With only four rounds left in the NRL and less than a handful of points separating clumps of teams within and just outside the top 8, each game could provide a significant impact on this year’s finals series. How will your team fare? Rugby league writer Daniel Boss provides his thoughts and predictions for all eight games in this week’s NRL predictions article.
Round 22 Review
The previous round of the NRL was quite unpredictable, with quite a few upsets in some highly important games. Thankfully for this writer, the Warriors were able to overcome the Titans, who added no less than Jarryd Hayne into their side after making the prediction of the Warriors as last week’s Upset of the Week. Obviously, the inclusion of Hayne was the major talking point from last week and he came up with some outstanding individual efforts but was not fully in sync with his new teammates. I didn’t agree with the decision to keep him in the halves, as it put him in a very tough spot, despite his obvious talents. The Lock of the Week was also successful, with the Broncos finding a way to win against a poor Dragons side in horrendous conditions in Wollongong on last Thursday night.
I’m going to add my voice to those that are currently concerned with the decision making of the video referees. I was at Leichhardt on Sunday and the two decisions where the on-field decision was overturned were questionable at best. I do think that the decision to overturn the Javid Bowen try was correct, but the decision to award James Tedesco a match-sealing try after it was initially ruled as a no try was dubious. There was no way that anyone could confirm that a try had been scored. These decisions did have an impact on the game, but thankfully in this case, the better side on the day ended up with the win. Back to my original point though, at the moment, it is a lottery when any decision goes to the video referees. Much like the previous time when this was the case, it was a result of handing too much power to the video referees. I’ve argued previously about this and I won’t waste anyone’s time, so I’ll just leave it at that.
2016 Season Results
Daniel Boss: 114/160 – Lock of the Week: 8/10 | Upset of the Week: 8/10
Roman Barbera: 111/160 – Lock of the Week: 9/11 | Upset of the Week: 6/10
Round 23 NRL Predictions
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Manly Sea Eagles
Tip: Canterbury 22 Manly 10 (Lock of the Week)
- Last 5 meetings: Canterbury 5 wins, Manly 0 wins
- Last meeting: Round 1, 2016 – Canterbury 28 Manly 6 at Brookvale Oval
- Last meeting at ANZ Stadium: Round 7, 2015 – Canterbury 28 Manly 16
- Canterbury Team Changes – In: Lloyd Perrett, Kerrod Holland
- Manly Team Changes – In: Jamie Lyon | Out: Blake Leary
Despite winning 6 of their last 7 games, the Bulldogs have not been overly impressive. This is especially for a side that currently sits in the top 4 and wants to contend for a premiership. The one pleasing thing for Canterbury is that they do beat the teams that are well below them on the ladder, which their opposition certainly are. When also considering that the Sea Eagles finals aspirations were dealt a near-fatal blow last round and that the Bulldogs have won 8 of the last 10 games played between these two sides, Canterbury should win this game and relatively comfortably as well. Jame Lyon’s likely return to the Manly side does provide some hope, but Canterbury should have too much to play for, as they aim to remain in the top 4.
Brisbane Broncos vs Parramatta Eels
Tip: Brisbane 16 Parramatta 10
- Last 5 meetings: Brisbane 3 wins, Parramatta 2 wins
- Last meeting: Round 1, 2016 – Brisbane 17 Parramatta 4 at Pirtek Stadium
- Last meeting at Suncorp Stadium: Round 8, 2015 – Brisbane 28 Parramatta 16
- Brisbane Team Changes – nil
- Parramatta Team Changes – In: David Gower, Rory O’Brien | Out: Beau Scott
In recent weeks, both sides have struggled in attack, as the Broncos halves continue to lack confidence and are well below their 2015 form, while the Eels have lost their halves for the rest of the season. I am quite confident that this will be a low scoring game as a result. Brisbane were able to sneak away from Wollongong with a very ugly win last round and they should gain some confidence from this. They are still well below their early season form but have enough experience to come away with a win in this game. They will be tested by a Parramatta outfit that continues to show plenty of courage. It’s the one thing that Eels fans should take from this season, however heart won’t likely be enough to come away with a win, especially with Beau Scott out of the side.
Wests Tigers vs Gold Coast Titans
Tip: Wests 26 Titans 22
- Last 5 meetings: Titans 3 wins, Wests 2 wins
- Last meeting: Round 3, 2016 – Titans 30 Wests 18 at CBUS Super Stadium
- Last meeting at Campbelltown Stadium: Round 25, 2011 – Wests 39 Titans 10
- Wests Team Changes – nil
- Titans Team Changes – In: Ryan Simpkins, Nathan Friend
For all the hype and buzz surrounding the Jarryd Hayne signing, all was not rosy for the Titans last week as they fell from 7th to 10th after their loss to the Warriors. The Titans have named Hayne at five-eight for this game, where he played for the entire second half in his NRL return. In that half, Gold Coast predominantly attacked down the left (Hayne’s side) and only came up with four points. As a result, Konrad Hurrell wasn’t given as much ball and that’s one reason why I’m tipping the Tigers. Additionally, the energy and overall feeling within the Tigers team at the moment seems to be very positive, despite the Robbie Farah dropping. I think their defence, which has improved greatly over the past month, will just get the Tigers home, in a very important game for both sides.
New Zealand Warriors vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Tip: Warriors 24 Souths 16
- Last 5 meetings: Souths 4 wins, Warriors 1 win
- Last meeting: Round 13, 2015 – Souths 36 Warriors 4 at nib Stadium, Perth
- Last meeting at Mt Smart Stadium: Round 5, 2013 – Souths 24 Warriors 22
- Warriors Team Changes – In: Bunty Afoa
- Souths Team Changes – nil
Despite riding a 9-game losing streak into this game, Souths should come into this game with some confidence and belief after pushing Melbourne last round. The inclusion of Greg Inglis provided the Rabbits with some spark, as he looked refreshed after spending the past 3 games out with suspension. There is a chance of an upset here based on Souths’ improvement last weekend, but the Warriors should get the win here. They have been playing well, particularly in defence, over the past month and a half. Plus, they won quite well in a very hostile environment last round and are playing this game at home, where there have been very successful in 2016. I expect Shaun Johnson to continue his run of good form and to be the difference in this game.
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Cronulla Sharks
Tip: Cronulla 20 Dragons 10
- Last 5 meetings: Dragons 3 wins, Cronulla 2 wins
- Last meeting: Round 2, 2016 – Cronulla 30 Dragons 2 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
- Last meeting at UOW Jubilee Oval – Round 12, 2015 – Dragons 42 Cronulla 6
- Dragons Team Changes – In: Josh Dugan, Tyson Frizell, Joel Thompson | Out: Adam Quinlan, Tyrone McCarthy
- Cronulla Team Changes – In: Michael Ennis, Ricky Leutele, Joseph Paulo | Out: Matt McIlwrick, Sam Tagataese, Fa’amanu Brown
Last round, Cronulla were handed their first loss in 19 weeks at the hands of the Raiders at home. In this game, they were outmuscled and out enthused, which might just be a good thing happening a month out from the finals. The good news for the Sharks is that they come up against a Dragons side that has not scored over 12 points in any of their past 5 games. If there ever was a game to restore some confidence and form, then this is it. The Dragons do have some big inclusions with Dugan, Frizell and Thompson all back, which will help this local derby remain close. However, I just think Cronulla will have too much attack, especially with the return of Michael Ennis, and should come away with two vital points, almost assuring them of a top two finish.
Newcastle Knights vs Penrith Panthers
Tip: Penrith 32 Newcastle 16
- Last 5 meetings: Penrith 3 wins, Newcastle 2 wins
- Last meeting: Round 26, 2015 – Penrith 30 Newcastle 12 at Pepper Stadium
- Last meeting at Hunter Stadium: Round 4, 2015 – Newcastle 26 Penrith 14
- Newcastle Team Changes – In: Tyler Randell, Mitchell Barnett, Pat Mata’utia | Out: Jeremy Smith, Danny Levi
- Penrith Team Changes – nil
Penrith have established themselves as one of the most exciting teams in the NRL in the 2016 season. They have some great players across the park and most of them are quite young, which is exciting for Panthers fans. I certainly agree with the decision to leave Cartwright and Cleary in the halves for now, as they have developed a good combination and complement each other quite well. Anything other than a strong Penrith win in this game would be a surprise, even though the game is in Newcastle. The Knights are capable of coming up with good periods of play, as evidenced last week, and with Mullen in the side, they have more points in them. I do think the Knights will score two or three tries, but it won’t be anywhere near enough to come close to Penrith.
Sydney Roosters vs North Queensland Cowboys
Tip: Cowboys 22 Roosters 20
- Last 5 meetings: Roosters 3 wins, Cowboys 2 wins
- Last meeting: Round 3, 2016 – Cowboys 40 Roosters 0 at 1300 Smiles Stadium
- Last meeting at Allianz Stadium: Week 2 Finals, 2014 – Roosters 31 Cowboys 30
- Roosters Team Changes – In: Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves | Out: Grant Garvey
- Cowboys Team Changes – In: Kyle Feldt, Ray Thompson, Patrick Kaufusi, Coen Hess | Out: Jake Granville, Ben Hannant
Of all the teams in the NRL, the Cowboys come into this round with the most pressure. For the first time in the 2016 season, there are question marks surrounding the premiership credentials of the 2015 premiers. The biggest concern is the health of Johnathan Thurston, who could barely run last week and still played. He will not be anywhere near full fitness for this game. As for the Roosters, they are close to full strength for the first time in months. Last week showed once again that Mitchell Pearce makes a huge difference to this team and with Waerea-Hargreaves also back, the Roosters will be far better than they were on Monday night. This is a massive danger game for the Cowboys, but I think they will just find a way to sneak home in this one.
Canberra Raiders vs Melbourne Storm
Tip: Melbourne 20 Canberra 14
- Last 5 meetings: Melbourne 3 wins, Canberra 2 wins
- Last meeting: Round 6, 2015 – Melbourne 14 Canberra 10 at GIO Stadium
- Canberra Team Changes – nil
- Melbourne Team Changes – nil
Melbourne will lose one more game this season. This is one game that they will need to be good to win. Both sides come into this game in great form, on the back of strong defensive performances. Defence is the backbone of Melbourne’s game, while Canberra have improved their defence enough in order to take advantage of their strong attack. The Raiders showed that they should be a force in the finals series, as they handily accounted for Cronulla. The size in their forwards overwhelmed the Sharks and their classy backline took full advantage. They won’t be able to overwhelm the big Storm pack however. As a result, the backlines will determine the outcome of this game and based on this, I’m going with whatever side has Cooper Cronk, especially with Blake Austin in some doubt.
Upset of the Week
In the tips made for the eight NRL games in Round 23, I have gone for all of the favoured sides. If any underdog was to cause an upset this week, it will be the Sydney Roosters. I came very close to tipping them, but just couldn’t go against the defending premiers, who are under a great deal of pressure. As mentioned in the comments for the Sunday afternoon game, this is a danger game for the Cowboys and the Roosters have pushed good sides in recent weeks, when Pearce has been in the team. Other upsets that are the most likely are the Raiders against Melbourne, as they are at home, and the Parramatta Eels, as the Broncos continue to struggle, especially in attack.