Cronulla Sharks vs Penrith Panthers – Thursday night – PointsBet Stadium
In round five the Panthers missed 67 tackles against a team that hadn't won a game prior. When they have won they haven't won by much, and the teams they've beaten aren't shooting the lights out this season. The Sharks were soundly beaten by the Chooks last round, but it's looking like the Chooks will be doing that to quite a few teams this year. The Sharks have lost more games than they've won but they are racking up more line breaks and offloads than most of the competition. Given all the missed tackles by the Panthers last weekend, I expect they will struggle to contain the Sharks attack. Doubts about Gallen and Fifita playing on Thursday, but I'm tipping them at home regardless.
Verdict – Sharks by 4
Result – Sharks 24 defeated Panthers 20
Canterbury Bulldogs vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Friday afternoon – ANZ Stadium
The traditional Good Friday clash is in danger of being over-shadowed by the other Good Friday clash, but it's always nice to have something to watch on a day when the options are thin on the ground. The Rabbitohs, and all of us really, begin the post-Inglis era – I expect they'll transition just fine given his involvement this season has been pretty limited. The Bulldogs gave their fans a glimmer of hope against the Storm but they came crashing back to earth against the Dragons. I suspect they overachieved two weeks ago and underachieved last week, which means their natural level lies somewhere in between. I fear that last weekend was closer to reality. It's still Easter...and it's still the Bunnies.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 16
Result – Rabbitohs 14 defeated Bulldogs 6
Melbourne Storm vs Sydney Roosters – Friday night – AAMI Park
Our 2018 grand finalists face off in the game of the round, and the Clive Churchill medallist gets a chance to shore up a NSW Origin jersey if he hasn't locked it in already (I'll get in before everyone else piles on – Keary was born and raised in Ipswich...Kevin Walters and Allan Langer will give him heaps). He's up against the QLD number six here. Munster and Keary have been close to the best in the NRL this season so this game is worthy of your eyeballs just to watch those two. The most important inclusion (or exclusion) is Victor Radley, who has to pass a concussion test to take his spot. He's been a revelation in the number nine jersey for the tricolours, and Jake Friend isn't ready to return either. The Storm have scrambled to victory in their last two outings and remain undefeated, but scrambling wins over the Bulldogs and Cowboys doesn't look like flash form. A big vocal crowd will get behind the purple machine, but the Roosters have scored 30+ points at their last three outings and look the goods.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Result – Roosters 21 defeated Storm 20
New Zealand Warriors vs North Queensland Cowboys – Saturday night – Mt Smart Stadium
The Warriors are undefeated at Mt Smart this season, although the teams they've beaten are 14th and 16th on the ladder. Mind you, the Cowboys are 15th so it's probably good enough. The Cowboys were much better against the Storm but now they have to repeat the effort. Their depth in the backline is being seriously tested (Feldt and Macdonald injured, Coote released, Barba cut, Holmes overseas, Ponga at the Knights and Folau unapproachable). The Cowboys pack, even without Taumalolo, could do a number on the Warriors, but can this Cowboys backline convert that into points? Thinker says no.
Verdict – Warriors by 8
Result – Cowboys 17 defeated Warriors 10
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Manly Sea Eagles – Saturday night – WIN Stadium
After the first two rounds of the season things were looking pretty dire for the Dragons and the Sea Eagles, but neither side has lost a game since. After two narrow victories the Dragons fired up the after-burners against the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, the Sea Eagles have coped without Tommy Turbo quite well indeed with Brendan Elliott improving in the number one jersey with every outing. Home ground advantage is reason enough for me to tip the Dragons. The likely inclusion of Vaughan for the Red V and the suspension of Fonua-Blake for the Sea Eagles bolsters my confidence. If not for the grand final replay on Good Friday it's the game of the round.
Verdict – Dragons by 7
Result – Dragons 12 defeated Sea Eagles 10
Gold Coast Titans vs Newcastle Knights – Sunday afternoon – Cbus Super Stadium
The Titans got off the mark in round five but they'll be heading into this game without Ash Taylor, AJ Brimson and Jarrod Wallace. Shannon Boyd is doubtful but could be a late inclusion. Less problems for the Knights but Aiden Guerra won't be back for quite some time after an injury I'd rather not watch again. I'll tip the Knights on the road, but I hope they've been behaving themselves on the Goldie for the Easter weekend. Watching Ponga weave his magic on a Sunday afternoon is worth the cost of admission alone.
Verdict – Knights by 2
Result – Titans 38 defeated Knights 14
Canberra Raiders vs Brisbane Broncos – Sunday afternoon – GIO Stadium
Five weeks down and I've tipped the Broncos five times. Clearly it hasn't been a winning strategy and I'm not sure if the Broncos have a winning strategy either. I'm no Wally Lewis but to my eye they appear to lack a leader who can manage a game. They just look rudderless and particularly so when the game is on the line. I can't see an easy solution either, but this is one club you don't underestimate. The Raiders are ticking all the boxes at the minute and they ticked another rare box last weekend with a shut-out of the Parramatta Eels. While a turnaround performance from the Broncos wouldn't surprise me (and they do have a good record in Canberra) I cannot tip them on exposed form. I've gone green.
Verdict – Raiders by 4
Result – Raiders 26 defeated Broncos 22
Parramatta Eels vs Wests Tigers – Monday afternoon – Bankwest Stadium
The Eels were on the wrong side of a shut-out last weekend so they'll be keen to make amends as they make their debut at their swanky new stadium. The Tigers surprised most with their 80th minute victory over the Broncos in Brisbane, and they've had 11 whole sleeps to prepare for this game. The availability of Blake Ferguson is a big plus for the Eels – he might have a face like a dropped pie but he's a powerful force with speed to burn. Despite his inclusion I'm tipping the Tigers in something of an upset. Their spine impressed me last start and their second row pair of Matterson and Garner are chronically under-rated. Whatever the outcome it will be a delight to see a packed-out stadium in rugby league heartland for an afternoon of footy.
Verdict – Tigers by 4
Result – Eels 51 defeated Tigers 6
Wally Lewis - round six selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- SHARKS vs Panthers
- Bulldogs vs RABBITOHS
- Storm vs ROOSTERS
- WARRIORS vs Cowboys
- DRAGONS vs Sea Eagles
- TITANS vs Knights
- RAIDERS vs Broncos
- EELS vs Tigers