There are eight rounds remaining in the shortened 2020 NRL season and the race for finals places will continue in earnest this weekend.
Round 2 was always going to be a difficult one for punters due to a series of surprising performances in Round 1. The plot now thickens for Round 3, with injuries affecting several teams.
Tip Total – 10/16, last weeks tips – 4/8.
Storm vs Broncos
The Storm weathered their namesake in a great Round 2 victory over the Warriors, while the Broncos suffered at the foot of Johnathan Thurston in yet another brilliant Queensland derby.
The big story in this match is the return of Billy Slater. Aside from the joy neutrals will have in watching one of the greatest all-time fullback’s return, we get to have a look at master coach Craig Bellamy’s preferred backline, with Cameron Munster officially shifting to five-eighth in what becomes perhaps the most potent backline in the game.
The Broncos have named Benji Marshall as 18th man and many will be hoping that the former Golden Boot winner finds his way into the final 17.
The Broncos have won the last two encounters at AAMI Park but they won’t be making it three in a row.
Tip: Storm 1-12
Bulldogs vs Warriors
The Bulldogs have been hit hard by injury with Brad Abbey and Marcelo Montoya deputising for Will Hopoate and Kerrod Holland respectively. Abbey is one to watch.
The Warriors welcome back Manu Vatuvei but will have to wait another week for Kieran Foran’s debut. Despite being listed as an away match the Warriors won’t have to leave New Zealand with this match-taking place in Dunedin.
Tip: Warriors 1-12
Titans vs Eels
Both teams suffer from injuries, the Titans have lost Jarryd Hayne and Anthony Don while the Eels have lost arguably the form player of 2017 in Corey Norman.
For all the hype and legacy, the loss of Hayne won’t hit the Titans that hard; he has been poor over the first two rounds. Norman, on the other hand, is a huge blow and while Jeff Robson provides a steady hand the task is perhaps to great for he and promising young playmaker Clinton Gutherson.
The Titans have won their past two matches at Cbus Super Stadium against the Eels.
Knights vs Souths
The Knights were the feel-good story of Round 2, producing an excellent effort in front of a vocal home crowd to break a 336-day winless streak.
Souths also managed to right the wrongs of Week 1 and put in a strong performance against Manly, with Cody Walker the architect of the Sea Eagles’ demise.
The Knights have not defeated South Sydney since 2011 having lost their past seven against the Bunnies. But, that victory came in Newcastle.
If ever there was a week to go back-to-back this season, this is it for Newcastle.
Tip: Knights 1-12 (as an aside, this is the first time I have tipped the Knights since 2015.)
Panthers vs Roosters
The Panthers bounced back from a terrible Round 1 showing to trounce the Tigers by 32 points.
Their forward power will have sent shockwaves through the competition, while Nathan Cleary and Te Maire Martin demonstrated what they can achieve when given room to move.
The Roosters have maintained a perfect 2-0 start to the season, with Luke Keary the standout player. This week they will be missing one of their best attacking weapons in Blake Ferguson and in such an even contest that edge could well see the Panthers home.
Tip: Panthers 1-12
Cowboys vs Manly
The Cowboys relished a golden point victory over the Broncos in another classic encounter, but it wasn’t without costs.
Matt Scott will miss the rest of the season after rupturing his ACL, and both Lachlan Coote and Antonio Winterstein will miss this match with injury.
Fortunately for league lovers, Coote’s injury means we get to see more of excitement machine Kalyn Ponga.
Conversely, there is nothing exciting about Manly, who are firming for wooden spoon honours early. Injury and suspension to the likes of Marty Taupau and Lloyd Perrett exposed their forward depth and unfortunately their $10 million man, Daly Cherry-Evans, is struggling to create without the go forward.
It will be an 0-3 start for the maroon and whites.
Tip: Cowboys 13+
Raiders vs Tigers
Both teams produced inept displays in Round 2 but the signs for the Tigers were far more concerning.
It was the same lack of concentration and application in defence as in years gone by, and once again coach Jason Taylor handled his bench appalling.
With Penrith reduced to 16 men early, Taylor left Jack Littlejohn and Jamal Idris on the bench for the entire opening 40, despite his troops obviously struggling at the 30-minute mark, with several players out on their feet. By the time fresh legs were brought on, the Panthers had raced to 18-2. That two points next to the Tigers name was another tactical blunder.
As for the Raiders, they fell apart in the second half. But with quality personnel on deck, including the return of Jarrod Crocker, and a trip back to Canberra this one should be a certain two points.
Tip: Raiders 13+
Sharks vs Dragons
It’s a local derby to close out Round 3, with the Sharks back in the winners’ circle and the Dragons unfortunately plummeting back down to earth.
Cronulla were relentless against the Raiders in the second half, with Wade Graham producing an infallible display.
There was plenty to fault about the Dragons’ performance on the other hand, once again lacking creativity.
Jai Field has been added to an extended bench as Paul McGregor looks for some spark.
Tip: Sharks 13+