NRL Round 3 predictions (Part 2): Top-four contenders clash in Penrith

Nicholas Nakos Roar Pro

By , Nicholas Nakos is a Roar Pro

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    The game of the round comes from the foot of the mountains, when the Panthers host their first home game of the season, against the undefeated Roosters.

    Penrith Panthers versus Sydney Roosters
    Saturday, 18 March 2017
    Kick-off: 7pm at Pepper Stadium

    Penrith decided to actually show up in Round 2 against the Tigers, after their horrendous start to the season. Anthony Griffin has made no changes to his starting 17 with Peta Hiku and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak named on an extended bench. Blake Ferguson is out with a rib injury, replaced by Joseph Manu in the centres.

    The Roosters drifted in and out of concentration against the Dogs last Thursday and can’t afford such brain fades against the Panthers, who pose more of a risk in an attacking sense and have an equally formidable pack.

    Prediction: Panthers by 12.

    North Queensland Cowboys versus Manly Sea Eagles
    Saturday, 18 March 2017
    Kick-off: 9pm at 1300SMILES Stadium

    From game-saving tackles to game-winning field goals, Johnathan Thurston is an absolute superstar. But the Cowboys have to set aside their emotional victory over the Broncos and knuckle down for a clash with the winless Sea Eagles.

    Manly are not a good football side and there are internal rumblings of another civil war after new CEO Tim Cleary sacked Bob Fulton’s daughter. Uh oh.

    Trent Barrett needs a win, and his side were lifeless outside of the first 20 minutes last Saturday. He has named an unchanged side, which goes to show how little depth they have.

    The rehab group at the Cowboys has grown, with Antonio Winterstein, Matt Scott and Lachlan Coote all out. The highly touted Kayln Ponga will get the nod at fullback in an appetiser for Knights fans, ahead of his move to the Hunter in 2017.

    Manly are unbackable at the moment, despite the heroics of the Trbojevic brothers.

    Prediction: North Queensland by 10.

    Johnathan Thurston NRL Rugby League North Queensland Cowboys 2017

    Canberra Raiders versus Wests Tigers
    Sunday, 19 March 2017
    Kick-off: 4pm at GIO Stadium

    Both of these clubs produced diabolical performances in Round 2 and will be looking for redemption.

    Nobody saw the Raiders getting blown out by Cronulla at home, but the Green Machine had horrible ball security, terrible ball movement and lacked continuity.

    The Tigers’ defence was inept against quality opposition and the Tim Simona revelations in the papers on Sunday morning wouldn’t have made for a happy atmosphere on game day.

    Canberrra are unchanged, while the Tigers have dropped Jamal Idris for Tim Grant.

    The last time these two teams faced off in Canberra, the Raiders put up 60 against the toothless Tigers. I don’t expect the same scoreline, but there are plenty of points in Ricky Stuart’s side.

    Prediction: Canberra by 16.

    Cronulla Sharks versus St George Illawarra Dragons
    Sunday, 19 March 2017
    Kick-off: 6:30pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium

    Sunday night football hits the Shire when rivals the Sharks and the Dragons close Round 3.

    An exceptional performance from the Sharks last weekend reminded the competition not to sleep on last season’s premiers. Valentine Holmes has been named on an extended bench and is a possibility of starting for the Sharks.

    The Dragons, on the other hand, lost the spark and go-forward which they discovered in Round 1, were trailing inside one minute against the Eels after a try off a kick-off error, and never recovered.

    These teams shared the spoils last season, each winning a game on their home ground.

    The Sharks are too strong all over the park for the Dragons in this one.

    Prediction: Cronulla by 14.