their premiership credentials. Souths Origin pair Greg Inglis and David Taylor have been named on an extended bench and are expected to play.
Key: Souths are never great favourites but this game will hinge on how the Raiders cover for the loss of Dugan and Ferguson.
SATURDAY, May 26
Newcastle Knights v Gold Coast Titans at Hunter Stadium 5.30pm
Head to Head: Knights 5 Titans 3
Last clash: Round 21 2011 – Knights 50 bt Titans 20 at Hunter Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Knights $1.50 Titans $2.60
FootyTAB: Titans +5.5
Both Newcastle and the Gold Coast have struggled to find any momentum so far this season claiming four and three wins respectively. Last year’s wooden spooners the Titans are two wins outside the eight but have enjoyed victories over highly fancied opponents the Bulldogs, Manly and the Cowboys – showing there is potential. Apart from home wins over lowly Parramatta and Penrith, Newcastle have beaten the Bulldogs and the Sharks away. Both teams will be freshened up from a bye. All the Titans’ Origin reps Nate Myles, Greg Bird and Ashley Harrison are expected to play as is Knights NSW winger Akuila Uate.
Key: Big name Knights signing Darius Boyd has struggled with his new club thus far, but could have played himself into form with two tries in State Origin.
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Parramatta Eels at Oki Jubilee Stadium 7.30pm
Head to Head: Dragons 11 Eels 11 drawn 2
Last clash: Round 13 2011 – Eels 14 drew Dragons 14 at Parramatta Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Dragons $1.40 Eels $3.00
FootyTAB: Eels +7.5
Apart from a stirring final few minutes on Anzac Day against the Roosters the Dragons have had a forgettable month, one that has included three successive losses including two in golden point. Things are far worse at the Eels, who have continued to lurch from one loss to the next, a count that stands at five straight. Injuries have not been kind to St George Illawarra, the Eels have not been kind to themselves giving away numerous big leads. Jarryd Hayne backs up for the Eels while Trent Merrin and Ben Creagh do likewise for the Dragons.
Key: Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for the Eels but preventing them has.
SUNDAY, May 27
Penrith Panthers v Manly Sea Eagles at Centrebet Stadium 2.00pm
Head to Head: Panthers 26 Sea Eagles 49 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 6 2012 – Sea Eagles 30 bt Panthers 0 at Brookvale Oval
Tab Sportsbet: Panthers $3.25 Sea Eagles $1.35
FootyTAB: Panthers +7.5
Both sides have hailed their strong club spirit in recent weeks and will be required to call upon it again here. Manly have four players backing up from Origin while Penrith players have been served notice on what high standards are expected of them with the dumping of NSW centre Michael Jennings, who is spending another week in NSW Cup. Manly are on a roll with four straight wins and renewed premiership claims. Penrith will be happy with a win any way they can get it. Luke Lewis backs up for them.
Key: Rookie Penrith pivot Blake Austin has been getting plenty of pats on the back in recent weeks, he can prove his worth here against a Sea Eagles side ripe for the picking.
Tip: Sea Eagles
Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys at Campbelltown Sports Stadium 3.00pm
Head to Head: Tigers 13 Cowboys 11
Last clash: Round 19 2011 – Tigers 38 bt Cowboys 18 at Dairy Farmers Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Tigers $1.55 Cowboys $2.45
FootyTAB: Cowboys +4.5
A good test as to where both sides are at as we reach the halfway mark of the season. The Tigers say they have enjoyed winning ugly but they have also enjoyed a favourable draw – three of their four straight wins have come against the three bottom placed teams. The Cowboys are sitting pretty in the top four having finally learned to win away. But they face a stern examination here with big guns Johnathan Thurston, James Tamou, Matt Scott and Brent Tate returning after State of Origin. NSW No.9 Robbie Farah will do likewise for the home side.
Key: The Tigers have found some go forward again thanks to Keith Galloway and Aaron Woods and they will need it up against an imposing Cowboys pack.
MONDAY, May 28
Sydney Roosters v Canterbury at Allianz Stadium 7.00pm
Head to Head: Roosters 78 Bulldogs 75 drawn 5
Last clash: Round 21 2011 – Roosters 32 bt Bulldogs 28 at Allianz Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Roosters $2.35 Bulldogs $1.60
FootyTAB: Roosters +3.5
The Roosters were playing badly and winning games but now they are playing well and losing, and after dropping four of their last five this shapes as something of a must-win for the home side. The Bulldogs look to be building well under new coach Des Hasler but have lacked consistency. Defence has been the Roosters problem and they have conceded the third most points of all teams ahead of only Parramatta and Penrith. NSW No.7 Mitchell Pearce backs up for the Roosters, Origin teammate Josh Morris does likewise for the Dogs. Krisnan Inu will play his first game for the Dogs after signing midweek.
Key: When Ben Barba is on song the Dogs are on song and the exciting No.1 will relish another chance to press his Queensland State of Origin claims.
Tip: Roosters© AAP 2013
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