There is one word that can describe the second origin game: domination. Queensland was by far the better team and deservedly sent the series to a decider in three weeks. There are now serious questions about the Blues’ ability to end Queensland’s streak, especially in their point scoring ability. One positive for the Blues was the fact that they made Queensland earn the victory, rather than to just give the game away on a platter. In years past, New South Wales would have made mistakes and given Queensland even greater opportunities. The obvious lowlight for the Blues was the defensive effort of Nathan Merritt. Regardless that it was Laurie Daley’s order, some of the defensive reads from Merritt were just plain poor. He simply didn’t have enough faith in his inside defenders.
One talking point for the game was the four sin-bins half way through the second half. Yes, Merrin and Hodges deserved to be sent but I completely disagree with the decisions on Bird and Tate. Tate got sin binned for getting hit and for pushing another player, which happened plenty of times during the game. Bird got sin binned for trying to break up the fight. These decisions have just shown how ridiculous the new rules are, or more accurately, the application of these new rules. Yes, it isn’t a good look to see so many fights in games but the referees must penalise the correct players. Otherwise, the rule will turn into a farce.
Last week was not an overly successful week for me in regards to the tipping, as I only got 2 correct out of the possible 4 games. I was unsuccessful in the lock and upset of the week, but happy to lose the lock of the week as my mighty Tigers got up against the Raiders.
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 12/15
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 3/12*
*: in rounds 2, 6 and 12 there were no upsets
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS V CANBERRA RAIDERS
Tip: Souths. Last round, Souths had a solid win against the Eels while the Raiders were very disappointing in a loss to the Tigers. The Rabbits welcome back their origin players and should be too strong in this game. Nathan Merritt will particularly be looking for to kick-off, following his disappointing origin performance. Also, Canberra has a poor record away from home in 2013 as they have only won one game away from home. Greg Inglis returns to start at fullback, while Merritt is back to start on one wing. Hunt and Farrell have been named on the extended bench. Chris McQueen and Ben Te’o are named to start in the second row, with Lowe and Peats named on the bench. The Raiders have lost Brett White, with Shillington named to start in the front row. Josh Papalii returns from origin duty and is named to start in the second row, with Edwards named on the bench. Sam Mataora is added to the 5-man bench.
WESTS TIGERS V MELBOURNE STORM
Tip: Storm. I give the Tigers a chance to win this game. One of the bright sparks of an otherwise poor season is the fact that they have won all of their games at Leichhardt Oval this season. The Tigers have quietly won 3 of their last 4 games, even though they haven’t looked overly pretty in doing so. The Storm will be without skipper Cameron Smith who was injured in origin, despite being named earlier in the week. The Tigers have quite a few changes. James Tedesco is named to start at fullback for Meaney, after being a late withdrawal last week. Lawrence moves from the bench to start in the centres for Reddy, who has moved into the second row with Thompson named on the bench. Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah return from origin duty to start at prop and hooker respectively. Seumanufagai moves back to the bench, while Iosefa is out due to injury. For the Storm, Billy Slater returns to start at fullback, with Hampton named on the bench. Cooper Cronk also returns to start at halfback, with Finch moving to five eight as Widdop is out due to a sickening dislocated hip. Let’s hope that Widdop can fully recover from this injury, but this may not occur if Chris Lawrence is any example. Cameron Smith is named to start at hooker (but won’t), with Hinchcliffe named to start at lock and Ryles named on the bench. Ryan Hoffman is back from NSW duty and is named to start in the second row, with Harris named on the bench.
PENRITH PANTHERS V ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Tip: Panthers. Both sides are coming off the bye and both need a win to stay in contention for a top eight position. The last time these two teams clashed, the Panthers scored a very impressive 19-0 win at Kogarah. I think Penrith will be too good in this game and will defeat the Dragons for the second time this season. James Roberts and Brad Tighe come into the Penrith team, replacing Robinson on one wing and Mansour in the centres respectively. Tim Grant returns from injury, with Masoe named on the bench. Robinson moves from the bench to start in the second row for Manu who is out. The Dragons are unchanged from their last game, although Merrin is out due to a suspension from Origin 2.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS V GOLD COAST TITANS
Tip: Titans (UPSET OF THE WEEK). For some reason, the Gold Coast is considered the underdog in this game. The Titans are in much better form at the moment, even though the Knights do hold a strong home record so far in 2013. It’s a very important game for the Knights, as they can get back in contention for a top eight position with a victory while a loss could see them fall further away. Yet, they showed some encouraging signs in the loss in Melbourne. It will be interesting to see if they can build from that. There are no changes to Newcastle’s starting side, but on the bench Sims and Cuthbertson are out while Zane Tetevano and Neville Costigan are in. David Mead returns to start in the centres for the Titans, in place of Takairangi. On the bench, Sam Irwin, Nate Myles and Greg Bird have been added to the extended bench.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V BRISBANE BRONCOS
Tip: Warriors (LOCK OF THE WEEK). These two teams only played a few weeks ago, with the Warriors flogging a depleted Brisbane outfit. The Broncos have their origin players for this game, so it should be a lot closer. However, I think the result will be the same. The Warriors have found some good form and always play better at Mt Smart Stadium. The Broncos are limited in attack and are continuing to struggle to score points. The only changes for the Warriors are the additions of Kevin Locke and Suaia Matagi on the extended bench. This is also the case for the Broncos, as Jarrod Wallace and Dunamis Lui are the only changes being as they are both added to the 6-man bench.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS V CRONULLA SHARKS
Tip: Sharks. The Sharks will be without Gallen for this game, but they have a plethora of back rowers so they can more than cover his absence. The Cowboys did win in their last game in a gritty display against the Dragons and Thurston is back in good form, so they will be tough to beat. Todd Carney will be looking to stake his claims for a potential opening at five eight for NSW with Maloney battling an injury. James Tamou returns from suspension to start at prop, with Ashton Sims moving to the bench. Gavin Cooper and Ethan Lowe are added to the 7-man bench. Michael Gordon is named to return for Cronulla at fullback, with Ryan moving to one wing while Stapleton has been omitted. Fifita is named to start at prop, with Gallen named at lock (even though he won’t play) and Heighington named on the bench. Ben Ross and Bryce Gibbs are added to the 6-man bench.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS V MANLY SEA EAGLES
Tip: Roosters. The last time these two sides played, it was a very tough game with the Roosters slightly getting up at Brookvale. This time the game is at the SFS and I expect the Roosters to win as they should carry the momentum gained from their last win against the Bulldogs into this game. Manly have been starting to show their age over the past few games but may get Brett Stewart back for this game (despite not being named), which would be a huge inclusion. The Roosters get Michael Jennings back to start in the centres, which moves Aubusson to the second row, Cordner to lock and Nuuausala to the bench. James Maloney (even though he is out with injury) and Mitchell Pearce are named in the halves. As a result, Mortimer is back to the bench and Williams is named to start in the back row, which moves Guerra to the bench. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves returns from suspension to start at prop, which moves Moa to the bench. Kennedy, Napa and Liu are all out of this week’s line-up after starting from the bench last weekend. Manly has named an unchanged line-up to their team from Round 14.
‘BEAT THE BOSS’
Again, the three sides at the top of the table were successful last round and now have an 8 point gap on 4th place. My Bandits beat the Pit Dogs 273-239, Pearce’s Pride defeated the Crackalackers 235-79 and P7Panthers beat the Funky Bunch 322-168. In the other game, R.Lewis+Denzel’s beat the Buzzing Hornets 298-232. Next week’s games are:
- Pearce’s Pride v P7Panthers
- Harkonnen Pit Dogs v The Crackalackers
- R.Lewis+Denzel’s v The Funky Bunch
- Buzzing Hornets v Boggabri Bandits