We were a touch unlucky last week after landing the first three legs we fell at the final hurdle when the Dragons upset the premiers Cronulla Sharks. We are looking to go one better this week...
This week we have the four best bets picked out.
Penrith Panthers v Newcastle Knights
Both these sides are coming off last round losses and are also on just one win each for the season. This puts them both in the bottom half of the ladder where no one wants to be. So it will be desperation stakes for both teams on Friday night at Pepper Stadium. The Knights were far from disgraced in last week’s loss to the Rabbitohs, going down by just six points. Their performances so far this year have indicated that they are beginning to gel as a team. Just a handful of errors at critical times are costing them dearly and if they can iron out these mistakes they improve a lot more. The Panthers can say they were extremely unlucky last week in their 14-12 loss to the Sydney Roosters. Most of the 50-50 calls went against them that night and even the Referee’s CEO, Tony Archer came out publicly and said the Roosters match winning try late in the game should not have been awarded. He agreed that the last pass was thrown forward. The Touch Judge who missed the pass (standing adjacent to where it was thrown) has been dropped to Holden Cup responsibilities this week. Similar to other teams in the competition, Newcastle are firing more in attack on one side than the other. Their left side attack has put together seven tries so far this season. However, in contrast, their right side defence has conceded as many tries which I’m sure Penrith coach, Anthony Griffin would have done his homework on already. The Panthers forward pack look strong for their opposition and if they turn up here, they should over power the more inexperienced Knights pack. Their backline also appears to be far more experienced led by captain and fullback, Matt Moylan who can cause a lot of damage if he’s given any room at all. Combining with the halves and centre, Tyrone Peachey there could be a lot of points coming down that right side.
Brisbane Broncos v Canberra Raiders
Here we have yet another match-up of two sides who have just one win each for the season. The Broncos started the year with a solid win against the Cronulla Sharks while the Raiders finally found their feet last week when they put on eight tries against an ordinary Wests Tigers defence and won the match by 46-6. The Raiders were totally unsympathetic to the out-of-sorts Tigers scoring at will. Whilst their round one effort against the Cowboys in Townsville was outstanding, they totally lost their way (at home) against Cronulla losing 42-16. It appears they have ironed out the bugs in the system, going by last week’s efforts. The Broncos have lost their last two matches by a total of three points. Going down in extra time to the Cowboys in round two, then falling two points short of the Melbourne Storm last week. Painful for all concerned, the fans included. This week, both sides match up pretty much all square across the park. The forward battle looms as one of the best so far this season with Adam Blair and Josh McGuire locking horns with the likes of Junior Paulo and Josh Papalii in the Raiders pack. The battle of the halves looks just as entertaining with Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford matching it with Blake Austin and Aiden Sezer. The kicking game here looks to play a vital role in field domination and could decide the match. The Raiders have a woeful record at Suncorp, losing eight of their last nine matches, 2010 being their last victory there so that’s something they will have to try and overcome. The Broncos are stinging from two very close losses and will be fired up in front of a home crowd to bounce back to the winner’s circle on Friday night.
Gold Coast Titans v North Queensland Cowboys
These two sides are coming off lop-sided results from last week. The Titans, who were down on troops, mainly through injury, shook that all off and scored a courageous victory over the Parramatta Eels. The Cowboys on the other hand were red hot favourites to beat a Manly side who were lacking in experience and size. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, things didn’t go their way and they put in probably their worst performance in over a year. The Titans were down 12-0 after just 16 minutes and looked gone for all money. But in a never-say-die effort, clawed their way back into the match. In the final 40 minutes they simply frustrated the Parramatta boys out of the game and went on to score a very unlikely win. The Cowboys, in contrast, looked half asleep during their first half against the Sea Eagles and went to the sheds down 14-8 to the horror of the partisan Cowboys crowd. And it didn’t get any better in the next 40 minutes either. Respect for possession of the football was totally out the window as they committed more errors than they’d care to discuss and went on to be well beaten by 30-8. The Titans showed they can lift when the chips are down and with several big name players still missing from their line-up, they’ll need to be right on their game against a Cowboys side looking to avenge their last poor performance. The Cowboys will still be without their Daly M Player of The Year, Jason Taumalolo who is still on suspension. The good news for them is that winger, Kyle Feldt was cleared of any serious injury to his ankle and will take his place on the field. The history between the two clubs suggests this will be tight and go down to the wire. After 17 meetings, The Cowboys have a slight edge winning nine games to the Titans eight. However, the Cowboys have won four of the last five clashes. It may come down to how well the interchange bench is used here. The Titans have some real muscle at their disposal on the bench with Nathaniel Peteru and Leivaha Pulu coming on to relieve the front row whilst the Cowboys will be dependent upon Sam Hoare and new signing, Shaun Fensom ready to play their part as well. We are favouring Thurston and Michael Morgan to bounce back and take control of this match. Kaylen Ponga will also improve at fullback and with utility player Ben Hampton also on the bench, there will be plenty of attacking opportunities for the Cowboys to get away with this one.
St George Illawarra Dragons v New Zealand Warriors
The Dragons are certainly proving to be the Achilles heel to tipsters with their performances to date. A first-up big win over Premiership fancies the Penrith Panthers was followed by a dismal performance against the Parramatta Eels the following week. Then last week, they came out and out-played the Cronulla Sharks leaving most people scratching their heads. Big things are expected from the Warriors this year with their player profile which includes the return of fullback, Roger Tuivasa-Shek and former Sea Eagles and Eels five-eight, Kieran Foran who is yet to make his debut. The Warriors started their season with a real fright against the Knights but managed to snatch victory in the dying minutes in that match. Since then however, they have done anything but light up the sky with sub-standard performances against the Melbourne Storm and the Canterbury Bulldogs. Both teams appear to be equally matched in the forwards with Jacob Lillyman and Bodine Thomson facing off with Russell Packer and Tyson Frizell all in line for big games. The game could be decided in the backline where Warriors halfback, Shaun Johnson is overdue for a big one while Gareth Widdop has become more involved in the Red & White’s game play. The history between these two sides is all bad news for the Warriors who have won just five of their 24 meetings with the Wollongong boys. It gets worse when you see that the Dragons have won 15 of the last 17 clashes. The only good news for the Warriors is they won their most recent match against the Dragons in Auckland last year, 26-10. The Dragons have really lifted their game both in attack and defence and at home this week they should get the points. This is the first game this season that sees the Warriors on the road and that is also a record they would rather not talk about. We’re yet to see the Warriors at the very best and until they can string some victories together, they are too much of a risk to see them winning this away game.