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NRL Round 14 predictions (part one): Grand final rematch without Cronk

The Milf is one of the NRL's wonderful little men. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Roar Guru
7th June, 2017
5
1979 Reads

Round 14 of the NRL season kicks off with the second edition of last year’s grand final rematch when the Cronulla Sharks host the Melbourne Storm.

Cronulla Sharks versus Melbourne Storm
Thursday, 8 June
Kick-off: 7:50pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium

The Sharks host the Storm on Thursday Night Football and unlike the majority of the competition, the Sharks hold no fears when it comes to defeating the Storm. Cronulla have won three of the last four clashes between the sides, including their historic 14-12 win in last year’s grand final.

The Sharks hopes of making it three consecutive wins over the Storm was dealt an enormous boost with news that halfback Cooper Cronk will be rested for the match. After playing State of Origin last Wednesday night, the Storm hierarchy have made the decision to rest Cronk to prevent him from playing three games in eight days.

Tohu Harris has been named in the halves as Cronk’s replacement. The Storm welcome back skipper Cameron Smith who missed last Friday’s clash with Newcastle.

The Sharks welcome back their origin quartet of Andrew Fifita, Jack Bird, James Maloney and Wade Graham. James Segeyaro was initially named in the reserves but has since dropped out of the 19-man squad.

Cronulla have not had it all their own way in the Shire this season having to fight tooth and nail for all the points their earned at home. Thursday night will be no different and the Storm won’t need much more motivation than already losing to the Sharks this year at home. The loss of Cronk is enormous for Melbourne and can’t be understated. In a close game, his omission swings the pendulum in favour of Cronulla. Prediction: Sharks by 4

Andrew Fifita Cronulla Sharks NRL Rugby League 2017

(AAP Image/Joe Castro)

Manly Sea Eagles versus Newcastle Knights
Friday, 9 June
Kick-off: 6:00pm at Lottoland

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Manly needed more than 80 minutes to defeat the Raiders last week and prevented what would have been a disappointing loss after dominating large parts of that fixture. A Daly Cherry-Evans masterclass assured the Sea Eagles of the two points last Sunday.

For the Knights, a trip to Melbourne provided to be a disappointing one with the side conceding 40 to the Storm on the way to a 40-12 loss.

Jorge Taufua suffered an ACL injury in the win over the Raiders and the Sea Eagle wingman will be out for the remainder of the year. Manly’s backline depth is minimal and they have brought in Jonathon Wright who hasn’t exactly dazzled in InTrust Super Premiership play this season. The Eagles are otherwise unchanged.

Newcastle are unchanged with captain Trent Hodkinson remaining in the reserves.

It is difficult to see how the Knights will win this game on Friday night. They only had ten minutes of solid play against the Storm over the entire match and a similar lack of control against the Sea Eagles will lead to Manly posting a similar scoreline as Melbourne did. The Sea Eagles have preyed upon lesser opposition this season with big wins over the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs.

I expect to see the same on Friday night. Prediction: Manly by 20.

Brisbane Broncos versus South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday, 9 June
Kick-off: 7:50pm at Suncorp Stadium

The Broncos will be returning to Brisbane with their full compliment of Origin stars back and ready to end a two-game losing streak when they host South Sydney on Friday night.

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Anthony Milford returns to the halves replacing Benji Marshall. Kodi Nikorima returns to jersey 17 and will start from the bench with Jaydn Su’A dropping out of the side.

The Rabbitohs produced yet another inept performance a fortnight ago when they were humbled by the Eels. The final scoreline flattered Souths as they were thrashed when the game was on the line. Bryson Goodwin is the only inclusion to the side that was beaten by the Eels, with Robbie Rochow omitted.

The Broncos were gallant in defeat last weekend and could have sent the game to golden point in the dying stages. They had more than enough football to defeat the Roosters but missed Milford’s creativity in the halves.

His return will spark the Broncos to a big win on Friday night. The Rabbitohs have not given me any reason to believe they will front up for the full 80 minutes on Friday and put in a good performance. Prediction: Brisbane by 16.

Anthony Milford of the Brisbane Broncos and teammate Ben Hunt celebrate

(AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Gold Coast Titans versus New Zealand Warriors
Saturday, 10 June
Kick-off: 3:00pm at Cbus Super Stadium

Two sides coming off last start losses face on Saturday afternoon when the Titans host the Warriors. Gold Coast were their own worst enemies last weekend in North Queensland. A 68 per cent completion rate and 13 errors was not going to cut it against the might of the Cowboys in Townsville.

Gold Coast welcome back Nathan Peats from injury at hooker. Jarryd Hayne returns to fullback and Tyrone Roberts has been shifted to the bench in a backline reshuffle by coach Neil Henry.

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The Warriors were patchy last weekend against the Eels. They showed glimpses of brilliance at stages in the first half and looked as if they were going to run over the Eels who only had one fit man on their bench. In true Warriors style they managed to fluff their lines and lose the game by eight. James Gavet has succumbed to a hamstring injury and is replaced in the starting side by Jacob Lillyman.

The Warriors defeated the Titans earlier this season in Auckland 28-22 thanks to a late try by Ryan Hoffman. New Zealand have a good record on the Gold Coast and are bound to snap their six-game road losing streak at some point. After tipping the Warriors last week, this has to be the game they finally break their road duck. Surely? Prediction: Warriors by 7.