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NRL Previews - 2014 Round 14
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 14 NRL Teamlists HERE.
Below, Paul runs the rule over Round 14:
Round 14. The second half of season 2014 kicks off from ANZ Stadium and time sure is flying. Speaking of flying, these two teams certainly are, with Souths continuing a recent era of success and the Tigers bouncing back from a nightmare 2013. They both sit on 16 competition points and even without superstars like Greg Inglis, Robbie Farah and Liam Fulton playing in this game, it will still be a beauty as tensions in the middle are sure to flare.
In their last meeting with Souths in round 3, the visitors forward pack was heralded as the crew that finally stood up to the Burgess Boys. This time, the likes of Galloway, Taupau and Blair better be ready for reprisals. Souths were essentially spanked in that match and they won't let the same thing happen here. Sam Burgess, as he often does, will get the ball rolling early and even with the fatigue that may hit the Bunnies after a trip to Perth, they will have their revenge.
Penrith Panthers v St George Illawarra Dragons
Saturday 5:30pm at Sportingbet Stadium Penrith
The Mighty Panthers. Sitting on top of the table with an 8-4 record and the second best defence in the competition, this team has it all. A forward pack with the perfect balance of youth and experience, of size and skill and of brains and brawn; a representative halves combination with 340 games total experience and finally, a backline boasting the likes of... ready for this... Dallin Watene-Zelezniak! Yes, I'm now president of the Panthers fan club. Deal with it.
Where does this leave the visiting Dragons for Saturdays nights encounter at Sportingbet Stadium? In deep doo doo. Saints may have climbed out of the pit of despair with last week's win over Cronulla, but it may not be enough to get them past the home side who come in as $1.20 favourites. So, whilst the Widdop/Marshall combination still finds its feet, Penrith run right through the Dragons middle and end this one early and emphatically.
The defending premiers have won 6 of their past 7 matches and are absolutely loving it. They have enough depth to cover the loss of a few origin stars and with their 7 and 6 staying in Bondi for the rep season, Chooks fans must be doing cartwheels. This week, they face the free-falling Knights. Newcastle have lost their past 6 matches and sit second-last on the ladder. In fact, the stats don't do justice to how different these two clubs are, right now.
The Knights are cashless, ownerless and hopeless whilst the Roosters have it all; the money, the sponsors and the talent. Speaking of talent, you'll see the Tri-Colours' very best on show at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night as Mitchel Pearce and James Maloney guide their unstoppable forward pack around the park for an easy victory. The only controversy could come if Willie Mason tries to steal Sonny Bill's wallet at halftime. Fingers crossed.
It's the height of rudeness, really. To forsake your most vocal, most passionate and most traditional fan base by booking this fixture 3 days before Origin 2? Simply breathtaking stuff from the NRL. With Canterbury and Parramatta both in the middle of fantastic seasons and with the history that these clubs share, you could have 40,000 people minimum turn up to this game and now, to have it played without a handful of the biggest stars in the comp is just crazy.
As always, we digress. Damien Cook gets his chance to start for the Bulldogs at halfback this week and if anyone knows how to welcome a kid from Cronulla Beach to Belmore, it's Bulldogs fans. The ‘Dogs will struggle in attack without their starting halves and admittedly, the same problem exists for Parra without Jarryd Hayne and Nathan Peats. So, strap in for a defensive struggle between two great Sydney clubs as they face each other for the 135th time.
A tough period for both clubs. Whilst the Storm crawl through the rep season again, this time they won't be getting Cooper Cronk back after it's all over. Rather, as this season continues, they'll most likely see the fading of an aura they've kept for a decade. The Titans are also on very shaky ground. They've lost their organiser, Aidan Sezer, for 3 months and now Albert Kelly looks to have been dumped from first grade completely.
So, with all rep players out, the Titans' season in upheaval, the match scheduled 48 hours from Origin 2 and the poorly supported Storm coming to town; get ready for CBUS Super Stadium in Robina to be rocking on Monday night. It's almost the perfect storm to get the Rugby League juices really flowing. Heaven help us all. Speaking of heaven, watching this match could send you to the other place so either get on the sauce early, or have a little something on last try-scorer to keep you locked in.