DRAG(O)N A COWBOY | The St George-Illawarra Dragons have claimed a narrow win over the reigning prem...
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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 5 NRL Teamlists HERE.
Below, Paul runs the rule over Round 5, which kicks off at Allianz Stadium on Friday night:
Your match of the round to get the weekend off to a flyer. The Bulldogs travel to Moore Park to face the reigning premiers and these two teams won't be playing nicely. The rivalry renewed and the hatred between fan bases always at a delightful high, there will be plenty of emotion in this match. Last season, when ‘Dogs fans finally got the chance to express their disappointment to the face of Sonny Bill Williams, he responded with a 5 star performance.
This time, he returns from a few weeks off and will be freshened up nicely for the encounter. A danger sign for the visitors. The Chooks and Williams will hit the visitors hard early and then use the superior ruck speed and field position to get ahead. But it won't be easy. These teams are well matched with the fiery enthusiasm of Josh Reynolds up against the class and subtlety of James Maloney; and that's just a taste. Maloney's forward pack will give him and his home side the advantage.
That's correct. The Broncos at Suncorp on Friday night with ‘bolts' Hadley on the call. There is simply no reason to watch this match via your free-to-air provider if you don't live in QLD. Maybe that's an exaggeration but for the 3 or 4 people who read this ‘column', you know what I mean. And that's good because I don't. In fact I wouldn't have a clue what's happened to the first paragraph of this ‘preview'. Ah yes, Broncs v Eels.
The mighty Eels have come out swinging over the past fortnight. In fact, they've only played one stinker this season and should be proud of this turnaround. This week, they'll need all of that confidence to get over a league leading Brisbane team who'll be buoyed by the return Justin Hodges. His battle against fellow veteran Willie Tonga will be a highlight and while on the subject, keep an eye on Ben Barba and Jarryd Hayne chiming in to their respective backlines - they are two of the best.
My tip: Broncos 24-14
Saturday afternoon footy comes to you from the Sutherland Shire as the Warriors travel to god's country to face the cellar dwelling Sharks. 2014 looks like another horrible year in the making for Cronulla. They've not won a game this year, are still without some of their best players and the off field stupidity continues. How can they turn this around against a New Zealand team that have won their last two matches? A bit of violence may help.
Whilst Todd Carney continues to shake off the rust, Cronulla won't be able to score many points. They'll need to turn the clock back and win with a very aggressive attitude from their forwards. Bryce Gibbs and Chris Heighington will need to play above themselves and the one-and-only Andrew Fafita will need to put a horrible week behind him if the home side are any chance at stopping a potent Warriors attack. He does; and Sharks finally get their shit together.
You guessed it; the Raiders have won two massive games on the road this year and lost their only game at home. The enigma that is the Green Machine continues to confound and confuse the smaller minds of Rugby League, like your humble ‘match previewer' for Leagueunlimited.com. This week, the 2 and 2 Raiders travel to the Blue Mountains to take on the Panthers for part 2 of your Saturday triple header. A ripper.
Peter Wallace returns for the home side to bring back some cohesion and leadership to a team who were heavily favoured to beat Parramatta last week and looked like a mess. They'll need his direction and control because if Canberra get the weight of possession and get any kind of lead, they can hold on. Matt Moylan and Anthony Milford are the ones to watch here in an entertaining battle out west. Penrith bounce back to grind one out in the rain.
Goosebumps. The famous red V up against the famous cardinal and myrtle at the famous Sydney Cricket Ground and this one is for the purists. Saturday night football comes to you from the hallowed turf as the Dragons take on South Sydney in what will be a big test for both clubs. Both surprising losers as last start favourites, these clubs won't want the trend to continue. They've responded with significant changes.
Coach Maguire has re-installed John Sutton in the 6 jersey whilst Steve Price has made the third change to his halfback position for 2104. Sam Williams dropped for Michael Witt and whilst injury has played a part in this, it can't be good for cohesion. Souths, by contrast, appear to have bigger problems than a few positional changes. They'll need to overcome their struggles with the new ruck speed rules if they are any chance here. The return of Greg Inglis and Josh Dugan a mouth-watering prospect.
NOTE: Daylight Saving Time ends at 3am on Sunday 6 April. All eastern states come back into alignment on Australian Eastern Standard Time from this point.
Sunday afternoon football from AAMI Park in Melbourne has the mighty Titans travelling south to face the Storm. Gold Coast are cruising at 3 and 1. They've had huge wins against the Raiders in Canberra; and then the Cowboys last week to put them equal first on the ladder. I haven't picked them once. Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer have combined well to back up their grizzly old forwards and John Cartwright has them playing disciplined footy.
Melbourne, as always, are a picture of ridiculousness without Cameron Smith. Smith has proven time and again that he's been the most influential footballer in the NRL since about 2007. Last week, the Storm were belted without his leadership and direction; if he plays this week, they win. The home side will have a spring in their step here, probably caused by the rocket firmly entrenched in their collective rear ends by Craig Bellamy after giving up 40 points last week.
Finally, Leichhardt Oval on a Sunday afternoon under beautiful blue skies. Something about the hill at Leichhardt looks lovely on TV, doesn't it? It looks like a family friendly atmosphere with a bunch of passionate Rugby League punters out for a good time. Looks can be deceiving. The Balmain faithful will turn up in their droves to yell profanities at none other than the most hated team in rugby league, the Sea Eagles. Perhaps don't bring your kids along to this one.
Manly lost their opening match by one point, after leading by 20, and have not lost since. They've the 2nd best defence in the comp and a collection of the toughest SOB's in the NRL. They'll saunter into the Tigers spiritual home with 8 days rest and as favourites. To be any chance at cracking the visitors, Robbie Farah will need to be at his scintillating best - he'll need very quick play-the-balls from his forwards and an error free match from his backs. A huge ask - but this ground has demons.
My tip: Wests Tigers 17-16
The Cowboys have 1 win from 4 starts and I've got no idea how this happened. But let's have a crack at some criticism anyway. As has been the case for the last decade in Townsville, Jonathan Thurston needs support. His spine in 2014 seems to need a few more games to give him the options he deserves. Rory Kostjasyn and Michael Morgan have not yet struck fear into the hearts of opposition defences whilst Robert Lui has certainly lost a step.
The Knights have an identical record but have a better excuse for it. They've lost their halfback to injury and Darius Boyd has only just returned to shore up their cohesion in attack and defence. This will put them in good stead to travel north to tropical Queensland and give the home side a bloody good show. An emotional Knights team will be tested here and the Cowboys will be desperate in a top shelf Monday Night battle.