Hoping to keep their 2017 season alive, Canberra visit Cronulla on Saturday night, knowing any less than two points is certainly season over.
Gold Coast Titans versus Brisbane Broncos
Saturday, 5 August
Kick-off: 5:30pm at CBUS Super Stadium
The Gold Coast Titans’ 2017 finals hopes dissolved last Sunday night with a limp 26-4 thrashing by the Wests Tigers.
The Titans were second best all day and after a finals berth last season, Gold Coast will find themselves closer to the bottom four than the top eight by season’s end.
For the Broncos, a 12-0 start after nine minutes was followed by a 28-2 avalanche by Parramatta at ANZ Stadium.
The Broncos lack of desire, particularly in the second half would be worrying for Wayne Bennett, as would their record at ANZ Stadium this season.
The Broncos were incredibly fortunate to escape with a 1-point win against South Sydney earlier this season, but have suffered losses to the Bulldogs and Eels as strong favourites.
Kevin Proctor returns for the Titans, with Jarryd Hayne moving to full back after spending the majority of the season in the centres.
Brisbane is without hooker Andrew McCullough, who will be replaced by the more than capable Ben Hunt, with Kodi Nikorima playing half back. David Mead replaces Jonus Pearson on the wing.
Ben Hunt is a more than capable hooker and this is a must-win game for Brisbane if they are serious about finishing in the top four.
The Titans have clearly put the cue in the rack after last weekends performance. Brisbane have historically had a very strong record against the Gold Coast and that should continue on Saturday night.
Prediction: Brisbane by 10.
Cronulla Sharks versus Canberra Raiders
Saturday, 5 August
Kick-off: 7:30pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium
The Cronulla Sharks are one of the few teams fancied to challenge the Melbourne Storm for the 2017 Premiership and will be looking to cement a position in the top four on Saturday night when they host the Raiders.
A victory for Cronulla would effectively end Canberra’s season and the Sharks won’t be taking the Green Machine lightly.
Earlier this season, Cronulla thumped the Raiders by 26 points in Canberra, but lost their last regular season match-up in the Shire, when the Raiders were victorious 30-14.
Cronulla welcome back Jack Bird to the centres, pushing Kurt Capewell to the bench. The Sharks were seldom tested last Friday night against the New Zealand Warriors. After a soft draw in the past fortnight, they will be looking for a test heading into the business end of the season.
Jordan Rapana and Josh Papalii return from suspension for Canberra after suspension. They will be welcome returns for Canberra and the men from the capital will be seeking their second consecutive victory after downing South Sydney last Saturday night.
The Sharks without Josh Maloney are certainly not as fearsome a team and Canberra will be looking to exploit Cronulla’s halves vulnerability.
Having had a win in the Shire last season will hold the Raiders in good stead for this game and with their season to play for, it is conceivable that Canberra could pull off an upset on Saturday night.
Jordan Rapana and Josh Hodgson have proved to be thorns in Cronulla’s side in the past and it will be up to them to lead the way for Canberra in attack if they are to beat Cronulla on their own patch. In an upset, the Raiders will win in a hard fought and high-scoring contest.
Prediction: Canberra by 4.
Manly Sea Eagles versus Sydney Roosters
Sunday, 6 August
Kick-off: 2pm at Lottoland
After conceding 92 points in the past fortnight, Manly will be looking to stop the rot against one of the premiership fancies in the Sydney Roosters.
The Sea Eagles announced themselves in 2017 with an early season victory over the Roosters at Allianz Stadium by a score of 18-12.
The suspension of Addin Fonua-Blake has seen the inclusion of Lloyd Perrett to the bench, with winger Brad Parker joining him on the interchange.
Manly’s forwards have been woeful in the past two games and Trent Barrett will be looking for a significant improvement from them this week if they are to defeat the Roosters.
After trailing by 10 points at half time, the Roosters looked a different team in the second half and dominated the Cowboys, running away six point winners.
There are no changes to their side for this clash, with Boyd Cordner, Michael Gordon and Jake Friend all remaining unavailable.
It is very difficult to mount a case for Manly in this game. Despite having home field advantage, their play over the past two games against the Dragons and Storm has been uninspiring and disinterested.
They are clinging on to a position in the top eight and wouldn’t want to lose too many more games down the stretch.
Based on form, the Roosters will win this game. Manly have reached their potential for this season and are going to limp into the finals.
Prediction: Roosters by 10.
Penrith Panthers versus Wests Tigers
Sunday, 6 August
Kick-off: 4pm at Pepper Stadium
It’s father versus son when the Panthers host the Tigers on Sunday afternoon. Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary will coach for the first time against his son and Panthers half back Nathan Cleary.
The younger Cleary has steered the Panthers around the park exceptionally in the past month and has breathed new life into a season that was going from bad to worse.
In the absence of Matt Moylan, Cleary has been taking a more prominent playmaking role and has been a game manager as opposed to another flashy ball player.
The Tigers will be buoyed by their 26-4 win over the Gold Coast Titans last weekend. Ivan Cleary will be hoping his charges can back up their most recent win with another, and with it, dampen the Panthers 2017 finals aspirations.
A broken jaw has ended Leilani Latu’s season with Moses Leota returning at lock. The Tigers have made no change to their side from last weekend.
The Wests Tigers have earned recent wins against some of the leagues lesser teams in the Knights and Titans recently.
A Panthers side gathering momentum towards the finals is a different proposition altogether and Penrith will need no motivation to topple the Tigers this Sunday.
Their attacking flair and the Tigers inconsistency make it difficult to tip them against a better team.
Prediction: Penrith by 14.