South Sydney Rabbitohs (12th) v Parramatta Eels (5th)
The Rabbitohs are in a lull currently and success is proving very difficult to come by. Their win was back in Round 11, prior to their Bye in Round 12 and now they’ve only won just 2 of their past 8 matches. Time is running out for them now to salvage something from this season and the task of winning this match becomes more difficult without their Origin stars. Their play has been woeful, highlighted in their 30-14 loss to the Tigers where they were barely contending for a win. The Eels had different luck, able to put a few tough weeks behind them with a win at “home” in Darwin. The positive trip north continues for them as they were able to escape the focus that has been given to their numerous off field woes that appear to be mounting. Their play was positive during stages, although there is a notable gap between the early season form of this team; to the point where a better team in the competition would’ve shut them right out of the contest. Here, the Eels will be out to exact revenge for their Round 10 loss to the Rabbitohs, where it was an Adam Reynolds conversion from the sideline that sealed a 2-point victory in the dying stages of the match. That loss hurt them more than most because it came in the same week of their salary cap penalties but now there is a chance to make their opponents feel the same way they did.
Rabbitohs = Cody Walker (5/8) and Luke Keary (halfback) come into the halves for Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds (both Origin). Siosifa Talakai comes into the starting side in the centres for Bryson Goodwin (injured), with Kyle Turner moving into the back row. Jack Gosiewski and Damien Cook are the new faces on the bench.
Eels = Michael Jennings (Origin) is replaced at centre by Vai Toutai.
Overall = Rabbitohs 12 Draw 1 Eels 13
Last 5 matches = Rabbitohs 4 Eels 1
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 54% Eels 41%
Form = Rabbitohs 2 losses – Eels 1 win
The Eels carry a higher level of momentum heading into this contest with their win last week and subsequently have been handed favoritism. Unfortunately, the result isn’t going to be as clear-cut as that, with the Rabbitohs holding a very strong recent record over the Eels. Without their two stars though, the Rabbitohs appear as though they will struggle to pressure their opponents, who again, will be relying upon heart to get them through this match. This is not the same Rabbitohs team that we have seen in recent years and for that reason alone, they are difficult to follow in this match. The Eels should be able to deliver a victory, albeit in a close, yet high scoring contest; and that is perhaps the way to go for an investment in this game. The Eels have a habit of close wins this year, with their past 3 wins being by an average margin of 6.6 points. This option also leaves the door slightly ajar for the Rabbitohs, should they bounce back and find the same form that has served them well in the past. That is less likely to happen but with attention focused towards Origin, these players will be ready to put on a show of their own.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.80
Forgotten Man = Semi Radradra FTS and/or LTS @ $6 – The Fijian flyer has only scored 1 try in the Eels past 3 matches but back in Round 10, he caused the Rabbitohs all sorts of issues and scored a hat-trick of tries. Expect the Eels to target this weakness for their opponents again and get the ball to him as much as possible in space.
St George-Illawarra Dragons (11th) v Melbourne Storm (1st)
The Dragons have truly been blessed in 2016; first it was facing the Cowboys in the lead up to Origin 1 and now, heading into Origin 2, they face the Storm. Both times, each team has been missing a host of key players and the Dragons have been playing at home. They will need every advantage possible in this game, after demonstrating how their attack failed to generate points against the Bulldogs after a bye-week to develop greater confidence. There were several stages where the Dragons had momentum, yet they still lost 34-16. The Storm will be a completely different team in this contest without Cronk and Slater leading the way; especially considering how dominating each player was last week in their 46-nil demolition of the Roosters in Round 14. The new players stepping into their team will be out to prove a point that they deserve a regular spot in the team each week and the Storm will not be an easy win for the Dragons, as they still have a host of International representative players and players close to gaining selection.
Dragons = Unchanged initially, but Tyson Frizell has withdrawn after being called into the Origin team.
Storm = Blake Green is named at halfback for Cooper Cronk (Origin), while Kenny Bromwich moves to hooker for Cameron Smith (Origin). Felise Kaufusi moves into the starting side, while Matt White and Young Tonumaipea come onto the bench.
Overall = Dragons 8 Draw 1 Storm 23
Last 5 matches = Dragons 1 Storm 4
At WIN Stadium = Dragons 63% Storm 44%
Form = Dragons 1 loss – Storm 7 wins
The Dragons head into this game as favorites based upon the players that are missing for their opponents, however the result is not as clear as it may appear on paper. The Dragons have been disappointing this year and the fact that they failed to capitalize and key opportunities against the Bulldogs last week when the game was on the line demonstrated what is lacking from this team. Make no mistake, the Storm will miss their two key playmakers a lot, although Craig Bellamy has built a strong team in recent years that relies upon a host of other, very capable players, contributing to the success of this team. They still have a strong group of players that will be ready to head to WIN Stadium and cause an upset. The Storms recent record over the Dragons is good, yet they struggle at this ground and with the intended weather conditions, this game may be a very grinding contest. The visitor’s forwards would still be considered far superior than their opponents and this is where the game will be won and lost. With that in mind, the Storm should be able to cause an upset and win this game by no more than 2-converted tries.
Storm @ $2.40
New Zealand Warriors (9th) v Sydney Roosters (15th)
True to form, the Warriors are improving during the Origin period when their opponents are struggling with fatigue and player availability. It is no surprise that their improved form has also coincided with increase in confidence from several of their key players. Last week, they had a moral boosting victory over the Knights in Newcastle, as they jumped out to an unassailable lead and never looked in danger of losing it. The challenge for them is to now maintain this standard and enhance their standing on the competition ladder. These two sides have already faced one another and back in Round 5, it was a 4-point victory to the Warriors. Not much has changed for the Roosters since then as they still sit at the bottom of the competition ladder and are desperate to regain form. Time on their 2016 campaign is just about up for them as player availability and form dwindles in the face of increasing pressure. The Storm demonstrated the massive gap in class between the two teams, who sit at vastly different points on the ladder. The Warriors have a chance to heap the same result on their opponent as last week, that is assuming the same team takes the field that has shown improvement in their past 2 victories.
Warriors = Ben Matulino will start at prop for Jacob Lillyman (Origin), with Toafofoa Sipley coming onto the bench. Ken Maumalo comes onto the wing for Manu Vatuvei (injured)
Roosters = Joseph Manu (NRL Debut) will start on the wing for Blake Ferguson (Origin), while Shaun Kenny-Dowall returns in the centres. This allows Mitch Aubusson to shift to the back row for Aidan Guerra (Origin), with Dylan Napa (suspension) returning at lock and pushing Kane Evans back to the bench, alongside Issac Liu and Chris Smith.
Overall = Warriors 18 Draw 1 Roosters 15
Last 5 matches = Warriors 2 Roosters 3
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 58% Roosters 40%
Form = Warriors 2 wins – Roosters 1 loss
There is some thought around that the Roosters can head across to New Zealand and cause an upset, considering that their first meeting went down to Golden Point. To see this occur would be surprising to say the least, especially considering how the form of the Warriors has improved dramatically since that fixture. Their past two efforts have demonstrated maturity and measure in their play, something that has avoided them this year to date. They have immediately turned things around, but they are heading in the right direction. The Roosters are a stark contrast to this, losing confidence last week with a hammering from the Storm and a scrappy win over the Tigers in their previous match. Providing they play to the level we have seen from them recently, this match is the Warriors to lose. The margin of victory is the puzzling decision, however when the Warriors are in this form, you have to ride the wave. With this in mind, as well as the Roosters defensive fragilities, this game could get away from the Roosters towards the end of the contest.
Warriors -8.5 points
Kicking Clear = Warriors 13+ @ $2.45 – As mentioned above, when the Warriors are hot, they’re a great team to watch. They play well with confidence and given their two recent efforts, as well as playing at home, the ideal setting are there for them to deliver a strong victory.
Gold Coast Titans (10th) v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (14th)
The Titans failed to make the most of a unique opportunity to make it consecutive victories on the road last week, as they went down to the Eels in Darwin. Prior to that, they prevailed in a tight match over the Rabbitohs and clawed their way back into the Top 8. That was conceded with their loss last week and now they will aim to return as they play their first match at home since Round 10, which was a dominating victory over the Roosters. They’ve definitely improved this season and shocked many opponents with their play; none more impressive than their halves. The Sea Eagles could only hope for the same form and despite sitting only 4-points below, their performance has been remarkably worse. Their issues were highlighted last week with a loss to the Panthers, a team that they lead by 20-points at one stage in the match. Even with fantastic individual efforts, they were unable to gather enough momentum to close their opponents out of the match. Plenty of things have gone wrong for the Sea Eagles this year and time is running out for them to generate form; to the point where the frustration of last weeks loss was evident on the face of Trent Barrett in the coaches box. With more at stake, the Titans should overcome their opponents in this match but even their road matches are sure to have taken a toll on them.
Titans = Agnatius Paasi starts at lock in the absence of Greg Bird (Origin), allowing Ryan Simpkins to come into the team on the bench. Konrad Hurrell also features there, with Nathan Davis named on the bench.
Sea Eagles = Martin Taupau (suspension) returns at prop, replacing Nate Myles (injured). Jamie Lyon (injury) returns at 5/8 in the absence of Dylan Walker (Origin).
Overall = Titans 5 Sea Eagles 9
Last 5 matches = Titans 1 Sea Eagles 4
At Cbus Super Stadium = Titans 50% Sea Eagles 63%
Form = Titans 1 loss – Sea Eagles 5 losses
The Titans let their intensity slip last week and it cost them with a loss to the Eels. Given their improvements so far this season, they would’ve learnt from that effort and will be ready for what the Sea Eagles have to throw at them in this game. The visitors do have a strong record against their opponents, including a superior record at this ground, however this Sea Eagles team is vastly different to the one that has taken the field for them in previous meetings. They failed to close out their match last week and while they too will have taken a lesson out of that, they simply do not have the class to match the Titans. Their opponents have a more capable halves pairing that continues to grow in confidence each time they possess the ball in matches. As for the margin, the Titans have made a habit of close contests this year and with Manly expected to improve as well, you can be sure that they will push right until the end. As to how close this match will be remains to be seen but it shouldn’t be more than 2-converted tries.
Titans 1-12 @ $2.70