That wasn’t in the script, Adam!
If Round 10 of the season taught us anything, it was that no lead is safe.
This was highlighted by Penrith’s monumental comeback against the Warriors after being down 28-6 at the break.
Round 11 is the last round before State of Origin lessens the number of home-and-away matches, and it shapes up as a round of intriguing match-ups.
Cronulla Sharks versus North Queensland Cowboys
Thursday, 18 May
Kick-off: 7:50pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium
The Sharks and the Cowboys do battle to open Round 11 with both sides coming off a last start win. Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston is unlikely to play but has been named in coach Paul Green’s 21-man squad.
The Cowboys sprung back to life last weekend with a dominating win over the Bulldogs in Sydney. The Sharks didn’t have things all their own away against a gallant Dragons outfit but made the big plays when it mattered most.
The Sharks will be without the suspended Matt Prior. Chris Heighington starts in his place with Jayson Bukuya joining the bench. The Sharks have a sizeable bench, and this is where they may look to expose the Cowboys, who don’t have as much forward depth as their opponents.
Last week the Cowboys were carried by the exceptional play of Michael Morgan. If Morgan can reproduce that same quality of football on Thursday night, the Cowboys will be hard to stop.
The Sharks haven’t had the best form at home this year and will be looking for another big scalp in season 2017. The Sharks have risen to the challenge time and time again against big oppositions this year and I think they’ll do so again in this match.
Prediction: Sharks by six.
New Zealand Warriors versus St George Illawarra Dragons
Friday, 19 May
Kick-off: 6:00pm at FMG Stadium Waikato
The less said about the Warriors second-half collapse last week the better. Never have I seen two such contrasting halves of football than last Saturday afternoon at Pepper Stadium. The Warriors were completely out-played and full of errors in the second half after producing such a dazzling first half of football.
They take a home game away from Auckland to Hamilton this weekend and face a Dragons side on a three-game losing streak.
The Dragons haven’t been awful in losses to the Roosters, Storm and Sharks without their best two players, Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan. Both players will miss out again for this trip to NZ, as will Euan Aitken, who suffered a hamstring injury last week. He is replaced by Kalifa Faifai Loa.
The Warriors lose Solomona Kata to injury, and Ken Maumalo returns after playing in the Intrust Super Premiership last weekend.
The Dragons are heavy outsiders for this fixture, but I’m not sure why. Their forwards have been more consistent than the Warriors this season, and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who looked like he was carrying an injury last weekend, made some uncharacteristic handling errors.
The Dragons will be hoping to keep this match close, and I think it will be. They deserve a win after their recent admirable losses, and I think they’ll get it.
Prediction: Dragons by four.
Brisbane Broncos versus Wests Tigers
Friday, 19 May
Kick-off: 7:50pm at Suncorp Stadium
The Broncos continue to do enough to win games without looking overly impressive, but it will be the end result that will be pleasing Wayne Bennett more than the process at the moment.
The Broncos conceded three tries inside ten minutes last weekend, but from there the forwards got the better of the Sea Eagles, albeit thanks to a couple lucky tries.
James Roberts returns at centre with Jordan Kahu returning to the wing and David Mead to the bench. Ben Hunt has been named in the reserved and is an outside chance of making a return from injury.
As for the Tigers, Mitchell Moses was this week finally released to the Eels and Jack Littlejohn starts in his place at five-eighth. Luke Brooks will start at halfback after being cleared of any wrongdoing in a nightclub brawl last weekend. The Tigers will also be bolstered by the return of captain Aaron Woods with Ava Seumanufagai making way. Kyle Lovett replaces Michael Chee Kam on the bench.
The Tigers are outmatched in the backs in this match-up and that’s where they will lose this game. The silky skills of players like James Roberts and Jordan Kahu will prove problematic for the Tigers all night.
I can see this match going only one way, and that’s towards a dominating Broncos win. They are bound to click for a full 80 minutes, and when they do it is going to be hard to stop.
Prediction: Brisbane by 20.
Gold Coast Titans versus Manly Sea Eagles
Saturday, 20 May
Kick-off: 5:30pm at Cbus Super Stadium
It was a sterling win for the Titans last time out against a leaky Melbourne Storm, and the team is starting to click this season after some indifferent form in the opening rounds.
The Sea Eagles will be disappointed to have let such a big lead slip in Brisbane last start. To compound matters, fullback Tom Trbojevic suffered ankle and knee injuries and is set to be sidelined for up to eight weeks – he’ll be replaced by Matthew Wright – but the Sea Eagles are otherwise unchanged.
Dan Sarginson is again injured for the Titans, as is Ryan Simpkins. Karl Lawton and Nathaniel Peteru join the bench to fill in the Titans squad this weekend.
Gold Coast are on a roll and can score points against even the best defensive schemes, as was demonstrated last weekend. The Storm did have an off game, but the Titans never-say-die attitude shone when they needed two tries in the final ten minutes. Ash Taylor is playing some sublime football and leads the league in try assists by a mile.
The Sea Eagles folded like a deck of cards late last weekend and can’t afford another fade. I like the Titans at the moment – they’re on a roll and I don’t expect it to stop on Saturday night.
Prediction: Titans by 10.