Thursday 19 October 2017 / 06:18 PM

NRL ROUND 14 PREVIEW

SHARKS V STORM — Thursday, June 8, 7.50pm @ Southern Cross Group Stadium

The Storyline: The grand final rematch, rematch. Stakes are higher this time around as the two finalists sit first and second on the table.

The Stat: Cronulla remain the only team to keep Melbourne try-less this season, holding them to two points in the rematch earlier this season. This was the only time the Storm have failed to score a try at home in club history.

It’s a big game for: The fullback duel between Billy Slater and Valentine Holmes stands to produce fireworks. Throw in the added element of them both possibly vying for Queensland Origin spots and the intensity only rises.

Last time they met: In a dour, rain-soaked affair, Cronulla scrapped out a tight 11-2 result whilst flexing their defensive muscles

The Verdict: Star-studded, evenly-matched teams that are in great form. Unfortunately the match-up looks to again be hampered by the weather, and Cooper Cronk is a big omission from the Storm squad. Who handles the playmaking duties in his absence is of concern with back-rower Tohu Harris named in the halves. Further advantage to Cronulla for the outstanding home atmosphere in recent weeks and their comfort in scrapping out tight wins. Cronulla 1-12

SEA EAGLES V KNIGHTS — Friday, June 9, 6pm @ Lottoland

The Storyline: A golden opportunity for Manly to consolidate on good form and hold their position in the top eight.

The Stat: Manly lead the league in line-breaks with a shade under five a game, whilst Newcastle concede the most. Not a good sign.

Bonus stat: Newcastle haven’t won at Brookvale in over a decade and haven’t beaten Manly in five years.

It’s a big game for: Marty Tapau had his best game of the season last Sunday, tearing it up against the Canberra pack (22 runs, 227 metres). Like his club, we need to see some consistency to really buy it long-term.

Last time they met: Manly took care of business, whipping the Knights 36-16 at the back end of last season.

The Verdict: Though Newcastle will put up the usual fight, based on recent form and the stage of their season, I can’t go past the Sea Eagles here. Manly 13+

BRONCOS V RABBITOHS — Friday, June 9, 7.50pm @ Suncorp Stadium

The Storyline: Can Brisbane take advantage of the form differential and pick up an easy two points during the Origin period – as well as arresting a two-game losing streak?

The Stat: Brisbane have won four straight over the Rabbits.

It’s a big game for: Ben Hunt and Darius Boyd. Hunt, after sitting out six weeks with injury, has has his starting credentials questioned after the undefeated run without him, with talk mid-week surrounding whether Benji or Nikorima should possibly wear the No.7. Boyd, despite being the best fullback in the competition last season and enjoying similar form this year, is having his custodian job for Queensland discussed ad nauseam. Big performances will stop these conversations dead in their tracks.

Last time they met: Anthony Milford put a fresh spin on the ‘drop goal’, the Broncos walking away with a controversial 25-24 win after a big effort from Souths.

The Verdict: Simply put, not only should the Broncos win this game, they have to. The Origin period is tough times for them, and with everybody on deck and the clear ability separation between the teams, this is two points have to pick up. The Broncos have been better than advertised, and could make a statement with a convincing win. Broncos 13+

TITANS V WARRIORS — Saturday 10 June, 3pm @ Cbus Super Stadium

The Storyline: Do or die time. Even with the patchy form, somehow both teams only sit two wins outside the eight. The clock will soon start ticking on these clubs’ seasons.

The Stat: A rehash from last week, but the Warriors now sit at 0-6 on away games for the season. This will matter until proven otherwise – though their last win on Australian soil was on the Gold Coast in Round 22 last year.

It’s a big game for: Jarryd Hayne moving back to fullback. Needs to be involved.

Last time they met: A 78th-minute Ryan Hoffman try stole a victory up against a heavily wounded Titans outfit in Round 5.

The Verdict: The Warriors came close to edging the Eels, but lacked class in their opponents’ 20 to get the job done. Their away struggles continue to plague them. Though the Titans have been up and down all year, they’ve fared much better with Peats in the lineup. Should be tight, the Titans at home and kicking advantages have them just ahead. Titans 1-12

PANTHERS V RAIDERS — Saturday 10 June, 5.30pm @ Carrington Park

The Storyline: Who will show up? These teams continue to be wildly inconsistent. Take last week: the Panthers finally pulling out a strong performance against the Bulldogs, whilst the Raiders struggled to make inroads and lost yet another close game to Manly. This game could be fireworks or it could be a dud.

The Stat: Canberra are now 1-5 in games decided by six points or less following last week’s cliff-hanger at Lottoland. Something to watch for if the game is close late.

It’s a big game for: The Raiders halves need to start steering this team around the field. Their lack of direction when it matters will hold them out of the top tier until they turn it around.

Last time they met: The Raiders ended the Panthers’ season, convincing victors 22-12 at home in week two of the 2016 finals.

The Verdict: This is tough. Pinning either team to a certain level is basically impossible, and their form offers nothing. The Penrith pack has been underwhelming all year, Canberra holding a decent advantage in the middle. If they get rolling it’s over. Hardest pick of the week, could go either way. A nervous Canberra 1-12

EELS V COWBOYS — Saturday 10 June, 7.30pm @ TIO Stadium

The Storyline: Thurston’s day-to-day status leaves us with two main storylines: can the Cowboys hold up any longer without JT? Or, can JT stabilise the Cowboys?

The Stat: The Cowboys have been criticised for their stagnant offence throughout the season. They sit dead last in offloads with only 5.5 a game despite employing some sizeable and powerful runners. An area to improve on.

It’s a big game for: Mitchell Moses, especially without the ball. His defensive showing against the Warriors was one of the weakest of the season (from anybody), the visitors running in three tries straight through him. With Gutherson playing out of his skin and Norman’s return around the corner, Moses needs to lift.

Last time they met: Only five weeks ago, the Eels walked all over the depleted Cowboys, dominant in their 26-6 win despite Kenny Edwards’ historic slap sin-binning.

The Verdict: Both halfbacks’ questionable status makes this a difficult pick, as either inclusion could swing the result. The Eels are struggling for identity. The Cowboys are the more talented team and possess more weapons to pick up points. Hard to see the Eels outscoring them, and defending on their line will be an even tougher task against the Cowboys’ ball-players. Cowboys 1-12

TIGERS V ROOSTERS — Sunday 11 June, 4pm @ Campbelltown Stadium

The Storyline: The in-form Roosters are starting to build an intriguing premiership case, now sitting inside the top four. One has to wonder what the Tigers have left in the tank.

The Stat: The Tigers’ defence continues to disappoint, missing the most tackles in the competition (37 pg). Can’t afford to be anywhere near that number against the Roosters.

It’s a big game for: The Tigers’ forward pack. Largely pedestrian all season, they’ve struggled in the yardage game and have failed to set any kind of platform for their spine. To have any chance, not only this week but moving forward for the rest of their season, they need to be better.

Last time they met: Round 13 last season, halves pairing Jackson Hastings and Ryan Matterson steered the Roosters around in dreadful conditions en route to a 32-18 victory, only their third of the season. What a difference a year makes.

The Verdict: The Tigers hung in deep to mount a late comeback against the Dragons. Thing is, the Roosters are a much more dangerous attacking outfit than St. George. Whilst the Dragons excel in the defensive battle, the Roosters look to put teams to the sword. The Tigers can’t fall behind like they’ve become accustomed to. But they probably will. Roosters 13+

BULLDOGS V DRAGONS — Monday 12 June, 4pm @ ANZ Stadium

The Storyline: Can the Bulldogs dig themselves out of the hole?

The Stat: The Dragons sit in the top four of every major attacking category, a stark contrast to their opponents who have generated very little inspiration with the ball in hand. An accurate reflection of their positions on the ladder.

It’s a big game for: William Hopoate is safe, but has offered absolutely nothing dynamic from the back, his form on the whole very poor. Brenko Lee, who has been one of the Bulldogs’ best options all year, copped an axing after one average showing. It’s time for Hopoate to justify Des’ trust.

Last time they met: The Bulldogs continued their march to September last year, holding on with a desperate defensive showing to pull out a 13-10 victory in Round 21.

The Verdict: The Bulldogs are known for their fighting spirit, and managed to reverse the narrative from a similar situation earlier in the year with a win against Brisbane. This time around, it feels much more dense. There isn’t much to suggest that the Dogs should win this game, and the Dragons deserve the respect of favouritism. It would just be very on-brand for the Dogs to come and take this game. So don’t be surprised, still… Dragons 1-12

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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