Parramatta Eels vs Canberra Raiders – Friday night – CommBank Stadium
The big question mark here surrounds the Eels halfback Mitchell Moses, who put his head in the wrong place at the wrong time last week. He has to pass an independent assessment to play. The Eels have named him and are giving every indication he'll be lacing up the boots on Friday night, but watch this space. He's likely to be replaced by Jake Arthur, a terrific young talent, but it's a lot of pressure on a kid who happens to be the son of the coach. Otherwise, the coach is going with the same line-up that competed with the Panthers for a period. For the Raiders, Adam Elliott is injured and replaced by Harawira-Naera, while Sutton returns on the bench from a hand injury. These sides have met once before this season - a high quality game where the Eels prevailed (28-20) in Canberra. Team line-ups in round 12 were much like they are here. Sivo didn't play for the Eels in that game and I won't under-estimate his contributions, but I'm keen to highlight that the Raiders have improved since then. That round 12 game was the first game for the under-appreciated Jamal Fogarty, and it takes a while to combine with a new team. Xavier Savage continues to improve at fullback with NRL games under his belt in that role. For much of the year the Raiders were crippled by injuries but have had a chance to keep a roster on the park and the results have followed. The win against the Storm was no fluke, and even if Moses does play for the Eels I'm happy to tip the Raiders in an upset.
Verdict – Raiders by 4
Result – Eels 40 defeated Raiders 4
Cronulla Sharks vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Saturday night – Allianz Stadium
The Sharks back up from 93 minutes of very good rugby league on Saturday night while the Rabbitohs back up from whatever the heck that was we watched last Sunday afternoon. It was certainly gripping to watch, and in a game which spent more time boiling over than simmering, it was the Bunnies who kept their cool in the key moments, coming away with a pretty comfortable win in the end. While this is a home game for the Sharks it shifts to a venue that the Rabbits would like to call home, and the away visitors are likely to have more support in the crowd on Saturday night. The Sharks are unchanged from last week, while the Bunnies are without Burgess for a couple of weeks unless they can mount a successful "Taylan May" defence or pull some other legal wizardry out of their back pocket. Assuming he's out it's a big out against a team full of very big forwards. These sides met not long ago where the Sharks won in golden point (21-20). That game was in the Shire, and they were (I think) a bit lucky to win that one. The Rabbits were already missing Campbell Graham in the centres and their replacement centre was injured in the first half. That left them with Mitchell filling in out wide and Nikorima playing at the back. Even with all that chaos, the Bunnies almost won, with Mitchell missing three field goal attempts before Hynes claimed the victory for the Sharks. The Sharks also did a very good job controlling the ruck speed in that game. Playing at home probably helped them when it came to that strategy, and they may have less luck with that approach against those rowdy Rabbitohs fans. Mitchell and Walker proved the difference last week. For the Sharks, Hynes had what was his best game of the season in a losing side. I expect this will be close but if the Bunnies forwards can hold their own I'll back Mitchell to make amends when it counts.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 1
Result – Rabbitohs 38 defeated Sharks 12
Wally Lewis - finals week two (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- EELS (4th) vs Raiders (8th)
- SHARKS (2nd) vs Rabbitohs (7th)