Sunday 17 December 2017 / 01:19 AM

NRL Round 13 Preview

Broncos v Sea Eagles – 7.35pm (AEST), Friday, June 5 @ Suncorp Stadium

The storyline: Can Manly top off their good-news week with an upset in Brisbane, potentially saving coach Geoff Toovey’s bacon in the process? Man of the moment Daly Cherry-Evans is tipped to be a late inclusion.

 

The form guide:  The Sea Eagles were desperately unlucky to not come up with their third win in four games, sunk by a last-minute try in Townsville last Saturday. The Broncos were impressive in subduing the Raiders in a 24-12 post-Origin victory, their fourth win in five outings.

 

The selection table: Justin Hodges returns, which pushes Jordan Kahu to the wing and Lachlan Maranta out of the side. Corey Parker is out and will be replaced in the No.13 by Sam Thaiday. Feleti Mateo makes a return for Manly, with James Hasson dropping to 18th man duties. Tom Trbojevic will miss out in a reshuffle if DCE returns.

 

The match-up:  Hodges v Matai is always an engrossing duel.

 

The history:  Manly has moved ahead in the overall count 20-18-1, but Brisbane still holds the edge at Suncorp, 9-8.

 

The last time they met:  The Sea Eagles grafted out a 16-4 win at Brookvale in Round 21 last year.

 

The stat:  Manly has won five of the last six and 10 of the last 13 between the teams.

 

The verdict: There’s a hint of a boilover in the air, but the Sea Eagles will struggle for points if Cherry-Evans doesn’t play. The Broncos should get up in a seesawing struggle. Broncos by 4.

 

Tigers v Titans – 7.35pm (AEST), Friday, June 5 @ Leichhardt Oval

The storyline: Beware the jilted Titans, who will be looking to take their anger out on someone after being spurned by Daly Cherry-Evans – and the out-of-sorts Tigers are in the firing line.

 

The form guide:  The Tigers have lost seven of their last nine, including their last three in a row. The Titans are on a three-match losing run, despite competing strongly in back-to-back home losses to Cronulla (23-22) and South Sydney (22-16).

 

The selection table: David Nofoaluma has been named to make a long-awaited return for injured centre Tim Simona, but is in doubt, as is Curtis Sironen. Aaron Woods (Origin) and Keith Galloway (injury) return to the side. Dene Halatau remains at hooker for the injured Robbie Farah. Dave Taylor is back in the Titans’ starting side and Mark Iaone has replaced Matthew White on the bench. David Mead is expected to make a late return for Kevin Gordon.

 

The match-up:  Rival captains and front-rowers Aaron Woods and Nate Myles will both be looking for a psychological edge ahead of the second Origin clash.  

 

The history:  The clubs’ 14 previous matches have been shared seven apiece, while they’ve won one match each at Leichhardt Oval.

 

The last time they met:  The Tigers scored a dramatic 19-18 win over the strife-torn Titans at Cbus Super Stadium in Round 1 thanks to a Pat Richards field goal.

 

The stat:  Neil Henry enjoys a 4-1 record coaching against Jason Taylor.

 

The verdict: The Titans have better form on the board, while the Tigers seem well down on confidence with a misfiring attack hampering their progress. The visitors’ firepower in the form of Elgey, Sezer, Roberts and James should be too much for the Tigers to handle. Titans by 8.

 

Knights v Raiders – 3.00pm (AEST), Saturday, June 6 @ Hunter Stadium

The storyline: The Knights and Raiders are both at risk of losing touch with the top eight as the regular season rounds the halfway marker – a win is imperative for both sides this weekend.

 

The form guide:  The Raiders are playing far better than three straight losses would suggest, performing well enough to beat lesser teams during their defeats to the Dragons, Bulldogs and Broncos. The Knights are in a big hole, losing seven of their last eight – but they were courageous in the face of a massive injury toll last week, edged out 24-20 by the Warriors in Auckland.

 

The selection table: Kurt Gidley comes back into the side as a replacement for the injured Tyrone Roberts, while Kade Snowden also returns. Jordan Rapana comes back from injury on the wing, which sees Sisa Waqa switching to centre and Jarrad Kennedy to the backrow.

 

The match-up:Gun former centres pitched into the fullback role with their respective clubs, Dane Gagai and Jack Wighton will have a big say on Saturday afternoon.

 

The history: Canberra holds a 22-18-1 advantage in 41 previous clashes, but Newcastle leads the count 13-6 at Hunter Stadium.

 

The last time they met:  The Knights cruised to a 26-12 win in Round 6, 2014.

 

The stat:  Notoriously poor travellers, the Raiders have won three of their last four on the road.

 

The verdict: The Knights have been patchy at best over the last two months, while the Raiders have displayed top-eight qualities despite their recent losing run. Get on the visitors. Raiders by 10.

 

Rabbitohs v Warriors – 5.30pm (AEST), Saturday, June @ nib Stadium, Perth

The storyline: The Warriors are aiming to keep their roll going by breaking their Perth duck, while the Reynolds-less Rabbitohs are looking to keep their head above water with their third consecutive win.

 

The form guide:  The Warriors have won three straight, all by four-point margins as they continue in search of an 80-minute performance. The Rabbitohs have edged out Parramatta and Gold Coast in the past fortnight as they slowly learn to win without halfback linchpin Adam Reynolds.

 

The selection table: Both sides are unchanged but will take extended benches for the long haul to Perth.

 

The match-up:  After a dismal Origin display, Greg Inglis stepped up big time against the Titans last week. Meanwhile, Sam Tomkins made an ultra-tentative return at fullback for the Warriors last week but remains a huge part of their campaign.

 

The history: The Warriors lead the tally 18-10 since 1995. 

 

The last time they met:  Dylan Walker, pitched into fullback at halftime and playing with a broken hand, produced a man-of-the-match performance in Souths’ come-from-behind 34-18 victory over the Warriors in Perth in Round 13 last year.

 

The stat:  The Warriors are 0-6 in Perth, playing matches in the city against Western Reds, Cronulla, Manly and Souths.

 

The verdict: A very difficult game to get a read on, with both sides in winning touch but producing unmistakably patchy efforts against lower half of the table opposition. Game-breakers will prove the difference here, with Shaun Johnson and Greg Inglis holding their sides’ fortunes in their hands. Warriors by 2.

 

Panthers v Storm – 7.30pm (AEST), Saturday, June 6 @ Pepper Stadium

The storyline: The Storm are looking to bounce back from their worst performance of the season, while the Panthers are trying to hold their season together after yet another injury blow.

 

The form guide:  The Panthers were upset 26-20 by the Eels last week, while the Storm were trounced 24-2 by the Roosters. Both sides have gone 2-2 in their last four outings.

 

The selection table: Matt Moylan’s syndesmosis strain and Robert Jennings’ demotion has caused a huge backline shuffle as Dallin Watene-Zelezniak moves to fullback for Dean Whare’s (hamstring) return in the centres. Waqa Blake moves to the wing for Issah Yeo with Sika Manu starting in the back row with Tyrone Peachey returning from suspension on the bench. Billy Slater returns at fullback for Cameron Munster in an otherwise unchanged line-up. Christian Welch, Hymel Hunt and Ben Hampton make-up Melbourne’s seven-man bench.

 

The match-up:  Billy Slater’s return should spark the Storm, while Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has big shoes to fill with Matt Moylan sidelined for a couple of months.

 

The history:  Melbourne holds a commanding 21-7 lead in matches since 1998, including a 7-5 advantage at Penrith.

 

The last time they met:  The Storm prevailed 24-10 away against the in-form Panthers in Round 24 last year.

 

The stat:  Ryan Hinchcliffe is 11 from 11 playing for the Storm against the Panthers, while Sam McKendry has lost eight straight for the Panthers against the Storm.

 

The verdict: Melbourne should be able to grind out a win over a disrupted Penrith line-up, with last Monday’s heavy loss serving as a timely wake-up call for the high-flying Storm. Storm by 14.

 

Sharks v Roosters – 4.00pm (AEST), Sunday, June 7 @ Remondis Stadium

The storyline: The Sharks and the Roosters are heading in opposite directions form-wise…and it could get ugly down in the Shire on Sunday afternoon.

 

The form guide:  Cronulla was pummelled 42-6 by the Dragons last week, their third loss in four games. The Roosters are well and truly back, notching their third straight success courtesy of a commanding 24-2 defeat of the Storm.

 

The selection table: Paul Gallen (glute tear) has been named to return at lock with Jayson Bukuya moving to the bench in place of Sami Sauiluma. Chris Heighinton returns on the bench in place of Tinirau Arona while Sosaia Feki (knee) and Ricky Leutele (shoulder) have been named on an extended bench. The Roosters are unchanged. Ben Barba looks set to miss the match with injury, which would see Feki come in on the wing and Michael Gordon or Valentine Holmes switch to fullback. Blake Ferguson could make a return for the Roosters.

 

The match-up:  Michael Ennis could play his way into a NSW jumper following Robbie Farah’s shoulder injury. Ironically, he comes up against Cameron Smith’s understudy Jake Friend this weekend.

 

The history:  The Roosters lead 56-30-2 overall, and 24-16-2 at Remondis Stadium.

 

The last time they met:  The Sharks staged an Easter Sunday boilover with a Jack Bird-inspired 20-12 triumph in Round 5.

 

The stat:  The Sharks have won three of their last four against the Roosters, and four of their last five hosting the Tricolours.

 

The verdict: Cronulla crumpled into a dismal heap last Sunday, and if there’s any side in the competition that can go for the jugular and rack up a big score against struggling opposition, it’s the ruthless Roosters. Roosters by 28.

 

Bulldogs v Dragons – 4.00pm (AEST), Monday, June 8 @ ANZ Stadium

The storyline: Shock competition leaders the Dragons are looking to inflict their second defeat on the injury-ravaged Bulldogs in the space of seven weeks in this Monday afternoon blockbuster.

 

The form guide:  The Bulldogs carved out a miraculous 41-34 win over the Raiders without their Origin stars before last weekend’s bye, only their second win in seven outings. The Saints just keep getting better, whipping the Sharks 42-6 as they notched their eighth win in nine games.

 

The selection table: Tony Williams has been ruled out for the season with a torn pectoral suffered at training this week. Trent Hodkinson’s return from Origin duty sees Moses Mbye move to the centres, Curtis Rona shifts to the wing and Tyrone Phillips returns to NSW Cup. James Graham’s (knee) return sees Sam Kasiano move back to the bench in place of Antonio Kaufusi. Josh Morris replaces Tim Lafai in the centres while Josh Jackson comes into the backrow for Williams. Brett Morris is an outside chance of returning. Joel Thompson (hamstring) returns as Will Matthews drops back to the bench and Jake Marketo becomes 18th man.

 

The match-up:  Blues No.7 Trent Hodkinson is under intense pressure, but he can push his retention barrow when he lines up against surprise Dally M Medal leader Benji Marshall.

 

The history:  The Bulldogs have won 17 and the Dragons 11 of 28 clashes, but the blue-and-whites’ advantage at ANZ Stadium is just 7-6.

 

The last time they met:  The Saints destroyed an under-strength Dogs outfit 31-6 in Round 6.

 

The stat:  Before the Dragons’ win earlier this season, they had lost five straight to the Bulldogs. Prior to that, the Saints had won six in a row, which followed on from a seven-match winning streak by the Bulldogs.

 

The verdict: The dreadful form of Hodkinson is the X-factor here. Unless he picks up his act, or Josh Reynolds has a rare blinder, the in-form Dragons spine should be able to steer their side to victory. Dragons by 7.

 

Eels v Cowboys – 7.00pm (AEST), Monday, June 8 @ Pirtek Stadium

The storyline: The Cowboys arrive in town looking to overturn an ordinary record at Parramatta and extend their record winning streak into double figures.

 

The form guide:   The Eels have defied their 15th-place status and the club’s off-field woes in the past fortnight, only narrowly going down to Souths before upsetting Penrith in Round 12. The Cowboys’ premiership claims get more compelling by the week, chalking up nine straight with a remarkable 18-14 escape against Manly last Saturday night.

 

The selection table: David Gower returns on the bench in place of Joseph Paulo, while Danny Wicks and Junior Paulo swap between starting and the bench. The Cowboys are unchanged.

 

The match-up:  If Chris Sandow is a rocks-or-diamonds player, then Johnathan Thurston is diamonds-or-whatever metal is more precious than diamonds. But if both No.7s produce the goods, it will be one hell of a showdown.

 

The history:  The Eels lead the tally 17-13-1 since 1995, including a 12-5 record at home.

 

The last time they met:  Parramatta edged North Queensland out 18-16 in a Round 13 thriller at Pirtek last year.

 

The stat:  The Cowboys have won just one of their last seven at Parramatta, with a 14-10 victory over the wooden spooners in 2013 their only away success against the Eels since 2006.

 

The verdict: You’d be crazy to back against the Cowboys’ remarkable winning streak coming to an end against a team as erratic as the Eels, but if Sandow, Norman, Radradra and co. fire, it could get interesting. This doesn’t feel like a blowout – get ready for a Monday night thriller. Cowboys by 2.

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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