NRL Round 15 predictions: Eels to slip past Dragons

Nicholas Nakos Roar Pro

By Nicholas Nakos, Nicholas Nakos is a Roar Pro

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    A shortened Round 15 sees only four matches on the schedule, with Sunday afternoon’s Eels versus Dragons clash being the highlight.

    South Sydney Rabbitohs versus Gold Coast Titans
    Friday, 16 June
    Kick-off: 7:50pm at ANZ Stadium

    The Rabbitohs and Titans clash on Friday night to open Round 15 of the 2017 NRL season with both sides currently sitting in the bottom four. It has been an incredibly disappointing season for the Titans who last year made the finals and are looking a shadow of their former selves after 14 rounds.

    The Titans lose a number of players to injury and Origin duty this week with Jarrod Wallace, Jarryd Hayne and Nathan Peats playing for their state. Kane Elgey, Karl Lawton and Tyrone Roberts are all injured.

    The Titans have had to make numerous positional changes, with Chris McQueen moving into five-eighth and Kevin Proctor returning from suspension in the back row.

    The Bunnies have no Origin representatives and are unchanged from the side that lost last Friday night to the Broncos 24-18. It was an improved performance from Souths and they will be hoping to carry last weekends competitive spirit into this contest on Friday night.

    The gulf in class between these two sides on paper is enormous. The sheer number of Titans omissions is startling and their depth is largely unproven this season. They have had to contend with numerous injuries early in the season, but six changes in a week is huge.

    Souths should have too much firepower for the Titans who have shown an inability to defend as was evidenced in last week’s dominating performance by the Warriors. I will be looking for Souths to put the foot down and win this one quite comfortably. Prediction: South Sydney by 14.

    Melbourne Storm versus North Queensland Cowboys
    Saturday, 17 June
    Kick-off: 5:30pm at AAMI Park

    It is such a shame that these two top-four hopefuls clash during Origin period as Melbourne fans are stripped of the opportunity to see the great Johnathan Thurston and co. at full strength in Melbourne.

    The Storm are coming off a gritty win over the Sharks last Thursday night, but will be without five players all representing Queensland on Wednesday night; Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Will Chambers and Tim Glasby. Added to their omissions are the injured Cheyse Blair and Jordan McLean.

    The Cowboys themselves will have four Queensland representatives with Coen Hess, Gavin Cooper, Michael Morgan and Johnathan Thurston all pulling on a maroon jersey.

    The Storm possess a stronger halves pairing than the Cowboys and a more than formidable forward pack to match the likes of Jason Taumalolo. The Storm’s bench is a little thin for my liking and if the Cowboys can hang with the Storm in the opening exchanges, they could expose them during the latter parts of the first half.

    This is a really tough game to call with so many omissions. I’m going to side with the underdog Cowboys, just. Prediction: Cowboys by 2.

    Cronulla Sharks versus Wests Tigers
    Saturday, 17 June
    Kick-off: 7:30pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium

    The Sharks fell narrowly to the Melbourne Storm last Thursday and will be looking to avoid back-to-back losses when they host the Wests Tigers on Saturday night.

    The Sharks will be without Andrew Fifita, Jack Bird, Wade Graham, James Maloney and Valentine Holmes. The Tigers lose captain Aaron Woods and fullback James Tedesco. The Sharks have called upon Fa’amanu Brown at five-eighth with Daniel Mortimer named on the bench in his first Sharks appearance of the year.

    The Tigers have shifted Kevin Naiqama to fullback with Tim Grant starting in place of Aaron Woods.

    The Sharks forwards will look to dominate the game, much as they did against the Bulldogs three weeks ago. The Tigers simply don’t have the muscle to match the Sharks up front. The return of Luke Brooks at halfback is important for the Tigers, but I don’t see them hanging with the Sharks over the full eighty minutes.

    This will be a much closer game than many might think, with the Sharks bulk changes bringing them back to the pack slightly. The Sharks have been unconvincing in a lot of their wins this season and if the Tigers can panic them into making enough errors they will have a chance. I don’t see the Tigers defensive intensity being at a high enough level to challenge the Sharks often enough on Saturday night though. Prediction: Sharks by 8.

    Andrew Fifita Cronulla Sharks NRL Rugby League 2017

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Parramatta Eels versus St George Illawarra Dragons
    Sunday, 18 June
    Kick-off: 4:00pm at ANZ Stadium

    The best match of Round 15 has been saved for last when the Eels host the Dragons on Sunday afternoon.

    The Dragons will be without Origin duo Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell with Jacob Host and Kalifa Faifai Loa joining the side. The Eels have brought in Kirisome Auva’a in place of Nathan Davis.

    Both of these sides will be disappointing in their performances last round, with the Eels totally outclassed by the Cowboys and the Dragons outworked by the Bulldogs on Queens Birthday.

    The new combination between Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses was always going to take some time to develop, but how much time is enough time? It is fair to say that over the course of this week, they have hopefully gelled a lot better than they did last week as a duo.

    For the Dragons, their offensive output of only two points on Monday would have disappointed coach Paul McGregor, but the side was starved of opportunity and field position by a combination of errors and conceding penalties. The Eels are a sporadic side and the Dragons can’t afford to give great field position time and time again.

    In round 2 when these sides clashed in Wollongong, Semi Radradra scored four tries and he will certainly be a handful for the Dragons defence this weekend. At essentially full strength, I am favouring the Eels to bounce back this weekend. I didn’t like much of what I saw from the Dragons last weekend and without their best player in Josh Dugan, I’m not sure where their creativity comes from this weekend. Prediction: Parramatta by 10.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • June 16th 2017 @ 9:26am
      uglykiwi said | June 16th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      What a terrible bunch of games this weekend. WHY isnt ORIGIN on a stand alone w/e. Typical NRL, they are turning into the ARL and doing it very quickly. Wouldn’t it be great to have the game administrated by someone that knew what they were doing??!
      It really isn’t that hard.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 16th 2017 @ 11:00am
        Conan of Cooma said | June 16th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        Can’t wait to see how the Sharks perform without their SOO reps.

        Apart from that… Yeah, nah.

        Weekend Origin with 2 week gaps is the way to go. Saturday night affair so everyone can go. And it has to start att 19:00.

        • June 16th 2017 @ 12:00pm
          Big Daddy said | June 16th 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

          It will be interesting to see what the crowd will be without the SOO stars.
          To be honest it shouldn’t make any difference as I believe true supporters should turn up regardless whether it be sharks,South’s,wests whoever.

          • Roar Pro

            June 16th 2017 @ 1:25pm
            Nicholas Nakos said | June 16th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

            I am as perplexed as any as to some of the NRL’s fixturing this season. Why they would put Melbourne North Queensland on an Origin week is beyond me. It will cost them at least a few thousand fans in Melbourne tomorrow night. It would ordinarily be a high-profile free-to-air fixture. Bizarre.

    • June 16th 2017 @ 11:10am
      kobi said | June 16th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

      Play it after the grand final

    • Roar Rookie

      June 16th 2017 @ 1:13pm
      Joe said | June 16th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

      Pretty confident Rabbits and Sharks should get the wins. Titans just decimated and Tigers already a poor team, now without their best forward and back. Sharks still have old heads in Gallen and Lewis and Brown has come in for Maloney a few times already this season. The other two games are a toss up. The Cows/Storm game will be a matter of which team adjusts better. Cowboys have less players out so I’d say they’re probably a better chance. I think Dragons have a good chance of beating the Eels. They have already played without Dugan this year and did very well and they still play a very good defensive game.

    • June 16th 2017 @ 9:23pm
      Bill larkin said | June 16th 2017 @ 9:23pm | ! Report

      Melbourne will win easily.

      The constant dismissal of the Storm by Roar “experts” has become very tiresome.

    • June 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm
      Kenw said | June 17th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

      Dugan is arguably the best player at the club, probably the best defensive fullback going, his kick returns are strong and he comes up with the occasional piece of magic most couldn’t. The thing is though the Dragons don’t actually seem to miss him that much when he’s not around. His output is more individual and a bonus to the side, he’s not a critical linchpin like Boyd, Tedesco or Slater are to their teams.

      Nightingale goes back there, incredibly safe, not quite as dynamic but still makes good metres and can pull off the odd special play himself. And the rest of team otherwise just goes about their business exactly the same as they would have anyway. Losing Widdop, McInnes or even De Belin has more impact on the team as a whole.

      Can’t believe we’re getting Storm v Cowboys on an Origin week – a ‘ must watch’ game becomes a ‘who cares’ game. What a waste. For what it’s worth I think the Storm might still get them, despite the Cowboys looking a little stronger on paper, they just seem a little more flimsy without Thurston than they have in recent years.

      And the Sharks should be ripe for the picking this week but I just can’t see the Tigers pulling it off. It’s really in their hands though.

    • June 17th 2017 @ 5:33pm
      David Holden said | June 17th 2017 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

      I think the Sharks vs Tigers game is a real 50/50 tonight. Sharks defence should be good and I’d say their penalty count will be down with Fifita and Maloney out, but at best they will be hoping for a grinding win. With a tough draw in coming weeks, its important that they grab the 2 points

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