Saturday night shapes up as a must-win game for the Canberra Raiders when they travel to Sydney to face the Parramatta Eels ahead of a tough upcoming schedule.
Parramatta Eels versus Canberra Raiders
Saturday, 20 May
Kick-off: 7:30pm at ANZ Stadium
What has happened to the Canberra Raiders over the last three weeks? A tight loss to Manly, followed by an absent second half against the Dogs and then a diabolical loss to the Knights where they conceded a whopping 34 points to the wooden spoon favourites.
Canberra need to turn this around and fast. They have a tough upcoming schedule with matches against the Roosters, Manly, Penrith and Brisbane in the next four. Certainly not easy beats by any means.
The Eels were demolished last week when they faced the Roosters and lost their best player in Corey Norman in the process.
Mitchell Moses has made the transfer from the Tigers to the Eels and will start at halfback in place of Will Smith.
Bevan French returns to fullback and Beau Scott and Brad Takairangi have been named as reserves, which is a boost for the Eels.
For the Raiders, Josh Papalii returns to the run on side.
As I’ve mentioned, this is a must-win game for Canberra. They really have no excuses in this one.
Mitchell Moses will be coming into the Eels lineup trying to learn a new system and link up with new players.
Bevan French is bound to be rusty and the Raiders will have more desperation in this one.
Prediction: Canberra by 8.
Newcastle Knights versus Penrith Panthers
Sunday, 21 May
Kick-off: 2pm at McDonald Jones Stadium
A win for the ages for the Knights last week when they toppled the highly fancied Raiders.
I only tipped the Knights for one win at the start of the season – they have already proven me wrong, and we are only at round 11.
The Panthers’ season was shot to bits at half time last weekend when they trailed 28-6. A comeback for the ages, the second biggest in the clubs history may be the igniter coach Anthony Griffin was looking for to kick start the Panthers 2017 campaign.
The last time these two sides met earlier this season, Penrith romped home 40-0.
James Fisher-Harris has no luck with injury at the moment and he is out with a hamstring. Corey Harawira-Naera replaces his in the second row.
For the Knights, Nathan Ross has been dropped to reserve grade for speaking about his contract situation to the media.
Brendan Elliott has been named to start and Mitch Barnett will feature from the bench. Trent Hodkinson is again named in the reserves.
Penrith will have Newcastle’s number in this one. It was hard not to like what the Panthers showed in the second half last weekend and a repeat dose will have the Knights at sixes and sevens.
A little bit of off-field drama with Nathan Ross and losing their best winger in the process won’t be great for Newcastle.
Prediction: Penrith by 12.
Canterbury Bulldogs versus Sydney Roosters
Sunday, 21 May
Kick-off: 4pm at ANZ Stadium
The Bulldogs had a whole 10 days to stew on their disappointing showing in round 10 where they were outclassed by the Cowboys.
The Roosters wouldn’t have wanted the final whistle last weekend as they put in their most dominant 80-minute performance this season in dismantling the Eels.
The only change for either side is Craig Garvey on the bench for the Dogs in place of Marcelo Montoya.
The Roosters are a fearsome side when they click into gear and will have too much offensive firepower for the Dogs to keep up with in this one.
I am still not convinced by the Dogs spine at the moment. Mbye and Lichaa didn’t do enough last weekend with Mbye’s kicking particularly disastrous.
Matt Frawley didn’t touch the ball enough, but perhaps he wasn’t getting in the right positions often enough.
It’s a bit of a mess for the Dogs and they will be so thankful that Kieran Foran is coming to their rescue next season.
For 2017, they will have to make do. When Josh Reynolds is fit, I’m not convinced there is a spot for Lichaa. He isn’t creative enough and defenders know that he isn’t a threat with ball in hand.
The Dogs problems aside, the Roosters pack will want to put in a big showing against a Dogs pack that boasts formidable named such as Graham, Jackson and Klemmer.
The Roosters should win this one, and will.
Prediction: Roosters by 10.
South Sydney Rabbitohs versus Melbourne Storm
Sunday, 21 May
Kick-off: 6:30pm at nib Stadium
The final match of round 11 takes place in Perth and a big crowd should be on hand when the Bunnies face the ladder-leading Storm.
Melbourne had a major slip-up last weekend in Brisbane. Not only did they lose, but they did it conceding 38 points.
It was the worst defensive display the Storm had produced since Craig Bellamy took over, he said.
Some of the defending was very sub-par, but the game was so open and free flowing and this suited the Titans.
It was very unlike the Storm not to shut the game down in the final 10 once they took the lead.
The Bunnies hit the scoreboard in a big way last weekend, but consistently producing points has been a problem for them this season.
Zane Musgrove replaces Jason Clark and the Storm has shifted Felise Kaufusi to the bench with Joe Stimson starting.
I wouldn’t want to be the Bunnies facing a Craig Bellamy side that gave up 38 points the week before.
The game being played in Perth neutralises any home field advantage, although the Rabbits are always well supported wherever they travel.
The Storm will be hoping to suffocate the Rabbitohs and I don’t think South Sydney have enough points in them, nor the defensive prowess to keep the Storm from scoring.
Melbourne to bounce back before Origin.
Prediction: Melbourne by 12.