PANTHERS V RABBITOHS
Pepper Stadium, 7.50pm
History: Played 77, Rabbitohs 43, Panthers 33,
Last met: Rabbitohs 20-16, round 21, 2015
Down on troops, down on form and in grave danger of missing the finals for the first time under coach Michael Maguire, the Rabbitohs will be keeping their fingers crossed that big guns Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds came through last night’s Origin unscathed. Having conceded 89points in their past three losses, the once high-flying Bunnies are looking tired, and even disinterested. The Panthers, sitting on the edge of the eight and seemingly much fresher and certainly more enthusiastic, will also be keen to have their three Origin stars to back up tomorrow night to help Peter Wallace celebrate his 200th NRL appearance.
TIP – Panthers
KNIGHTS V DRAGONS
Hunter Stadium, 3pm
History: Played 31, Dragons 21, Knights 10
Last met: Dragons 46-24, round 21, 2015
Following recent wins over the Origin-depleted Cowboys and Storm, an expected victory over the premiership’s whipping boys on Saturday will no doubt raise the hopes of the Dragons’ faithful, who have had little to cheer about in recent years. But on a fair dinkum basis, the Red V will need to score more than the 12.7points a match they are averaging after 14games if they are to be any chance in this competition when the chips are down. The dysfunctional Knights go from bad to worse, with nine players in their casualty ward and others either having already abandoned the sinking ship or considering jumping overboard.
TIP – Dragons
SHARKS V WARRIORS
Southern Cross Group Stadium, 5.30pm
History: Played 35, Sharks 19, Warriors 16
Last met: Sharks 18-14, round 21, 2015
On the back of three successive wins, albeit a very lucky one last Sunday, the Warriors face a genuine moment of truth at Shark Park this weekend. Against the ruthless Sharks, who have an 11-5 record at home against the Kiwis and chasing 11 scalps on the trot, the Warriors will need to take it up a notch or two. And two of their former stars, halves James Maloney and Chad Townsend, hold the key to shutting down the damaging Shaun Johnson, who has led the recent revival of the Warriors. Like a number of clubs, the Sharks will be hoping their four Origin reps will suit up for this vital clash.
TIP – Sharks
BULLDOGS V BRONCOS
ANZ Stadium, 7.30pm
History: Played 48, Broncos 27, Bulldogs 20,
Last met: Bulldogs 18-16, round 22, 2015
As if having six of their best on Origin duty last night is not a big enough conundrum for the Broncos, add internationals Jack Reed, Alex Glenn and Jordan Kahu, plus hooker Andrew McCullough, to the list of unavailables for this clash. And while the Bulldogs have endured a roller-coaster season with hot and cold form, after winning four of their past five they sit in sixth spot and a win here will jump them into fifth. With Josh Morris to return, Broncos debutant Tom Opacic faces a tough NRL initiation. Only Brett Morris and Greg Eastwood are unavailable for the Dogs, and with just two facing an Origin hangover, a vastly understrength and inexperienced Broncos team could well be lambs to the slaughter.
TIP – Bulldogs
TITANS V RAIDERS
CBUS Super Stadium, 2pm
History: Played 18, Titans 11, Raiders 7
Last met: Titans 24-20, round 4, 2016
Another gutsy win by the Titans on Monday night has countless pundits singing their praises, but this clash is a genuine test of their bona-fides. Despite stalling at their last start the Raiders are a genuine premiership threat and with most of his roster on deck, coach Ricky Stuart faces an embarrassment of riches with Shannon Boyd and Jack Wighton returning. Although Greg Bird will be back for the Titans, and with their confidence restored after beating the Sea Eagles, their impressive 6-2 home record against the Green Machine is under serious threat.
TIP – Raiders
STORM V TIGERS
AAMI Park, 4pm
History: Played 27, Storm 17, Tigers 10
Last met: Storm 19-18, round 7, 2016
While the high-flying Storm will relish being back at home where they are unbeaten this season, and hopefully have Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Munster and Blake Green on deck, the Tigers will be keen to prove their round 14 whipping of the Rabbitohs was no flash in the pan. The teams are poles apart when 2016 form is taken into account, and in the eyes of bookies, but no one doubts the capabilities of the Tigers when they bring their A-game. If Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah back up from Origin, and Jesse Bromwich is unsuccessful at the judiciary, this could be closer than most think.
TIP – Storm
COWBOYS V SEA EAGLES
1300SMILES Stadium, 7pm
History: Played 26, Sea Eagles 15, Cowboys 11
Last met: Cowboys 34-18, round 9, 2016
This trip to Townsville is just another nightmare for rookie Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett, who conceded after Monday’s loss to the Titans that his team was “in a pretty big hole, and just keep making errors”. With two more serious injuries adding to the nine they already had, the Sea Eagles will head north with a respectable showing about the limit of their capabilities. And smarting from two successive losses, the premiers – yet again at full strength – will not be presenting any welcome mat.
TIP – Cowboys
BYES: Eels, Roosters
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