Having now passed the halfway point of the 2019 Telstra Premiership season there are a number of teams beginning to mount their case as serious finals and premiership contenders whilst there are a host of teams fighting to keep their season alive, read on as we preview the round 14 games before the state of origin bye round next week.
Fourth meets sixth in the opening game of round 14 as the Cronulla Sharks, on a 2 game winning streak, travel down to GIO Stadium to take on the Canberra Raiders in a Thursday night blockbuster. Over recent weeks the Sharks have been ever impressive as the combinations in their new look spine begin to gel and the return of key players Matt Moylan and Wade Graham as well as the impending return of Shaun Johnson have lifted them to wins against the Dragons and the Eels in their last two outings. In a similar fashion the Canberra Raiders have been equally as impressive as they thumped the Wests Tigers 28-0 in a dominant performance led by the return of star halfback Aidan Sezer as they cemented their place in the top four, on equal competition points with the Sharks. This week sees the Raiders name the same 17 that held the Tigers to 0 last week although Josh Papali’i and Dunamis Lui move back into the starting side at the expense of Ryan Sutton and Sia Soliola. For the Sharks they lose hooker Jayden Brailey to injury as he is replaced by his brother Blayke and welcome back NSW Blues star Josh Morris in place of Aaron Gray as Josh Dugan moves out to the wing. Last year the Sharks won both games against the Raiders in close fashion and in the last four meetings there has been an average of 48 points per game, which exceeds the total points line of 38.5 set for this week and with this in mind as well as the fact both teams scored 28 and 42 points last week we are keen to look at the overs market for this game.
A battle between two teams who are fighting to stay away from the dreaded wooden spoon is brought to us as the New Zealand Warriors travel to the glitter strip of the Gold Coast to take on the Titans in the 6pm Friday time slot. After last weeks upset victory against a Broncos team who were not only fresh and off a 3 game winning streak but they had also only beaten once in their last nine games the Titans will be brimming with confidence coming into this clash against the Warriors. The Warriors, however, were convincingly defeated 32-10 by the Melbourne Storm after leading 10-2 at one stage as they slumped to their second straight loss. This week the Warriors welcome back Patrick Herbert into the centres at the expense of Gerard Beale and Jazz Tevaga comes onto the bench. For the Titans they have retained the same backline as last week but have been forced into starting Bryce Cartwright and Tyrone Peachey in the back row as both Kevin Proctor and Keegan Hipgrave are out due to injury and suspension respectively. The last time these two teams met was in round 4 of this season where the Warriors ran away 26-10 winners at home on the back of an inspiring 1 try, 1 try assist and 8 tackle break performance from captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in a result that saw the Warriors move to winning 8 of the last 9 matches against the Titans. With both teams recent form shaky to say the least there is interest in the total points market again as both teams are averaging just under 22 points conceded each game. Couple this with the fact that 4 of the last 5 games at Cbus Super Stadium have exceeded the total points market for this week then we are confident that this week will add to this tally in a high scoring game.
Friday nights prime time game sees the 11th placed Wests Tigers travel up to North Queensland to take on the 12th placed Cowboys as both teams will be looking to avenge disappointing losses from last round. The Cowboys fell to the Sea Eagles by an agonising 2 point loss in a game riddled by errors and that many Cowboys fans will feel was a victory that got away from them. Likewise for the Tigers they were confident coming into their clash against the Raiders and were heavily backed to win but put together a performance that was riddled by 13 errors and poor defence as they failed to register a single point in a 28-0 loss. This week sees Tigers coach Michael Maguire name captain Moses Mbye in the centres as Robert Jennings returns on the wing, Corey Thompson starts at fullback and both Benji Marshall and Mahe Fonua are named despite suffering injuries last week. Unfortunately for the Cowboys they have been yet again riddled by injuries as star front rower Jordan McLean is lost to a hamstring injury and is replaced by Scott Bolton with Corey Jensen coming onto the bench and Enari Tuala moves into the centres in placed of the injured Mitch Dunn. Despite the injuries to the Cowboys their performances have been much more commanding than the Tigers over recent weeks as they were on a 3 game winning streak and they hold a convincing 4-2 record over the Tigers at home when favourites and with this in mind we are tipping them to avenge last weeks loss and continue their march towards a top 8 spot.
The first game of arguably one of the most intriguing days of NRL for the season sees the high flying Newcastle Knights travel down to AAMI Park to take on the ladder leaders the Melbourne Storm in a blockbuster match. The Newcastle Knights have brushed past about everything that’s come near them in recent weeks as they ride a 6 game winning streak including victories against two top four teams in the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Despite this their matchup this week poses their biggest test yet as they take on the Storm who are riding their own 4 game winning streak as they sit 2 points clear at the top of the ladder. As a result of this form Storm coach Craig Bellamy has named the same 17 from last week as he searches for a 5th straight win heading into the origin period. For the Knights, coach Nathan Brown has recalled QLD origin star Kalyn Ponga after he was rested last week and Josh King comes onto the bench in placed of Pasami Saulo. In recent history the Storm have dominated this fixture winning the last 7 games, including the Knights last victory in Melbourne coming way back in 2015 and despite the difference of this current Knights team we are predicting the Storm to win this one in a tight one on the back of their 5-1 form at home so far this season.
The second game of the day sees the 14th placed Penrith Panthers, on the back of a 3 game winning streak, take on the 2nd placed South Sydney Rabbitohs who have lost their last 2 games and will be eager to stop a concerning slide down the table that has been largely affected by state of origin. Last week the Panthers posted their biggest win of the season as they knocked off the depleted Sydney Roosters in a 19-10 victory that was highlighted by a 2 try effort from Viliame Kikau and a 3 try assist performance from James Maloney. This win continued a purple patch of form for the Panthers in what has been a disappointing season so far but has convinced Ivan Cleary to stick with the same 17 players from the previous week in what will be a pleasing sign for fans after the chopping and changing over recent weeks. For the Rabbitohs their second consecutive loss came at the hands of the Newcastle Knights as they were outclassed 20-12 in a sloppy performance that saw them complete only 65% of their sets. Thankfully for Rabbitohs fans NSW blues five eight Cody Walker has been recalled to the halves, Kyle Turner returns from injury in the centres and in doing so shifts Dane Gagai to the wing but they also lose Tom Burgess to suspension and Sam Burgess to injury as Liam Knight and Ethan Lowe replace them. The last time these two teams met was a mere two months ago where the Rabbitohs won 22-18 despite a spirited comeback from the Panthers. This time round the Panthers are a much different team as they have conceded an average of just over 10 points per game over the last 3 weeks and with South Sydney averaging only 16 points conceded per game all season we are leaning towards a low scoring affair that could go either way.
The prime time game for Saturday night sees two teams coming off disappointing losses in the Parramatta Eels and the Brisbane Broncos as both teams will be looking to bounce back and reignite their finals hopes in this weeks match. For the Broncos it will be their first visit to the new home of the Eels as they travel to Bankwest Stadium and they will be eager to do so as they were shocked by the 15th placed Titans last week in a 26-18 loss that was compounded by a combination of poor defence and inability to convert possession into points. The Eels will be equally disappointed as their 42-22 loss was largely due to them missing 46 tackles and as a result they are now 2 wins out of the top 4. This week sees both teams make a number of changes with the Eels recalling Jaeman Salmon at the expense of Will Smith in the halves, Nathan Brown starts at lock as Tepai Moeora is dropped to the reserves and Ray Stone comes into the side on the bench. Eels captain Clint Gutherson has also been named despite suffering a nasty head knock in the opening minutes of last rounds match. Broncos coach Anthony Seibold has lost young half Tom Dearden and experienced back rower Alex Glenn to injury but will be thankful to recall origin stars Matt Gillett and Corey Oates to the side as well as handing a club debut to promising half Sean O’Sullivan. Last times these two teams met the Broncos ran away 18-10 victors at Suncorp Stadium and in doing so they extended their record to winning 4 of their last 6 games against the Eels. With this in mind, the return of their origin stars and the inconsistent form of the Eels we are predicting the Broncos to continue this streak and record a close win.
The penultima game of the round sees two sides who snapped losing streaks in the last round with the Manly Sea Eagles, breaking a 2 game losing streak, welcoming the St. George Illawarra Dragons to Lottoland, who snapped a 5 game losing streak of their own. In snapping these losing streaks both coaches have named the same 17 from last weeks victories with the only minor alteration being the change of Tyson Frizzell to lock and Jacob Host to the back row for the Dragons. Last weeks victories for both teams were largely a result of the return of key players, in particularly two halves by the name of Daly Cherry-Evans and Corey Norman. Both teams records sits at 5-3 when these two players have played whilst without them the Sea Eagles record sits at 2-3 without Cherry-Evans and the Dragons sits at 0-5 without Norman. Last time these two teams met was back in round 6 where the Dragons ran out 12-10 victors as both Cherry-Evans and Norman played but the Sea Eagles were without NSW Blues star Tom Trbojevic. That win saw the Dragons extend their winning streak to 4 against the Sea Eagles but with the return of Trbojevic and the recent form of both teams we are leaning towards a Sea Eagles victory in a tight contest.
The final game of the round sees the defending premiers in the midst of an injury and form crisis as they have slumped to 3 straight losses come up against the 16th placed Canterbury Bulldogs who are on a 3 game losing streak of their own. The Roosters will be disappointed with their performances over recent weeks as they have surrendered their top two position on the back of losses to the Broncos, the Knights and the Panthers. On the other hand, pressure is starting to mount on Bulldogs coach Dean Pay as his team sit last on the ladder thanks to losses to the Storm, the Raiders and the Dragons. As a result Dean Pay has recalled Corey Harawira-Naera in place of Ofahiki Ogden and has named New Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak for his first game for the Bulldogs since his transfer from the Panthers. For the Roosters, coach Trent Robinson has named origin stars Latrell Mitchell and Angus Crichton to start after resting them last week and has recalled Victor Radley to the starting side as he looks to ignite an attack that has managed only 32 points across their last 3 games. The last time these two teams met the Roosters ran out 6-0 victors in round 7 of last year as they extended their streak to 4 wins against the Bulldogs and we are predicting them to score another victory against the Bulldogs in a statement performance to the rest of the competition.
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