FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
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Paul 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 16 NRL Teamlists HERE.
Below, Paul runs the rule over Round 16:
Round 16 kicks off from Brookvale Oval on Friday night as the Roosters head north for a Grand Final replay. This is your match of the round. The chooks have lost only 1 game in their last 9 weeks and Manly are rolling along just as nicely, on top of the table and looking as dangerous as ever. They'll miss Anthony Watmough, but have enough experience and agro to cover him and they will need to. The Roosters pack is a sight to behold.
With no rain forecast this week, the fortress surface should look better than we last saw and these two teams may actually score some points. But don't bet on too many. Last time they met, in Round 4, the Roosters were in a dry spell and lost 8-0. This time round, they are firing and fresh and will re-visit their domination of the Eagles. The halves battle, the forwards battle, the strength and speed of the outside backs… this is how you build premiership calibre teams.
So, the Broncos mid-season tryst around the world has ended and their return to Suncorp Stadium for Friday night footy came just in time. Your free-to-air broadcaster may have had to show Manly v Roosters on prime-time Brisbane TV, heaven forbid. That, or replays of Hey Hey its Saturday's greatest hits. Speaking of which, the Broncos will be happy to get the band back together this week as they face the last placed Sharks.
Brisbane may not be at their best without Andrew McCullough controlling the middle, but if given any space against the struggling Cronulla outside backs, they will run riot. Ben Barba is edging closer each week and we may even see his best here. Similarly, Justin Hodges and Jack Reed should have little problems handling Jono Wright and company. The poor Sharks forwards simply can't do everything, but they may score their first try in almost 5 hours of footy. Fingers crossed.
Good signs for the Tigers here. They come into this game after a week off and will be running onto the hallowed turf of Campbelltown Stadium with a spring in their step, their spine intact and almost at full strength. If they put the throttle down early and not wait for the Raiders to shoot themselves in the foot, this could be another disaster for Ricky Stuart and his downtrodden troops. The Raiders have won 1 from their past 6 matches and are hanging by a thread.
So, Saturday night from Sydney's west may only be a 2 hour drive for the visitors, but it will feel a lot longer on the way home. Robbie Farah's hangover should be completely gone so he, Aaron Woods and Keith Galloway will set the tone early. Luke Brooks and James Tedesco will continue where they left off earlier in the season and carve up the Raiders' league worst defence. Tigers by plenty as Canberra are simply too slow to keep up.
My tip: Wests Tigers 32-12
Back to Townsville for Jonathan Thurston and the Cowboys and they'll all breathe a sigh of relief. Since round 4 this season, North Queensland have won all their home games and lost all away. It's consistently inconsistent and if they are to continue this consistent incontinency then they'll be winners this Saturday night at 1300Smiles Stadium against the visiting Bunnies. No doubt Souths will have something to say about this.
The Rabbitohs are rolling. They've lost only twice in the past 11 weeks and are owners of the NRL's best defence and second best attack, statistically speaking. This is amazing. Especially considering how many jokes this ‘column' has made about their reliance upon Greg Inglis to be the only creative force with ball in hand. Lucky nobody is reading this, then I'd really be embarrassed. If anyone is reading this - I tipped 6 from 6 last week so there.
If footy fans are salivating at the thought of a grand final replay from Brookvale on Friday night, then they'll almost be frothing at the bit in anticipation of this one. Ivan Cleary heads back to where it all began for his coaching career and he brings a few ex-warriors with him. Elijah Taylor, Lewis Brown and Jeremy Latimore will enjoy the trip back to Auckland and will relish the opportunity to face their former teammates.
So will the Warriors. They've only lost 2 games in the past 8 weeks and will be primed to face the league leaders here. Sunday afternoon footy does not get much better than this and with a big crowd expected and the home side surprising favourites, it will be a beauty. The Panthers are coming off a nice break here and will be perfectly prepared to add to their current 5 match winning streak. They'll start strong and finish stronger.
Sunday afternoon from Pirtek Stadium where the mighty Eels are undefeated this year. A huge ask for the visiting Knights as they bring a 3 and 11 record with them to Sydney and are locked in as very heavy outsiders. They'll be focussing all their energy on stopping Jarryd Hayne, in the hopes of keeping this one close but it will be the Eels forwards they really have to worry about. New rake Isaac De Gois will be more familiar with his crew and they will thrive.
Parra wins the ruck and dominates field position - and then there'll be plenty of opportunities for Chris Sandow to have some fun. As long as he doesn't accuse any one of match fixing, he'll have a ball. The Eels should start fast, as they do at home, and then hold on for another win out west. But look for an improved performance from the Knights after a confidence boosting win last week with Kurt Gidley in his preferred position at halfback. Won't be enough though.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Melbourne Storm
Monday 7:00pm at WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Monday night footy has the Storm visiting the Dragons from a very cold and windy Wollongong. How do we know it's gonna be cold and windy at WIN Stadium, 5 days out from game day? We just know. We also know that Benji Marshall is now 5 games into his return to the greatest game of all and if we are to believe the experts, who said it would take Benji ‘6 or 7 weeks' to find his rhythm, then we are in for a treat here.
Melbourne's defence has not been great in 2014 and even with a vastly improved showing from their halves in recent times, they may struggle on both sides of the ball here. Benji could be set for a good one but Gareth Widdop will no doubt deliver. He gets Saints off on the right foot and even with Trent Merrin out injured, the Dragons forwards continue their fight for respect. Dan Hunt slated to return and Saints get revenge for that round 6 farce.