SUNDAY SPECIALS | Two tight tussles for NRL Sunday - Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders flexing th...
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Paul's recovered from the joys of celebrating the NSW Origin win... and is 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 15 NRL Teamlists HERE.
Below, Paul runs the rule over Round 15:
Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
Friday 7:45pm at GIO Stadium, Canberra
If everyone has calmed down… if you've come down… if you've settled down…. Then join me on a trip down to the nation's capital for Friday night footy. Raiders fans are notorious for their long-standing rage towards the NRL and broadcasters for not showing enough free-to-air Canberra games. Well, Greenhouse, here is your chance. You sit 14th on the ladder and are proud owners of the worst defence in the NRL.
What could possibly go wrong with ratings if we show the Raiders on Friday night footy? Nothing, baby. This'll be a beauty. Canberra are celebrating the 20 year anniversary of their 1994 grand final victory over the Bulldogs and in attendance on this night will be some of the game's greatest ever, as well as your humble previewer. So, I've packed 72 jackets and a beanie to see the Bulldogs return to the winners' circle, but only if their halves have anything left in the tank.
My tip: Bulldogs 20-12
Saturday night in Auckland as Round 15 continues from across the Tasman and the Broncos continue to power through the rep season. They've won 4 straight and sit in sixth place. Their defence over the past month has been outstanding. Credit coach Anthony Griffin for turning this famous franchise around and allowing kids like Ben Hunt the chance to improve. He surely has. Griffin has also shown remarkable patience with Ben Hannant and Ben Barba and it seems they are about to reward him.
The Warriors also have a coach to thank. Matt Elliott was fired a while back and this team is 4 and 2 under Andrew McFadden. They will be ready to fire here, with no players backing up from origin 2 and a bunch of players feeling more comfortable in their skin and comfortable in their positions. None more than Sam Tomkins at fullback. Shaun Johnson will combine well with the Englishman and the Warriors win.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Saturday 7:30pm at Remondis Stadium, Woolooware
Saturday night in the Shire and this place will still be buzzing. The Sharks' favourite son and captain, Paul Gallen will come home a hero whether he takes the field or not. Speaking of taking the field, the bye week certainly has done more for the Sharks than any bye week has done in the history of rugby league. Possibly. Point is, Todd Carney, Jeff Robson, Luke Lewis, all returning for the home side and they could finally be capable of something special here.
Manly won't care who is wearing the famous skye blue and black. They sit second on the ladder and have all the experience in the world to handle a trip this far south. It will be a lovely, crisp and celebratory evening at Remondis but after the origin love, comes the battle of the beaches. Cronulla may finally look like a first grade team here, but it simply won't be enough. Kieran Foran and the Manly forwards too good. They win the ground game and finish stronger.
My tip: Sea Eagles 22-20
AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon has the Eels bringing their horrendous away record to Melbourne to face the Storm. If Jarryd Hayne is rested here, after another herculean effort on Wednesday night, possibly the greatest night of my life, then Parra are next to no chance. Melbourne have not been fantastic at home this year and god knows they don't strike fear into opponents the way they used to, but Craig Bellamy has begun to trust his backups.
This should be enough to get them home against a very good Parra side. Their forwards will be willing via the likes of Pauli Pauli and the Paulo boys. In fact, this crew of big men with trouble the Storm plenty in this one, but the experience of the home side will get them home. Ben Roberts will enjoy playing against his old teammates whilst they will not enjoy playing in 11 degree temperatures. Roberts v Chris Sandow could send twitter into a meltdown.
My tip: Storm 23-22
Gold Coast Titans v St George Illawarra Dragons
Sunday 3:00pm at Cbus Super Stadium, Robina
Stuck at the wrong end of the ladder and the wrong end of good form, these two clubs are struggling. 12th and 13th on the ladder, respectively. They've won only one game of football over the past 12 combined weeks and the grind of the NRL is certainly to blame for both teams. Their disastrous fall from grace after sensational beginnings this year can only be due to injury, exhaustion and a weakening of the most important positions on the field, the 7 and 6.
The Titans will start another brand new halves combo in Maurice Blair and the one and only Daniel Mortimer, whilst the Dragons are getting more comfortable with Benji and Englishman Gareth Widdop. The latter will lead the way in this one and after showing good signs against the Panthers last week, will be too good for the Titans. Fingers crossed that Greg Bird, Trent Merrin and Josh Dugan don't miss the bus to this match and pass the breath test. Bless them.
My tip: Dragons 24-18
With no less than 7 players asked to back up from origin in this one, we already have two who won't make it. Brent Tate and Matt Scott have serious injuries keeping them sidelined and the Cowboys, again, could see their season slip away through a hat full of bad luck. Speaking of bad luck, ladies and gentleman, your Newcastle Knights. Once nearly unbeatable at home, the Novocastrians are now beatable everywhere. They've lost 7 in a row and are wooden spoon favourites.
Their biggest chance to turn the season around could be on Monday night against an understrength Cowboys. It will take a massive effort from the likes of Willie Mason and Jeremy Smith to play like they are young again. If they do and the home side win the battle of the forwards and win the ruck, Jarrod Mullen will show he hasn't given up on the season just yet, unlike some Knights fullbacks who shall remain nameless. Newcastle find a way here.