Manly Sea Eagles vs Brisbane Broncos – Thursday night – Central Coast Stadium
If the NRL season had started two rounds ago, and in many ways it did, the Broncos would be last on the NRL ladder. That's right, on current form, they're going worse than the Dragons. To be fair, the Broncos have faced stiffer opposition than the Dragons, but they're facing stiff opposition here as they take on the team that all but beat the Eels last weekend (and we know what the Eels did to the Broncos). To make it worse, the Broncos have to travel for the first time since the season restart. Maybe, just maybe, the road trip will galvanise the troops. In any case, we see a raft of changes for the away side, with Corey Oates moved into the second row and Ben Te'o thawed out from whatever cryogenic chamber he's been living in for the last decade. Actually, I looked it up, the cryogenic chamber was a stint in rugby, where he racked up 16 tests for England. Not bad for a bloke who was born in Auckland, played league for Samoa, Origin for Queensland, spent 2019 in France and was last seen in Japan. Meanwhile the Sea Eagles are unchanged after their unfortunate/unlucky loss to the Eels. Manly...pick themselves.
Verdict – Sea Eagles by 14
Result – Sea Eagles 20 defeated Broncos 18
New Zealand Warriors vs North Queensland Cowboys – Friday night – Central Coast Stadium
The Warriors round three shutout of the Dragons made most of us smile a little bit, but beating the Dragons doesn't look like strong form at the minute. I'd be curious to know if a team has ever gone from keeping an opponent to 0 in one round to being held to 0 in the next. The Cowboys made plenty of errors against the Sharks but still managed to score 16 points, and if Taumalolo makes the seventeen as suggested they should be winning this.
Verdict – Cowboys by 4
Result – Warriors 37 defeated Cowboys 26
Parramatta Eels vs Penrith Panthers – Friday night – Bankwest Stadium
Two teams still undefeated, and it's a shame we can't have a crowd at Bankwest for this one. The Panthers scored a thumping win in round four on the back of an extra time draw with the only other undefeated team. They're flying under the radar a little while their opponent on Friday night gets all the attention. I'm sure the Panthers don't mind that one bit. We also see the return of Nathan Cleary, who will be keen to atone after his recent exile. The Eels are a short priced favourite, and I suppose they should be, but I'm with the Panthers here in a proper upset.
Verdict – Panthers by 1
Result – Eels 16 defeated Panthers 10
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday afternoon – Bankwest Stadium
Not many, if any, saw the Titans winning over the Tigers last start, but it was great that the lads got to sing the team song after an almost year long hibernation. On the back of that you can be sure the Rabbitohs won't take them lightly, and after a string of losses they'll be desperate to atone. Some key returns for the Bunnies in Walker and Roberts - too good I think.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 18
Result – Rabbitohs 32 defeated Titans 12
Newcastle Knights vs Melbourne Storm – Saturday night – Central Coast Stadium
The Knights squad has the best names - Bradman Best, Herman Ese'ese, Tautau Moga, Tex Hoy...even Ponga is a ripper. Now they're giving me another one in Phoenix Crossland. This team are the gift that keep on giving, and they're the team that keep on winning. They looked comfortable against the Raiders in round four, and the Raiders were comfortable winners over the Storm in round three. I see no reason why the Knights can't win this too. Clearly the bookies disagree with me, but every now and then they look like idiots...and every now and then I don't. Let's hope it's the latter...for a change.
Verdict – Knights by 4
Result – Storm 26 defeated Knights 12
Wests Tigers vs Canberra Raiders – Saturday night – Campbelltown Stadium
Two sides returning from disappointing losses, but clearly Canberra losing to the Knights is stronger form than the Tigers losing to the Titans. Both sides would have been given a serve by their coaches most cranky, and Madge has swung the axe and made changes everywhere. Some handy returns on the bench for the Tigers in Chee-Kam and Packer, but to my eye the Raiders are simply a better side.
Verdict – Raiders by 14
Result – Raiders 14 defeated Tigers 6
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Sydney Roosters – Sunday afternoon – Bankwest Stadium
Just as the Broncos would be last on the ladder had the season started at re-launch, the Chooks would be runaway leaders with a +75 points differential after two games. That's not bad, given they hadn't won a game in 2020 prior, they've played two NRL heavyweights, and Tedesco missed the flight to Brisbane last week. Tedesco should be back here - the club can get him to sit in the drinks esky on the bus to keep his temperature down. The Bulldogs had their first win of the year last round against the Dragons, but beating the Roosters is an entirely different proposition.
Verdict – Roosters by 16
Result – Roosters 42 defeated Bulldogs 6
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Cronulla Sharks – Sunday night – Campbelltown Stadium
In rounds one and two the Dragons weren't terrible, with competitive losses to the Tigers and the Panthers. They weren't winning, but they were competing. I'm not sure what the Dragons did during lockdown, but they clearly haven't readied themselves for the season return. Thus far they've played, without wanting to sound mean, two teams that aren't likely to make the top eight, and they haven't scored a single try. This is harder, and another duck egg beckons.
Verdict – Sharks by 20
Result – Dragons 30 defeated Sharks 16
Wally Lewis - round five selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- SEA EAGLES vs Broncos
- Warriors vs COWBOYS
- EELS vs Panthers
- RABBITOHS vs Titans
- Knights vs STORM
- Tigers vs RAIDERS
- Bulldogs vs ROOSTERS
- Dragons vs SHARKS