NRL round 7 preview panel
Manly v South Sydney at Brookvale Oval 7.45pm
Head to Head: Sea Eagles 71 Rabbitohs 57
Last clash: Sea Eagles 23-6 at Bluetongue Stadium (round 23, 2012)
Tab Sportsbet: Sea Eagles $1.70 Rabbitohs $2.20
FootyTAB: Souths +3.5
Second versus third – a true blockbuster. The Rabbitohs have struggled against the NRL’s benchmark teams, and they won’t get a better chance to prove the doubters wrong than at a jam-packed Fortress Brookvale. They’d want to hope Greg Inglis’ injured hip isn’t too bad because they need all the point-scoring ammunition available against a Manly side which has twice held their opponent scoreless in 2013. The possible return of Glenn Stewart to the Manly pack for the first time this season would only add to the worries for the Rabbitohs who have only three wins from their past 17 trips to Brookvale.
Key: Daly Cherry Evans. The Manly No.7 has been brilliant, and it’s only the irrepressible form of Cooper Cronk that is denying him a Queensland and Test jumper.
Tip: Sea Eagles
North Queensland v Canberra at 1300SMILES Stadium 5.30pm
Head to Head: Raiders 18 Cowboys 12
Last clash: Cowboys 40-18 at Dairy Farmers Stadium (round 16, 2012)
Tab Sportsbet: Cowboys $1.26 Raiders $4.00
FootyTAB: Canberra +8.5
Having won just one of their past five games, the Cowboys need to get going soon, and a visit by the Raiders may be their best chance to find some form. Canberra have won two straight, but have not won in Townsville in seven years. The return of Matt Bowen from injury will give the Cowboys a boost, but they really need Johnathan Thurston to fire. Thurston looked below his best wearing the Australian No.6 last week, while the man he’s likely to spend plenty of time going up against – Terry Campese – impressed in his latest return from injury.
Key: Terry Campese. If this comeback lasts more than just a few games, the Raiders may finally deliver on the promise they showed in the 2010 finals.
Wests Tigers v Brisbane at Campbelltown Stadium 7.30pm
Head to Head: Broncos 15 Tigers 4, drawn 1
Last clash:Broncos 18-14 at Allianz Stadium (round 6, 2012)
Tab Sportsbet: Broncos $1.48 Tigers $2.70
FootyTAB: Tigers +5.5
They’ve won two on the trot, but it’s hard to get a gauge on whether the Broncos are travelling well or not. Playmakers Scott Prince and Peter Wallace can’t seem to escape criticism no matter what they do, and even a win over an injury-hit Tigers won’t silence the doubters. Another week, another new set of halves for the Tigers, teenager Curtis Sironen and Tim Moltzen the latest combination with Benji Marshall and Braith Anasta sidelined. Despite winning 10 of their past 12 games at Campbelltown, the omens aren’t good for the Tigers, who have won only one of their past eight games when Marshall hasn’t played.
Key: Robbie Farah. With a makeshift halves combination, Farah will need to dominate the Tigers attack if the home side is to get its NRL season back on track.
Gold Coast v Newcastle at Skilled Park 2.00pm
Head to Head: Knights 5 Titans 4
Last clash: Titans 24-14 at Hunter Stadium (round 12, 2012)
Tab Sportsbet: Titans $1.60 Knights $2.40
FootyTAB: Knights +2.5
It hasn’t been happy trails on the road for the Knights, who have lost both their away games so far this season. They now head to the holiday strip without the two men who were meant to add starch to their pack in 2013, with Beau Scott injured and Jeremy Smith suspended. Newcastle couldn’t have picked a worse game to be short-handed up the middle, with the Titans pack bolstered by the return of Dave Taylor from a one-game stint in the Queensland Cup. With State of Origin just a month away, Taylor will have a point to prove both to the Titans and Queensland selectors.
Key: The fitness of Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly. The Titans halves have battled injury of late, but if they can re-unite at the scrumbase, Gold Coast may return to their early-season form.
Cronulla v Canterbury at Bluetongue Stadium 3.00pm
Head to Head: Bulldogs 52 Sharks 30, drawn 2
Last clash: Bulldogs 26-6 at ANZ Stadium (round 11, 2012)
Tab Sportsbet: Bulldogs $1.80 Sharks $2.05
FootyTAB: Sharks +1.5
Two teams thought to be premiership contenders face an early season make-or-break clash on neutral territory. The last-placed Bulldogs are already three wins outside the top six and can’t afford to give away any more ground to the premiership front-runners. Rumours of player unrest have been followed by chief executive Todd Greenberg’s impending departure. Coach Des Hasler should have no problems creating a siege mentality. The return of Todd Carney could not have come at a better time for the Sharks, who have lost three straight since the NSW Origin star went down. But with ASADA postponing interviews with players, it could be another tough week for the Sharks to focus on the job at hand.
Key: Ben Barba. The best way for the Bulldogs star to put to rest all the rumours is to rediscover some of the magic that made him one of the game’s best in 2012.
Penrith v Parramatta at Centrebet Stadium 7.00pm
Head to Head: Eels 52 Panthers 32, drawn 1
Last clash: Eels 19-18 at Centrebet Stadium (round 16, 2012)
Tab Sportsbet: Eels $1.75 Panthers $2.10
FootyTAB: Penrith +1.5
The battle of the west could be an early season battle for the spoon. Both teams are struggling, with the Eels capitulating badly against the Titans in their last start. Coach Ricky Stuart is $10,000 lighter after giving the referees a spray but, more than two weeks on, it will be interesting to see whether his criticism has any lasting effect on the whistleblowers. The Panthers have been forced to go back to plan A at halfback with Luke Walsh reinstated, but a spate of injuries leaves the Panthers a little light for strike power out wide.
Key: Jarryd Hayne. Was dominant early but went missing as the Eels went down to Gold Coast. The Eels need their superstar firing for the full 80 minutes.
26 Apr 9:23 AM