DOGS DOWNED | Canberra came from the clouds to down Canterbury in the National Capital this afternoo...
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This week?s action comes to you from 3 states and 2 countries as we take in our second long weekend in a row, well sort of anyway. With the Anzac Day holiday on Tuesday many a punter will get the opportunity to extend the League Week out to five days, with Monday presenting a great prospect to sit on the lounge all day and read the paper ahead of Tuesday?s big game.
I tipped 5 from 7 last week to clock in at 27/42 for the season. Not bad, but not great. Round 7 offers some value for the man in the street who?s looking to tip an upset or two. I get the feeling there?s a few out there this week and with Test jersey?s on offer in two weeks a few players are sure to put their hands up.
Eels v Tigers
We kick-off Round 7 with the Battle of the West as the Eels host the Tigers in what will be a keenly anticipated clash. Straight out I?ve got to say I?m expecting Parra to win here, partly because it?s a home game, but the desperation within the camp must be at fever pitch. This club is like a tinder box ready to go up if they don?t bag a win this week. Questions will be asked of the coaching staff who are all leaving at the end of the year, if they haven?t already.
The reigning premiers seemed to have solved the loss of Benji last week, but then had priceless fullback Hodgson catch the contagious broken hand syndrome, ruling him out for 3 weeks or so. McDonnell will fill his boots in the meantime, leaving the backline looking a tad on the inexperienced side. The forwards still look good though and this should be where the Tigers take on Parra.
But I fancy the home side. Even though they?re coming off the bye I really think they?ll get the cash through pure desperation to record only their second victory of the season. A pair of Smiths in the halves has me wondering which one is salt and vinegar and which is barbecue, but does this mean that Ben is light and tangy? And I've got Brian pegged as sour cream and chives. Regardless, their forwards look good and so do their three-quarters, so I?m putting my hard earned on the Eels avoiding another team meeting and giving it to the Tigers. I said this about the Dragons last week, and if the Eels don?t get up here it?s going to be a very long season for their fans.
Warriors v Rabbitohs
Super Saturday gets underway in Auckland with the first of my value for money outsider tips of the week. I?m taking the Warriors in this contest but not without having a look at the odds being posted for a Bunnies victory.
I was impressed with the effort and concentration of Souths for about 60 minutes against the Bulldogs last week. And if Merritt catches that inside ball from MacDougall, well things could have been a whole lot different. But this game will be another test for them in their crusade for that elusive first victory of the year. New Zealand boasts a big pack and they?re at home, meaning the Rabbitohs do enter what?s sure to be a hostile environment in Auckland.
The Warriors have made a few changes and I must applaud Ivan Cleary for throwing young playmaker Grant Rovelli into the action at five-eighth. I?ve been rather impressed by his efforts from the bench so far this year and he thoroughly deserves a chance to show his wares in the number 6 for 80 minutes. The Warriors? pack is bigger and when you look across the team I think they can take the Bunnies who haven?t beaten the Auckland outfit for nearly 7 years and have a 2 from 7 record at Ericsson Stadium. I?m tipping the Warriors, but with Walker back and the enthusiasm they showed last week you just can?t discount Souths. Plus, at $2.95 they present excellent value.
Storm v Knights
We head down to Melbourne next as the Storm play their first game of the season at home against the Knights in what shapes as another intriguing contest. Again, I?m tipping the home team to win because that?s what you have to do in this situation, but the Knights are capable of an upset with or without Joey. Olympic Park is a narrow corridor of grass and Newcastle posses the forwards to go through the middle of the park.
I must admit to some mild astonishment last week as I watched the Storm play the Panthers and it wasn?t just because they were in Adelaide. Greg Inglis?s loping running style reminds me of a young Ken Nagas, but with added ball skills and Crocker appears to be enjoying his footy in our southern capital. Cronk is able bodied and Smith is the second best hooker in the game.
All this adds up to Melbourne taking the two points against the Knights, but I?d be lying if I said I wasn?t eyeing off the juicy odds on offer with our mates at Centrebet. Newcastle for the win is worth $2.52 and with a pretty good team (Thaiday, Carney, Gidley, Buderus, Newton & Simpson) they could get there. I also tend to agree with Craig Bellamy, I?m not 100% certain that Johns won?t play. I?m tipping the Storm, but a lazy $20 on the Knights could prove a nice emotional hedge.
Sharks v Cowboys
Our final clash on Saturday sees the All-Conquering Cowboys surface in the Shire ready to wrestle the Sharks, who last week wore the guise of a Grey Nurse and displayed the killer instinct of a Wobbegong.
There would need to be a dramatic shift in the attitudes of both clubs for the Cowboys to concede defeat in this contest - they simply have too much for the Sharks. Cronulla had brief periods of cohesion against the Tigers last week and Thompson had his best game for his new club so far. But without Kimmorley they resembled bunch of clowns in a Vee-dub.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, are looking at new ways to improve their team and shifting players around in the opening rounds of the comp to make sure they have the right combinations happening. With Hannay and Firman in Qld Cup, North Queensland almost arrogantly display their depth of talent without skipping a beat on the footy field. They should win by miles on Saturday against a disorganised Sharks side.
Bulldogs v Sea Eagles
Sunday kicks-off with a cracker as the boys from Manly jump on a ferry down to Homebush where the Dogs look to continue their domination over the Sea Eagles. Canterbury has won 11 of the past 14 encounters, with each club winning away from home against one another last year.
I visited Fortress Brooky last week to take in the atmosphere of one of the last great suburban grounds remaining in the game. I thought the Sea Eagles played well for most of the match but ultimately let themselves down. At 8-0 they seemed to think they had the game won and then later on, when trailing by 8, Orford failed with a simple conversion that could have taken them to extra time. It will certainly be an entirely different feeling out at Telstra this week, but I tend to think Manly have got a great opportunity to make it up against the Bulldogs and there?s every chance they could walk away with the chocolates in this one.
It?s another game where things could go against me, but in this case the odds offered aren?t worth taking a bet on. Manly have terrific three-quarters and their backrow is up there too, but I think Canterbury will overpower the them through the strength of their forwards, lead by O?Meley, Mason, Asotasi and Ryan who are all playing first class footy. Sonny Bill should get plenty more time on the field and his impact will be crucial to the Doggies. Canterbury by a few.
Broncos v Panthers
The Sunshine State picks up the baton next as the Mountain Men hop on a plane to Brissy to play the Broncos in a perplexing bout. Neither team played well last week and it?s hard to work out who actually has the form running into this one. Have Penrith?s bubble burst? Was it a bubble in the first place or merely a glut of lucky escapes and close games over the opening 6 rounds? And Brisbane, they?ve discovered how to win but it?s not convincing in any way, shape or form.
One things? for sure, Civoniceva is playing well at the moment and he does deserve rep selection for Australia in a fortnight. Perry remains at halfback and Thorn on the bench should add some starch to the Broncos pack. Hodges also returns to add some much needed spark in the backline, with Tate also on the bench looking for his first game of the year.
With the exception of last week?s dismal effort, I would have said Penrith have the Broncos measure right now. And the Broncos boast a 65% win ratio against the Panthers. To me Brisbane look like a team on their way up after grinding out a few hard fought victories, and Penrith appear to be on the decline despite their halves still firing each week. I?m going to take the Broncos up at Suncorp in what could potentially be an entertaining and open contest.
Dragons v Roosters
The weekend concludes with the unusual situation of a Tuesday afternoon game between the now ?traditional? Anzac Day game at the SFS. I love watching footy at this ground and as it turns out so do plenty of other people. I think they should get a bumper crowd for what has been an absorbing duel between these two clubs over the past few years.
Saints are coming off a character building victory against Manly and have most of their team intact. Young has been suspended leaving Gorrell to most likely enter the run-on side. He can kick and has been in solid form of late. Apart from that the Dragons need to turn up to the game with plenty of intensity and commitment because things are getting ugly down at Bondi and it would be embarrassing to lose to them at this stage.
The Roosters have been hit pretty hard by injuries and more or less hobble into this game after sacking Soward from the team altogether. He makes way for Finch with Wing to the starting hooker?s role. I think young Jamie got a bit of a raw deal out of this considering Wing never started a game with him at hooker. But this game will be won through the forwards as it usually is. This is where the Dragons have a pretty clear advantage. With so many players out injured, the Roosters bench is pretty light on and I doubt they can foot it with the bigger and more mobile Dragons. Saints to win comfortably.
The Raiders have the bye in Round 7 and enjoy the luxury of consolidating their position on the ladder after a stirring victory for the club over the Warriors last weekend. They?ll be taking stock during the week before travelling up to Lang Park to take on the Broncos in Round 8.