St George Illawarra Dragons vs South Sydney Rabbitohs – Thursday night – WIN Stadium, Wollongong
These sides met back in round five where the Rabbitohs were comfortable winners (24-12). Note that the Dragons scored a late consolation try to narrow the margin. The Dragons find themselves on the fringe of the top eight and this next run of games could make or break their finals prospects. To my eye, their biggest problem is scoring enough points to win enough games. This season they have scored 20 or more points against just three sides (Warriors, Bulldogs and Knights). To illustrate the issue, Rabbitoh Alex Johnston has scored as many tries this season as the five top try scorers for the Dragons combined. Playing at the Gong will help, and the Dragons might lift for the 300th game of Andrew McCullough, but I still see them falling short.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 4
Result – Dragons 32 defeated Rabbitohs 12
Manly Sea Eagles vs North Queensland Cowboys – Friday night – 4 Pines Park
The Sea Eagles, like the Dragons, are on the fringe of the top eight and have two big games in front of them over the next fortnight. To make the eight they will almost certainly need to compete against the top eight teams. So far this season, Manly have faced top eight teams on seven occasions, and lost them all. The Cowboys, in recent seasons, have struggled away from home, but they've won 5 of 7 on the road in 2022. One of those losses was to Penrith. Manly aren't Penrith.
Verdict – Cowboys by 4
Result – Cowboys 28 defeated Sea Eagles 26
Melbourne Storm vs Brisbane Broncos – Friday night – AAMI Park
The Broncos overall record against the Storm is pedestrian at best. They face another stern test here, on the road to Melbourne with an injury-depleted squad. Payne Haas has been named but he can't be 100% - he could still be a late withdrawal, and without him the Broncos forwards are likely to be on the ropes for much of the 80 minutes. While forwards win games, its the playmakers that put on the points. When I compare the 6,7, and 9 for the Storm (Munster, Hughes, Grant, Smith) and the Broncos (Mam, Roberts, Walters, Turpin) it looks to me like there can only be one winner.
Verdict – Storm by 16
Result – Storm 32 defeated Broncos 20
Cronulla Sharks vs Gold Coast Titans – Saturday afternoon – C.ex Coffs Harbour International Stadium
This Thinker had the Titans competing for a top four spot this season, so to see them in last place is hard to take. They've lost 9 of their last ten (a narrow win over the Dragons in Magic Round their only happy moment for months). They have already lost to the Sharks this season, and on form you couldn't see them turning it around. The only thing going for them is that the Sharks can't win two in a row (and are due for a loss). It's not enough to sway me.
Verdict – Sharks by 8
Result – Sharks 18 defeated Titans 10
New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers – Saturday night – Moreton Daily Stadium
You don't have to think about this one, and you don't need me to thinker about this one.
Verdict – Panthers by 38
Result – Panthers 40 defeated Warriors 6
Parramatta Eels vs Sydney Roosters – Saturday night – CommBank Stadium
Ah rugby league you sweet confusing temptress. Just when you think you understand her she goes and springs a result on you like the Bulldogs flogging the Eels on Monday night. We may not understand her, but what's not to love? The question now of course, is can the Eels bounce back from that result with a win over the Chooks six nights later? The answer of course, is maybe, because rugby league is a sweet confusing temptress. But you can't just stop at one. You want to drink another woman.
Verdict – Eels by 1
Result – Eels 26 defeated Roosters 16
Canberra Raiders vs Newcastle Knights – Sunday afternoon – GIO Stadium
The Knights have been terrible at home this season, but they've been terrible everywhere this season. They have won three games away from Newcastle, but two of those wins were at neutral venues against under-performing teams (Bulldogs at Brisbane and Warriors at Redcliffe). Their other away win was way back in round one, which is arguably when they peaked this year. Kalyn Ponga has been named for the Knights but needs to pass concussion protocols. Jordan Rapana returns for the Raiders in an otherwise unchanged line-up. I don't expect the Raiders to blow the Knights off the park on Sunday, but they should win.
Verdict – Raiders by 10
Result – Raiders 20 defeated Knights 18
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Wests Tigers – Sunday afternoon – CommBank Stadium
This is quite the head scratcher. The Bulldogs could easily fall in a puddle or they could continue the striking form that knocked off the Eels on Monday night. We will probably know ten minutes after kick-off, but we have to pick a winner long before then. Burton was near his best against the Eels and I've long had a big wrap on him. I'm willing to back him to replicate that on Sunday. On that form they beat the Tigers - they just need that form. Note the return of Adam Doueihi on the bench for the Tigers. He's an important inclusion in their squad if they are to improve on what has been a disappointing season.
Verdict – Bulldogs by 4
Result – Bulldogs 36 defeated Tigers 12
Wally Lewis - round fifteen selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or Thursday morning
- Dragons vs RABBITOHS
- Sea Eagles vs COWBOYS
- STORM vs Broncos
- SHARKS vs Titans
- Warriors vs PANTHERS
- EELS vs Roosters
- RAIDERS vs Knights
- Bulldogs vs TIGERS