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. With a few teams showing some form and others not, how accurate can his tips be this weekend?
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Below, Paul runs the rule over Round 4, which kicks off at Allianz Stadium on Friday night:
Sydney Roosters v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Friday 7:40pm at Allianz Stadium
Your Grand Final replay kicks off round 4 of the premiership from Allianz Stadium and this one is a beauty. Both clubs scored miraculous victories last week, just to show us again what the mentality of a champion looks like. These two teams have it all; superstar backlines and a couple of forward packs that are mobile, agile and hostile. Friday night footy this week will be un-missable so let's hope the Eagles fans travel and the Roosters fans come out in numbers.
Manly will start as heavy outsiders which is a shock considering their calibre, but this will inspire them to a fiery opening 20 minutes. Cue the chess match between two great coaches and a couple of resourceful halfbacks and there won't be much between them. Kieran Foran unlikely to play is a huge loss for the visitors but we still get to see Jared Waerea-Hargreaves against Brenton Lawrence. This will be your match of the round.
My tip: Roosters 19-18
The Dragons are undefeated and looking like the professional outfit they should be. With the army of south coast juniors slowly improving their depth and the signing of quality halves, this team now represents a club with belief. So you can bet your last dollar that I won't have the barrels to tip against them facing the Broncos as a home game, let alone at Wollongong. The Illawarra will come alive on Friday night with the Saints on a 3 match winning streak.
To put this into perspective, the red V lost their first 3 games last year and only won 7 games all season. Brisbane will travel south with plenty of confidence after 3 solid hit outs to start their season and their defence has been the catalyst. Saints won't bust them open easily, but will find a weakness through superior performances from Gareth Widdop and, after getting his stinker out of the way for 2014 last week, Sam Williams delivers.
My tip: Dragons 22-18
The Warriors shocked the world last week when they travelled to Townsville as long-shots, only to steal a win from the Cowboys and get their season back on track. This will give them plenty to run with on Saturday as they host the visiting Tigers. Wests were magnificent last week and made it look downright easy at times against a heavily favoured Souths team. They will again start as outsiders and rightly so, considering the geographic hurdle, but it won't stop them.
The Warriors still have a few problems in their forward pack, which has been their strong point for so long. Wests will take advantage of superior go forward to give their kids in the 7 and 1 the space they need. This is Luke Brooks' first trip to NZ and it will challenge him but with a bit of luck, some guidance from Robbie Farah and some help in defence, things will work out. Brooks and the Tigers are your upset of the week.
My tip: Tigers 30-20
The 5.30pm Saturday nightmare slot returns for 2014 and these two teams deserve better. The battle of the west comes to us from Parramatta's Pirtek Stadium as the Panthers scoot down the M4 for 20 minutes to face the Eels. Parra turned up with their pride on the line, last week. They went to Brookvale and should have come away with the biscuits but according to their captain, Jarryd Hayne, they were robbed.
This week, he may have even more opportunities to chat to the officials as he spends plenty of time behind his own try line. The Panthers won't be messing around here. They've won 2 from 3 with a farce in Melbourne their only loss and they'll be too good for the home side here. Parra lose a bit of cohesion with Chris Sandow named as their half but even more so, the Eels will need to protect Sandow in the defensive line. Ivan Cleary will be sending plenty of traffic his way.
My tip: Panthers 30-12
The lovely folk of Western Australia get a treat on Saturday night as the Bulldogs take their home game across the Nullarbor to NIB Stadium in Perth. And there will be nothing but bad news for them upon arrival. Melbourne don't have the flashiest form these days and at times, they're more painful to watch than a West Coast Eagles match, but they know how to get the job done. They've won their opening 3 matches so my criticism of their style is about as worthless as a West Coast Eagles match.
The ‘Dogs are improving every week, but still have trouble converting good field position. They won't get any advantages in that area against Melbourne and if the likes of Aiden Tolman and James Graham can't bend the line, they'll be in trouble. Keep an eye on notorious sledgers Billy Slater and Josh Reynolds yapping at each other in this one and while you're at it, watch the way Cameron Smith aims his ball runners at Tony Williams; could be a tough night for T-Rex.
My tip: Storm 16-12
This Sunday, the Raiders could feel the full extent of wrath and rage sitting idle in the angry, boiling and bursting veins of Bunnies coach Michael Maguire. Souths have lost 2 in a row after destroying the Chooks in round 1, including giving up 25 points against Wests last week and this won't make ‘Madge' happy. Their defence in recent times has almost been, dare I say, the benchmark and now, the Green Machine could be in some trouble.
The Raiders were completely outplayed on their home turf last week and whilst the absence of Shaun Fensom was a good excuse, it's not a great one. Fensom returns to harden up Canberra's soft underbelly but it won't make a lick of difference. John Sutton plays his 211th first grade game for the mighty Rabbitohs, the most ever played by anyone in the history of the club. This is massive. A tip of the hat to ‘Sutto; his teammates won't let him lose this one.
My tip: Rabbitohs 28-14
15 v 16 on the ladder. It's been rough going for these two clubs so far with injury destroying their jump out of the gates. Playmakers, try-scorers and Captains have all gone down with ailments and with a combined 1 win from 6 starts, they are reeling. It will be survival of the fittest at Hunter Stadium on Sunday afternoon as the Sharks head north to face the Knights. Don't expect a lot of flash in this one - there will be grind.
Todd Carney returned from injury last week and had a hand in everything but unfortunately for Carney and the Sharks, he had a hand in plenty of errors as well. While Carney continues to shake off the rust, Cronulla will struggle. He'll be better this week and if Newcastle doesn't hold on to the football, Carney will find a way. They will. He won't. The Knights play with a renewed sense of purpose in front of an emotional home crowd and Newcastle finally get off the mark.
My tip: Knights 18-16
Monday Night Football comes to you from Robina as the Titans host another Queensland derby against the Cowboys to close out round 4 of the Premiership. Gold Coast were methodical last week when they travelled down to Canberra as heavy underdogs to embarrass the Raiders. They do that sometimes, the Titans, just find a way to confuse the crap out punters and make my tipping week a miserable one. But I'm holding up OK, thanks for asking.
The Cowboys, by contrast, were on the opposite end of the ledger. After having their pants pulled down by the Warriors in Townsville, pride will be on the line here. A great battle up front with the Titans' veteran trio of Myles, Harrison and Bird up against the raging young bulls Jason Taumalolo and Tariq Sims. If the latter, along with Tamou and Scott, can improve their ruck speed and give Jonathan Thurston a retreating defensive line, the Cowboys bounce back.
My tip: Cowboys 24-20