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2021 NRL season Round 19 preview: Are you in or out (of the eight)?

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Roar Guru
20th July, 2021
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This weekend we have the unique situation where each match pits a team currently inside the NRL eight against a team that’s outside of it.

Among them includes a battle between second and second-last, and a reprisal of the 2017 grand final between the Cowboys and Storm.

The Bulldogs will also look to keep the wooden spoon battle alive when they face the Sharks, one of two teams the Berries have beaten this year, at the end of the round.

Here is your preview to Round 19.

Eels vs Raiders
Having been forced to relocate two days before their clash against the Titans last week, the Eels were barely troubled as they won 26-8, despite having recent NSW debutante Mitchell Moses withdrawn from their line-up at the 11th hour.

Hooker Reed Mahoney, however, returned from the shoulder injury which denied him an Origin debut as the blue and golds racked up their 13th win of the year, as they continue their push to end a frustrating 35-year premiership drought.

On Thursday night they face a Raiders side whose finals hopes still remain alive after they downed the Sharks by 34-18, with Jordan Rapana scoring a rare eight-point try in the opening ten minutes.

It marked their second straight win and while it put them level on premiership points with the team they had just beaten, they sit in ninth place on the ladder due to a slightly poorer points differential (-74 to the Sharks’ -60).

Now, only the in-form Eels stand in the way of the Green Machine’s re-entry into the top eight, while they may also have to rely on the Bulldogs causing an upset against the Sharks at the end of the round.


But with Mitchell Moses and Junior Paulo expected to return, Parra should take the points.

Prediction: Eels by 18 points.

Mitchell Moses offloads the ball.

Mitchell Moses offloads the ball. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Roosters vs Knights
Without rested NSW captain James Tedesco last week, the Chooks fell behind 12-0 after 15 minutes and were level with the Cowboys 18-all midway through the second half before their experience got them over the line in a 34-18 victory.

Again rookie halfback Sam Walker thrived under the pressure, with former Sharks coach Shane Flanagan comparing him to another ex-Rooster, James Maloney, in commentary for Fox League.

Trent Robinson’s side will start hot favourites against the Knights, who are coming off a 48-4 loss to the Storm on the Gold Coast, as fullback Kalyn Ponga failed to finish the match after failing an HIA prior to halftime.

Newcastle were always going to be lambs to the slaughter against a powerful Storm side, particularly minus Origin forward Daniel Saifiti and veteran halfback Mitchell Pearce.

There will be no respite when they face the Tricolours, who won their previous meeting by 38-4; in that match, they lost Lindsay Collins and Brett Morris to season-ending ACL injuries, after which the latter announced his retirement.


Expect the Roosters to show no mercy as they continue their push to September.

Prediction: Roosters by 20 points.

Cowboys vs Storm
It wasn’t long ago that a match between the Cowboys and Storm would be considered a blockbuster.

But ever since Melbourne thrashed the Cowboys in the 2017 grand final, the contrasts of both sides couldn’t have been more stark, with the Victorian club continuing on its winning ways, as they have been for the past decade, while the northerners have largely struggled.

Craig Bellamy’s side continue to cause havoc on the competition, with their 48-4 win over the Knights last Saturday night marking the 11th time they have scored at least 40 points in a single season; the 632 points they have scored is also the most by any team after 18 rounds.


It makes for bad news for the Cowboys, who currently sit in 13th place on the ladder and have not beaten the Storm anywhere since the 2015 preliminary final.

Coach Todd Payten has again come under criticism for his management of superstar forward Jason Taumalolo, who was hooked after 15 minutes, at which point his side led the Roosters by 12-0, allowing the Chooks to get back into the match.

While they managed to peg it back to 18-all in the second half, they ultimately conceded the final three tries to lose 34-18, with some players seen in tears in the sheds at full-time.

Payten is now faced with the task of gearing his side up for the ultimate challenge of facing the Storm and even at home, Melbourne should prove why they are the benchmark of the competition.

Prediction: Storm by 24 points.

Rabbitohs vs Warriors
Both teams come into the match on the back of six-day breaks, with the Warriors having a slightly longer break by virtue of the fact their match against the Panthers finished just over two hours before the Bunnies’ match against the Bulldogs started.

The Rabbitohs survived a scare against the Bulldogs on the Gold Coast, trailing 12-10 at halftime before going on to win by 34-26, though the win came at a cost with winger Alex Johnston set to miss up to a month due to a hamstring injury.

That has thrown the Pride of the League’s premiership aspirations into disarray, but they’re expected to continue on their winning ways against the Warriors.


Nathan Brown’s side started well, at one stage leading the Panthers by 10-4, before going down 30-16 to leave them in third-last place on the ladder with just five wins for the year.

Despite their lowly ladder position, their points differential of -93 reflects how competitive they have been in most games this season, with only five teams having a worse differential.

With finals now out of the equation, the Warriors can provide some nuisance value over the next seven weeks starting, with the Rabbitohs, who have bigger fish to fry as they look to send supercoach Wayne Bennett out a winner in his final NRL season.

Prediction: Rabbitohs by 18 points.

Cody Walker and the Rabbitohs look on

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Sea Eagles vs Wests Tigers
Last Friday night, despite being without captain Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic, the Silvertails came from behind to beat the Dragons by 32-18, claiming their tenth win from their last 13 matches, opening up a four-point buffer on them on the premiership ladder.

Both are expected to return for the clash against the Tigers, who also came from behind at halftime to win, beating the Brisbane Broncos by 42-24 after they had trailed by 24-20 ten minutes into the second half.

After playing in the centres in recent weeks, Adam Doueihi returned to his role in the halves, combining with maligned halfback Luke Brooks and bench player Moses Mbye to marshal their side to their sixth win this season, keeping their finals hopes alive.


David Nofoaluma also created history, his two tries seeing him overtake Benji Marshall for the most tries scored in the club’s history; eerily that came after Marshall claimed the record in his own respect in the corresponding game last year.

While the win will do wonders for Michael Maguire and his team’s confidence, the last thing they would want is to face an in-form Manly side with their finals chances on the line, as a loss could see them all but sidelined from September for a tenth straight year.

Though the Tigers would love nothing more than to cause an upset on Saturday night, it will not be forthcoming.

Prediction: Sea Eagles by 12 points.

Panthers vs Broncos
Despite this officially being their home game, the Panthers’ clash against the Broncos will be played some 940km away from the foot of the mountains, with Suncorp Stadium providing the backdrop for the clash between second and 15th on the ladder.

Even then, Ivan Cleary’s side will still be expected to start hot favourites against the home tenants, and they would’ve learnt a lesson or two from their previous meeting at Suncorp back in April.

In that match, the Broncos pushed for a major upset when they were level 12-all going into the final ten minutes (they had earlier led 12-10), only for some magic from Nathan Cleary to get his side home at the death.

This time around, there is no Cleary for the Panthers to rely on, but even without him and a host of others, Penrith have continued going about their business, coming from behind to beat the Warriors by 30-16 last Sunday.

In the match that immediately followed at Suncorp, the Broncos led 18-10 at halftime against the Wests Tigers but were run down in the second half, losing 42-24 and suffering their third-straight loss against the joint-venture club.

Backing up after playing for NSW in the dead-rubber loss to Queensland, Payne Haas racked up 50 minutes, at which point the Broncos led 24-20, before they coughed up the final 22 points to crash to their 13th loss of the season.

It will not get any easier for Kevin Walters’ men but if they need any motivation ahead of Saturday night’s game, it’s that they had the Panthers on the ropes back in Round 6 before the Mountain Men ran away with it at the death.

Prediction: Panthers by 20 points.

Payne Haas

Payne Haas (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Titans vs Dragons
Despite fielding a full-strength team and facing a side that was missing Mitchell Moses, the Titans crashed to a 26-8 defeat, with forward David Fifita putting in a poor performance after missing the Origin dead rubber due to suspension and Kevin Proctor being sin-binned in the first half, at the end of which the Titans trailed 20-0.

They improved marginally in the second half, ‘winning’ it 8-6 with Fifita scoring a try and being denied a second right on the full-time siren.

Despite the loss, coach Justin Holbrook insists his side can continue to be a threat as they attempt to keep their September hopes alive.

Meantime the Dragons’ inconsistent season continued when they were beaten 32-18 by the Sea Eagles, despite another strong showing by fullback Tyrell Sloan, who scored the first try of the game and set up their only try of the second half for veteran Gerard Beale.

Anthony Griffin’s side still sit in seventh place on the ladder, and if they are to qualify for just its third finals series since 2011 they need to not just start winning games, but also make up their points differential which is currently at -24.

That starts on Sunday, and beating the Titans in a match that was fixtured to be played at Kogarah Oval before the season relocation is a non-negotiable.

Prediction: Dragons by eight points.

Bulldogs vs Sharks
Despite sitting in last place on the ladder, the Dogs have been competitive in some matches and could’ve caused an upset against the Bunnies if not for a halftime brain fade from playmaker Lachlan Lewis.

The Dogs led 12-10 at the break, before Lewis’ act of stupidity in tackling Cody Walker saw him sin-binned for the first ten minutes of the second half, during which they could’ve built on their lead.

Instead, they capitulated to lose 32-24, crashing to their 15th loss of the season.

The embattled club has been boosted by the news that Phil Gould will join the club, while it has also been reported that Broncos forward Tevita Pangai Jr will join them from next year.

They’ll certainly fancy their chances against the Sharks, whose caretaker coach Josh Hannay blasted their attitude after they lost to the Canberra Raiders by 34-18, with Braydon Trindall costing his side dearly when he conceded an eight-point try in the first ten minutes.

It set the tone for a dirty afternoon in the office for the men from the Shire, who despite winning only seven from 17 matches remain in the eight, only because the Raiders and Knights both have poorer points differentials.

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Undoubtedly, revenge will also be on their minds after they were upended by the Dogs at Kogarah Oval in Round 7, a result which saw Trent Barrett, a former Sharks player, register his first win as Bulldogs coach.

The Sharks will not want to repeat the same mistake in underestimating their last-placed opponents on Sunday and so should get the points in this one.

Prediction: Sharks by 12 points.