FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
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Paul's back for another look at the weekend ahead. Check out his tips and see if yours will match up...
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Check out the Round 10 NRL Teamlists HERE.
Below, Paul runs the rule over Round 10:
Women in League round begins with a ripper on Friday night at ANZ Stadium and what better way to welcome these two teams back to form than to watch them knock the stuffing out of each other. Melbourne were lucky to sneak past the Eagles last week, avoiding a 3 match losing streak whilst the Bunnies flew up to Australia's playground and threw the in-form Titans into the proverbial sand pit. Souths have won 4 of their past 5.
The Bunnies certainly looked good last week, leading by 22 points after 20 minutes but this week, it will be a much harder slog. Controlling possession will be the key because if you give either of these halfbacks a sniff, they'll have you pinned down for an eternity. Adam Reynolds and Cooper Cronk deliver a possible Origin preview and show the rest of the competition what it means to lead your team around the park. Souths by a nose.
A pity that this match between two South Queensland rivals won't be an asset to such a great weekend of footy. Surely, a tribute to Women in League could do without a shock jock calling the game from Suncorp. What an insult. But I'm fine with it, really. The Broncos host the Titans to finish of your Friday double header and it's the Titans who will need all the luck here. They were flogged last week and fans quickly realised that this team is still not one of the NRLs elite sides.
This week, without Greg Bird, they'll be hard pressed to prove that their victory over the Broncos 4 weeks ago was no fluke. Once the home side get on top through the like of Alex Glenn and Corey Parker, their halves may simply throw the ball to Justin Hodges and watch him terrorise William Zillman on the edge. A mismatch. The Titans will keep this close but Brisbane will be out to atone for a poor showing in Townsville last week.
Parramatta Eels v St George Illawarra Dragons
Saturday 3:00pm at Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
As a Woman in League, Mum used to love Saturday arvo footy. Sunday's were more about church but Saturday arvo, with everyone at the ground, there'd finally be some peace and quiet so she could hear the dulcet tones of Warren Boland and the great John Peard on ABC's Television coverage. An institution. Now, decades later, what better way to celebrate tradition than two Sydney teams facing each other at 3pm.
The Dragons are hurting and no mid-season signing of a rugby league legend is gonna change that. Their defence has allowed 72 points over the past two matches and what's worse, these matches revealed a softer middle than was once feared. The Eels, by contrast, continue to move up in the world and even though they are not quite premiership favourites, they are downright invincible at Pirtek Stadium. That'll do.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks v Wests Tigers
Saturday 5:30pm at Remondis Stadium, Woolooware
Ask and thou shalt receive. Last week, this ‘column' humbly requested that the black hole of time slots on the weekend footy calendar be saved for Sharks matches only. The 4 (including Mum) of you that read this weekly ‘preview' would remember, I'm sure. Now, Women in League round continues with the Tigers heading to the Shire for the 5.30pm abomination and both clubs need a reprieve from injuries and are desperate for form.
The visitors have an edge here, with elder statesman Robbie Farah and Braith Anasta returning to guide this team around the park. Before they both disappeared, the Tigers were flying high but in the last two matches they have scored only 12 points. Ugly. Speaking of ugly, Cronulla won't have the points in them to engage in a running game so will aim to go through the middle. The result of this will be a violent contest with plenty of old friends keen to beat the crap out of each other. Bless them all.
My tip: Wests Tigers 18-14
What does Daniel Mortimer have to do to get a start for the Chooks? Your 2009 surprise packet and Grand Finalist, Daniel re-surfaced to lead the Newtown Jets to a 2012 premiership and be a key interchange player for last year's NRL Premiers. Now, he remains benched whilst a rugby union forward gets the start at number 6. Why am I talking about this? Essentially, I'm trying to distract myself from making Mitchell Pearce jokes.
The Cowboys bounced back in a special way last week. They came out swinging against the Broncos and will need to do the same here to get over the top of the champs. The Roosters will miss their halfback, but in defence they will still be tough. North Queensland play their third straight home game and this is making them downright giddy. Great matchups all over the park with the front row contest a standout but keep your eye on Brent Tate and Michael Jennings sizing each other up.
Ah, the mighty Green Machine. When these two clubs met in round 5, it was the Panthers who got the biscuits at Sportingbet stadium in a low scoring and very entertaining battle. Since then, the Raiders have lost 3 from 4 and are completely laying down in defence, allowing an average of 39 points over the past month including a loss at home to the struggling Knights. Not great times in the nation's capital and it could get worse.
Not only will crowds continue to diminish in Canberra, basically because nobody in the ACT has a job anymore, but their mongrel has completely disappeared and their confidence is shattered. The Panthers will aim to take advantage of this in the early going and come out swinging but there'll be some fight left in the home side. Ricky Stuart has given up on the Jack Wighton project and promoted Josh McCrone to his rightful place in the halves. The Raiders fight back.
The top of the table Bulldogs travel across the Tasman to face the spritely Warriors at Waikato Stadium and this is your match of the round. New Zealand are 2 and 2 since firing Matthew Elliott with one of these losses coming against Canterbury a month ago. In that match, the Warriors looked the better side but were subjected to some dubious refereeing in the final moments, losing by a point. Now, they look more like the imposing footy side we have grown to love.
Shaun Johnson will again be the focal point for the Warriors but on Sunday afternoon, he'll also be the target of a thousand pounds of Canterbury forwards charging at him for 80 minutes. If the home side can protect their halfback and their middle, they are a massive chance to cause the upset here. But they won't. The ‘Dogs conservative style will be a good foil for NZ. Keep an eye on Josh Morris v Konrad Hurrell. Awesome.
The hapless Knights head south for Monday night footy from Brookvale Oval to close out Women in League round and what a way to finish off. There'll be plenty of white wine, cheese and low fat crackers, some organic dip and surely some instagram ‘selfies' to share the moment. Oh, and perhaps the occasional outburst about the referees. Women in League has a different meaning at Brookvale but we thank them all the same.
Moving on. The Eagles are huge favourites here and while the visitors still have what it takes to cause an upset, they just haven't shown any consistent or interesting form this year. Since beating the Raiders in Canberra a month ago, they've lost 3 straight and have looked completely lost in attack, averaging 9 points with the ball over that span. Against Manly's aggressive defence and a Cherry-Evans led attack, Newcastle will face a big test here.
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