Surprise results, teams answering their critics and a couple of big blowouts. Round 13 had it all, so let’s get into another edition of NRL talking points.
From the terrible Tigers’ triumph in Townsville amid turmoil to the Sharks weathering Storm in the wet, round six threw up some surprising results which makes for tricky tipping Easter long weekend!
Last week’s tips – 5/8, running tip total – 30/48
Bulldogs vs Souths
Both sides were last up winners and on both occasions, it was in less than convincing fashion.
The Dogs struggled to gain the ascendancy over a spirited Newcastle side while Souths failed to dominate a Penrith side who were missing four key players in the form of captain Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake, Peta Hiku and the injured Tyrone Peachey.
Matt Frawley, an organising half back, has been instrumental in the Dogs two consecutive wins. While he is named in jersey No.20, it is imperative that Des Hasler selects him in the final 17 and hopefully as the run on playmaker.
If Souths are to come away with a victory it will be through the enigmatic Cody Walker at five-eighth, but overcoming a Canterbury forward pack that has begun to hit its straps is a difficult task.
Tip: Dogs 1-12
Knights vs Roosters
This is a real danger game for the Roosters. The Knights will certainly throw up a challenge in Newcastle but the expectation is that the Bondi boys will come away with a win.
In that regard, a loss for the Roosters would be completely catastrophic. Questions are already being asked about their credentials as they are yet to defeat a side presently sitting in the top 8 despite collecting four victories so far. A strong response is required to silence the criticism.
Latrell Mitchell has been made the scapegoat for a poor defensive display across the park from the Roosters last week against the Broncos and defence will once again be the point of contention for Trent Robinson.
Tip: Roosters 1-12
Broncos vs Titans
The big story out of round six for the Broncos wasn’t their dominant display against the Roosters, but moreso, the injury to talismanic halfback Ben Hunt.
The joys of the salary sombrero however mean that the Broncos are the best stocked team in the competition for halfback replacements with NZ international Kodi Nikorima slotting into the position.
The Titans have endured a lean start to the season on the back of a stack of injuries but the tide may be about to turn as Dan Sarginson, Chris McQueen and importantly Nathan Peats are just some of the players making returns.
The Titans however, will need more than just extra troops to topple the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
Tip: Broncos 13+
Manly vs Storm
It’s the battle of Brookvale revisited as two teams with a spiteful history face off at an equally terribly named ground – Lottoland!
Manly bore the brunt of a controversial refereeing decision early in their loss to the Dragons but the most concerning thing for fans and coach Trent Barrett is the mental weakness shown by the players who were unable to move on from the event and focus on football.
Conversely, the Storm are the most professional side in the competition in will be striving to get back into the winners circle after losing the grand final rematch on home soil. No team wants to face that combination but neutral fans will love the fact that the Sea Eagles drew the short straw.
Tip: Storm 13+
Raiders vs Warriors
The Raiders are well on their way to my predicted 7-3 start to the season on the back of consecutive victories.
The unstoppable combination of BJ Leilua and Jordan Rapana – ‘Leipana’ – on the right edge is causing nightmares for opposition sides and it’s hard to see how the Warriors, or anyone, will be able to put a stop to it.
Kieran Foran has improved the Aucklanders out of sight but they lack both the size and skill required to tame the Raiders in Canberra.
Tip: Raiders 13+
Dragons vs Cowboys
If you’d told me the Dragons would be leading the competition after six rounds and doing so by playing a great brand of footy I would have laughed you off to the mental asylum.
Instead I’m now considering purchasing a white jacket for myself!
The Dragons are no longer flying under the radar. They have accounted for some top quality sides and their forward pack led by Paul Vaughan is the best in the game at the moment.
Neutral also have a right to be pretty ticked off with the Dragons as they never seem to face the Cowboys when the team from Townsville are even close to full strength.
In 2016 the two sides met on just one occasion, round 12 May 28 – the week before Origin 1. On that occasion, the Cowboys were without Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Michael Morgan and Justin O’Neil. As fate would have it JT and Scott are missing once again in addition to hooker Jake Granville and fullback Lachlan Coote.
With the Dragons playing in Wollongong there is simply too much quality personnel missing for the Cowboys to claim a victory.
Tip: Dragons 1-12
Panthers vs Sharks
While the Panthers sorely missed their suspended trio last week Anthony Griffin made the right call moving forward for the season.
It was only round six and the man is a noted strict disciplinarian. A line has now been drawn in the sand and in order to have ‘everyone on the bus’ to use an Ivan Cleary analogy, the law needed to be laid down. Now the focus of the team can be razor sharp.
But Sharks cut through the water with razor precision and an impressive victory over the Storm in Roudn 6 will have them feeling confident that more success is on the horizon. Importantly their spine is improving with every match as Jayden Brailey grows more confident at hooker and Valentine Holmes has begun effectively injecting himself from fullback.
The Sharks have won five of their past six against the Panthers but I do wonder just how much Jack Bird’s shock defection to the Broncos will derail Cronulla’s preparation.
Tip: Sharks 1-12
Eels vs Tigers
The Eels have slipped down the ladder faster then their name sake, dropping their last four matches.
As much as the Tigers defence has been horrible to start the season, the Eels haven’t fared much better and they have not looked like winning a game since their round two triumph. Making matters worse their spark in attack – Bevan French will be missing for some time with a knee injury forcing a complete backline reshuffle.
For the Tigers it was a case of ‘what a difference a week makes.’ Ivan Cleary made a memorable debut as Tigers coach with the team producing a noticeable improvement in defence.
Their scramble was excellent, the attitude had improved and perhaps most importantly cleary made some key changes to existing defencies. Namely shifting serial poor defender Kevin Naiqama to the wing, and placing to big bodies in Jamal Idris and Moses Suli into the centres.
With both sides struggling to contain their opposition and with an extra week with the Tigers under Cleary’s belt to further fine tune the defensive line, I’m backing the Tigers to notch up their first back to back victory of the season in a golden point thriller. Mitchell Moses to spite his future club with an 84th minute field goal.