Wests Tigers vs Manly Sea Eagles – Thursday night – Campbelltown Stadium
Despite what the lads from Manly are saying, recent results would indicate that the Sea Eagles have put their pencils down this season. Their only victory in recent weeks was over the Bulldogs, in a game that was billed as a battle to assure avoidance of the wooden spoon. Manly have found themselves back in the wooden spoon zone yet again, so perhaps that is the prod they need. In their last five games they have conceded (on average) more than 32 points per game, and if you exclude the win over the Bulldogs they've been conceding more than 39 points per game. The Tigers defence has been in pretty good shape all season and remains so. With that in mind, it's difficult to imagine the Sea Eagles can score enough points to overcome the amount of points they are likely to let in. It's a numbers game.
Verdict – Tigers by 8
Result – Tigers 22 defeated Sea Eagles 20
New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers – Friday night – Mt Smart Stadium
Cameron Ciraldo receives a typically challenging introduction to first grade coaching in the NRL. Griffin was replaced on the basis that he was not getting the best out of his team, and the team's performance has slipped since he left. I'm actually tipping them here, which surprises me as much as it will surprise any of you. The Panthers absolutely trounced the Warriors in July, and there are some doubts about both the Warriors halves taking the field. The Warriors can shore up a top eight finish with a win so we'll have a contest here, but I say the Panthers can keep their top four hopes alive.
Verdict – Panthers by 1
Result – Warriors 36 defeated Panthers 16
North Queensland Cowboys vs Parramatta Eels – Friday night – 1300SMILES Stadium
15th plays 16th, but this is the game of the round. The loser (probably) earns a spoon for their troubles, and the loser (probably) is Parramatta. This is the final home game for Jonathan Thurston – no further analysis is needed. Wouldn't you love to be the kid that gets his headgear after this one?
Verdict – Cowboys by 10
Result – Cowboys 44 defeated Eels 6
Canberra Raiders vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday afternoon – GIO Stadium
A tremendous win by the Raiders last weekend in a high quality game, they beat the team that beat the Bunnies the week before. That looks like good form, and it is, but I'm banking on the probable return of Greg Inglis and Alex Johnston on Saturday, and with those two back the Bunnies bring an attacking left edge that is the best in the business. Should be a ripper.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 4
Result – Raiders 24 defeated Rabbitohs 12
Gold Coast Titans vs Melbourne Storm – Saturday night – Cbus Super Stadium
The Storm head north looking a little like a heavyweight champion on the ropes. They look ripe for the picking, but landing the killer blow is the challenge. The Eels had their chance last start, but the best they could do is one try from a kick, late in the game, and it took a little bit of magic from Gutherson to get that. Given the logjam of teams near the top of the ladder the Storm will do all they can to stay in the all-important top two. Slater vs Brimson is Old vs New. Brimson is a Brisbane boy by the way, for those of you looking to State of Origins in 2020 and beyond.
Verdict – Storm by 8
Result – Storm 10 defeated Titans 8
Sydney Roosters vs Brisbane Broncos – Saturday night – Allianz Stadium
I don't know what Wayne said to the Broncos at his barbecue (or what the Broncos said to Wayne), but it clearly made a difference. If they can do it again they can win again, but I'm not convinced they can do it again. The Broncos attack has improved in recent weeks but they face the sternest defence in the NRL on Saturday night. Note that Luke Keary is a probable return for the Chooks, and while they lost to the Raiders last weekend it was a high quality game. Plenty of interesting games in round 24, and this is definitely one of them.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Result – Broncos 22 defeated Roosters 8
Cronulla Sharks vs Newcastle Knights – Sunday afternoon – Southern Cross Group Stadium
When these sides last met the Sharks steam-rolled the Knights in one of the more dominant wins this season. The Sharks forwards just have to repeat what they did then and the two points are theirs for the taking. It's the last game at home for the Sharks this season, and a rowdy crowd can push them home. A significant boost to their points differential wouldn't hurt either.
Verdict – Sharks by 16
Result – Sharks 38 defeated Knights 12
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Canterbury Bulldogs – Sunday afternoon – Jubilee Oval
After round 22 the Dragons dropped out of the top four for the first time this season, and after round 23 they dragged themselves back in again. It was a very good win against a team with everything to play for, and they'll be desperate to keep performing at that sort of level as we head into September. They'll need to get by without Widdop, who should be back in time for the finals. The Bulldogs have won three of their last four, but it's the Red V for me.
Verdict – Dragons by 10
Result – Bulldogs 38 defeated Dragons 0
Wally Lewis - round twenty-four selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- TIGERS vs Sea Eagles
- WARRIORS vs Panthers
- COWBOYS vs Eels
- Raiders vs RABBITOHS
- Titans vs STORM
- ROOSTERS vs Broncos
- SHARKS vs Knights
- DRAGONS vs Bulldogs