NRL Predictions – Round 22

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Rugby League writer Daniel Boss provides his thoughts for each game in Round 22, with the season drawing ever near to the finals series.

Round 21 tipping results

Sorry, no pieces regarding various issues in the game today. It’s a pretty busy week for yours truly, so it’s just the tips this week. Last week was very disappointing as I only got 4 tips correct from 8 games. This did include the lock of the week, but the upset of the week was not successful following the abysmal effort from the Tigers last weekend.

Season tipping results

Lock of the week: 18/21

Upset of the week: 4/17*

*: in rounds 2, 6, 12 and 18 there were no upsets

Melbourne Storm v South Sydney Rabbitohs

Tip: Storm (Lock of the week). Last round, the Storm gave the Raiders an absolute flogging in Canberra. This sent shockwaves through the rest of the competition, as it appears that the defending premiers are back to their best. On the other hand, the Rabbits were very disappointing in a loss to the Cowboys last round. They have lost two of their last three games and are in the worst form of the season. This is not good with the semi-finals not too far away. Based on these two thoughts, I really like Melbourne in this game. The only addition to the Melbourne side is Slade Griffin as 18th man. It is good to see Maurice Blair named after leaving last week’s game with a very ugly looking neck injury. For Souths, Keary moves from the bench to take Sutton’s place at five eight. Sutton’s loss could be a huge blow for the Bunnies, as they are still without star fullback Greg Inglis. Nathan Peats is the addition to the bench, however Souths are known for more changes following disappointing showings in the previous game.

Parramatta Eels v Wests Tigers

Tip: Eels. You know a supporter has no faith in his team when he tips against them when they are playing Parramatta. The Tigers currently look like they are waiting for Mad Monday. This game should be an absolute stinker! For those who are confused by my use of the word stinker, I’m basically saying that this will be a very terrible game of rugby league. I like the Eels as Jarryd Hayne is back to start at fullback, replacing Mullaney. The other change for the Eels is the return of Luke Kelly who is named start at halfback, which means that Roberts will move to five eight for Pewhairangi. Lawrence is out for the Tigers, with Simona moving from the wing to centre and Marika Koroibete coming back into the side on the wing. Another blow for Wests is the loss of their captain Farah, with Joel Luani starting at hooker.

Sydney Roosters v Canberra Raiders

Tip: Roosters. The Roosters are now on top of the premiership ladder and don’t look like moving from there anytime soon. They were awesome in the second half against Penrith last round. Canberra was far from awesome last weekend against Melbourne. I am expecting a bounce back from the Raiders this weekend but I just don’t think it will be enough to knock over the high flying Roosters. Minichiello is out for the Roosters, with Tuivasa-Sheck moving to fullback, Kenny-Dowall moving from the centres to cover one wing and Aubusson moving from the back row to start in the centres. Guerra moves from the bench to start in the back row, while Dylan Napa is the addition to the side on the bench. A big addition for the Raiders is Blake Ferguson, who returns to first grade for the first time since his suspension. He is named in the centres, replacing Wighton who is named on one wing, while Robinson has been named on an extended bench. Thompson is named to start in the second row, while Edwards is named on the 6-man bench. Bill Tupou has also been added to that 6-man bench.

Cronulla Sharks v Newcastle Knights

Tip: Sharks. Last week, Cronulla (in particular Todd Carney) was outstanding against the Warriors. They look like they are building towards the finals, which is the converse to their form going into last year’s finals series. The Knights were fairly ordinary last round against Brisbane. They really should have won that game but weren’t good enough to get the job done. I can’t see how they will have enough points to beat Cronulla this weekend. The Sharks have named an unchanged line-up for this game, while the Knights have some key changes. One change is the return of James McManus to start on one wing, replacing Naiqama. The other is the return from suspension of Kade Snowden to start at prop, which means that Fa’alogo moves back to the bench. Scott is out with injury, which means that Houston moves from the bench to start in the second row.

Manly Sea Eagles v New Zealand Warriors

Tip: Manly. Last round, Manly was pushed early by the Eels but their class showed in the second half as they put on a score. As it stands, the Sea Eagles are my dark horses for the premiership. The Warriors were disappointing last round as mistakes crept back into their game and cost them dearly against Cronulla. Yet, they still almost won that game. They are still the biggest threat for all of the sides currently in the top 8 and are a chance in this game, especially as it is in Gosford and not at Brookvale Oval. This, and not the Melbourne-Souths game on Friday night, is the game of the round. Both sides are currently quite stable at the moment as both have named unchanged line-ups from the sides that played last round.

Brisbane Broncos v St George Illawarra Dragons

Tip: Broncos. Brisbane has been a lot better since the move of Ben Hunt to starting halfback and Sam Thaiday to the starting second row. They are a much more dangerous side with these positional changes. I expect them to just be too good for the Dragons. However, I do give the Dragons a chance (as I will further describe below) in the game. Josh Dugan has been absolutely outstanding for the big red v and almost single-handedly won last round’s game. I just don’t think Dugan has enough support at the moment. Dodds is out for the Broncos, with Hannant moving from the bench to start at prop. Brisbane also has four additions to the bench; Lama Tasi, Scott Anderson, Jarrod Wallace and Nick Slyney. For the Dragons, Creagh moves from the second row to prop, with Ah Mau moving back to the bench. Bronson Harrison returns to start in the second row, with Vea omitted.

Penrith Panthers v North Queensland Cowboys

Tip: Cowboys. Whether it was the sacking of their coach Neil Henry or the passing of former mentor Graham Murray, the Cowboys stepped up in a big way last round in their defeat of Souths. North Queensland fans must wonder where this form has been all season. I’m not sure if this form will continue, but I think they will be too good for Penrith. The Panthers are unfortunately fading away. If they are to make an unlikely last push for the finals, this is a must win game but the injury toll is now too much for them to overcome, in my opinion. Penrith have more changes due to injury. Geoff Daniela comes in for Brown to start in the centres for Penrith, while Simpkins moves from the bench to start at lock for Docker. Nathan Smith is the addition to the bench. For the Cowboys, the only additions are Rory Kosyjasyn and Ricky Thorby to the 5-man bench, while Moore is out of the side.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Gold Coast Titans

Tip: Bulldogs. Canterbury came over the top of the Dragons in the final 20 minutes of last week’s game and showed some promising passages of play during this period. However, I am yet to see a complete performance from Canterbury against quality opposition since their Round 14 win over Manly. In my opinion, they will need to start playing more complete games if they are to challenge for this year’s premiership. The Gold Coast got a much needed win against the Tigers last week, but it’s difficult to get a read on how good that win was given the ineptitude of the opposition. I did think the Titans were better last round but I expect the Dogs to be far too good in this game. Canterbury has named an unchanged team in numbers 1 to 17 from last week, but they may make some positional changes as they did last round.  Tim Browne is also added to an extended bench for the Dogs. The Titans have named an unchanged side from last round.

Upset of the Week

Again, I’ve gone soft and decided to take all of the favourites this round. However, with tipping comps soon coming to a climax, some tipsters will be looking to take some risks to make a final push for the top. With that said, my upset of the week is the St George Illawarra Dragons. As mentioned above, Dugan is in unbelievable form. The Broncos aren’t as good as the Bulldogs and Dugan almost beat the Dogs on his own. In recent times, the Dragons’ record in Brisbane hasn’t been great but they are a big chance to win this game. I also think the Warriors are a good chance to beat Manly this round.

‘Beat the Boss’

In the final round of the regular season, the three top sides all won their games to consolidate their position on top of the ladder. Minor premiers Pearce’s Pride beat the Funky Bunch 504-484, P7Panthers defeated the Buzzing Hornets 632-489 and my Bandits beat the Crackalackers 516-463. In the other game, R.Lewis+Denzel’s beat the Pit Dogs 429-403. The final standings for the season are:

  1. Pearce’s Pride (18-3) 36 points
  2. P7Panthers (17-4) 34
  3. Boggabri Bandits (16-5) 32
  4. The Crackalackers (10-11) 20
  5. Buzzing Hornets (8-13) 16
  6. The Funky Bunch (7-14) 14
  7. R.Lewis+Denzel’s (7-14) 14
  8. Harkonnen Pit Dogs (1-20) 2

As there is an 8-team finals format, all sides have made the finals. The finals structure is the same as in the NRL, with two sides eliminated each week before the grand final in Round 25. The games for next week are as follows:

  • Pearce’s Pride v The Crackalackers (1v4)
  • P7Panthers v Boggabri Bandits (2v3)
  • Buzzing Hornets v Harkonnen Pit Dogs (5v8 – ELIMINATION GAME)
  • The Funky Bunch v R.Lewis+Denzel’s (6v7 – ELIMINATION GAME)
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