Sea Eagles v Tigers – 7.45pm, Friday, June 19 @ Brookvale Oval
The storyline: The Tigers need to overcome a Brookvale hoodoo if they are to keep the roll going from a season-best victory over the premiers last Friday, while the last-placed Sea Eagles are desperately vying to keep their tenuous finals hopes alive.
The form guide: After a brief revival, Manly has lost three in row – culminating in a 44-10 loss to Brisbane in Round 13. The Tigers arrested a four-match losing run to trounce Souths 34-6 in Round 14 despite the absence of NSW stars Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah.
Ladder: Sea Eagles 16th, Tigers 13th
Attack: Sea Eagles 16th, Tigers 11th
Defence: Sea Eagles 10th, Tigers 7th
The selection table: Peta Hiku moves to the centres for injured Manly captain Jamie Lyon, Tom Trbojevic comes on to the wing. Tom Symonds starts in the back row for the suspended Justin Horo as James Hasson comes onto the bench. Josh Starling is 18th man. Sauaso Sue (shoulder) is out for returning Origin representative Aaron Woods in an otherwise unchanged team from the one who beat South Sydney last week. Robbie Farah has not been named but is a slim chance of playing.
The match-up: Daly Cherry-Evans will be looking to atone for a dreadful Origin display, while opposing halfback Luke Brooks rocketed back to form in the Tigers’ big win over the Rabbitohs.
The history: Manly have won 13 and the Tigers eight of 21 previous clashes, while the Sea Eagles lead the count 6-1 at Brookvale.
The last time they met: The Sea Eagles trounced the Tigers 40-8 at Brookvale in Round 18 last year.
The stat: The Tigers are winless at Manly’s fortress since 2003.
The verdict: Neither side has displayed anything resembling consistent form in 2015, but the Brookvale and Cherry-Evans factors should tip the scales in the favour of the home side here. Sea Eagles by 4
Raiders v Cowboys – 3.00pm, Saturday, June 20 @ GIO Stadium
The storyline: The Origin-weary Cowboys arrive in the capital aiming to keep the 10-match winning streak alive, but the in-form Raiders – unencumbered by the rep drain – shape as a formidable foe.
The form guide: After producing strong form during a three-match losing run, the Raiders jumped back into the top eight with a resounding, Blake Austin-inspired 44-22 win at Newcastle. North Queensland extended their record winning run into double figures with an incredible escape at Parramatta in Round 13, recovering from a 24-point deficit to prevail 36-30.
Ladder: Raiders 7th, Cowboys 2nd
Attack: Raiders 1st, Cowboys 3rd
Defence: Raiders 14th, Cowboys 9th
The selection table: Unchanged from their 22-point win over the Newcastle Knights a fortnight ago, with mid-season signing Joey Leilua unlikely to come straight into the side. Rory Kostjasyn comes onto the bench for Ray Thompson in the only change for North Queensland, with all four of the club’s Origin players named to back up.
The match-up: Austin is in scintillating touch, while his No.6 opponent this weekend, Michael Morgan, can push his case for a Queensland starting spot for the decider.
The history: Canberra lead the all-time match tally 20-14 since 1995, including an imposing 13-4 record at home.
The last time they met: A Cowboys side missing their Origin stars was whipped 42-12 by the Raiders at GIO Stadium.
The stat: The Cowboys have won six of their last eight against the Raiders, but have not won in Canberra since 2012.
The verdict: This could be the match of the round between two in-form sides. While the Origin factor plays a part, the Cowboys have ample quality to shoulder the load with the likes of Taumalolo, Coote, Cooper and Granville. Expect it to go down to the wire before the Cowboys’ irresistible momentum and remarkable poise in the clutch propels them to 11 straight. Cowboys by 1
Titans v Warriors – 5.30pm, Saturday, June 20 @ Cbus Super Stadium
The storyline: The plucky Titans have crept into the top eight, while the Warriors have tumbled out of it on the back of two disappointing losses; this looms as a pivotal encounter in both clubs’ campaigns.
The form guide: The Titans have won their last two, downing the Tigers away (27-20) and the under-strength Bulldogs at home (28-16). After crashing to a dismal 36-4 loss to the Rabbitohs in Perth, the Warriors threw away a 14-point second-half lead before suffering a 25-21 last-minute loss to the Roosters at Mt Smart.
Ladder: Titans 8th, Warriors 10th
Attack: Titans 4th, Warriors 9th
Defence: Titans 15th, Warriors 12th
The selection table: Nate Myles’ return from Origin sees Eddy Pettybourne move to lock and Lachlan Burr move to the bench with Kieran Moseley (knee) injured, although Myles is in a bit of doubt with a foot injury. Ben Ridge and Matt Robinson swap between the back row and the bench while Dave Taylor is 18th man. Jacob Lillyman returns from Origin with Albert Vete dropping back to 18th man. Raymond Faitala-Mariner takes Sam Lisone’s (back) spot on the bench with Ryan Hoffman returning from Origin too while Siliva Havili replaces Jonathan Wright on the bench.
The match-up: Rookie sensation Solomone Kata faces a big test in the shape of in-form Titans centre James Roberts.
The history: The Warriors hold a 10-7 advantage overall, while eight games at Robina have been shared four apiece.
The last time they met: The Titans stunned the Warriors 32-28 at Mt Smart on Anzac Day this year to break an eight-match losing streak against the Auckland-based club.
The stat: The Warriors have won their last four at Robina, last succumbing in the 2010 qualifying final.
The verdict: The Warriors’ strong record on the Gold Coast, spurred on by a parochial expat contingent, negates the Titans’ home-field advantage, while there’s not much separating the sides from a form perspective. It’s getting towards the do-or-die stage for the Warriors, however, so expect the likes of Johnson, Hurrell, Vatuvei, Matulino and Mannering to lift a couple of gears. Warriors by 6
Bulldogs v Panthers – 7.30pm, Saturday, June 20 @ ANZ Stadium
The storyline: The 2014 preliminary final combatants are both sporting negative win-loss records with 12 rounds remaining, but a win on Saturday night could provide the platform for a late-season rally.
The form guide: The Bulldogs broke out of a slump with highly impressive wins over Canberra and St George Illawarra, but their Origin-depleted side went down 28-16 to the Titans in Round 14. The 5-7 Panthers have lost their last two, falling 26-20 to the struggling Eels before being shut out 20-0 by Melbourne.
Ladder: Bulldogs 11th, Panthers 9th
Attack: Bulldogs 8th, Panthers 15th
Defence: Bulldogs 13th, Panthers 5th
The selection table: Des Hasler has sensationally not named any of his Origin players. His forwards do reshuffle though with Sam Kasiano coming into the front row from the bench, Antonio Kaufusi moving to the back row and Greg Eastwood returning to lock. Herman Ese’ese comes into the team for Shaun Lane (18th man) on the bench too. But this team could change before kick-off. Jamie Soward (shoulder) has been named to return with Tyrone Peachey returning to the bench and Sam Anderson dropping back to 19th man. Nigel Plum (back) also returns on the interchange with Lewis Brown set to start in the back row for 18th man Adam Docker.
The match-up: Former NSW five-eighths Josh Reynolds and Jamie Soward will be at the hub of their respective sides’ attack.
The history: Canterbury leads the all-time tally 49-35-3, but Penrith holds a 7-4-1 advantage at ANZ Stadium.
The last time they met: The Panthers withstood a late fight-back to defeat the Bulldogs 24-18 at Pepper Stadium in Round 1 this year.
The stat: The Bulldogs have won two of their last six and the Panthers two of their last nine at ANZ against all opponents.
The verdict: Wily Des Hasler is always a chance of rescinding on his decision to rest his Origin players, which would tip favouritism healthily towards the Bulldogs. The injury-ravaged Panthers have struggled to put points on the board in 2015 and it’s likely to bring them undone again this weekend. Bulldogs by 10
Knights v Sharks – 2.00pm, Sunday, June 21 @ Hunter Stadium
The storyline: The Knights are virtually on their last chance to prove their 2015 campaign is not a write-off, but the unfancied Sharks continue to cling to their top-eight hopes.
The form guide: Newcastle has won just one of its last nine – including a 44-22 home loss to Canberra in Round 13 – while Cronulla recovered from a 42-6 drubbing at the hands of St George Illawarra to topple the Roosters for the second time this season, 10-4 at Remondis Stadium.
Ladder: Knights 14th, Sharks 12th
Attack: Knights 12th, Sharks 14th
Defence: Knights 11th, Sharks 6th
The selection table: Joey Leilua’s departure from the club means Dane Gagai moves into the centres, captain Kurt Gidley moves to fullback and Tyrone Roberts (ankle) returns at halfback. Korbin Sims is in the front row in place of David Fa’alogo (hamstring) with Pat Vaivai coming onto the bench. Chris Houston moves to lock for Jack Stockwell (bicep) who is out for the season. Robbie Rochow has been named to make his first start since Round 3 on the bench while Joe Tapine joins him in place of Sam Mataora. Ricky Leutele (shoulder) returns in the centres, with Blake Ayshford dropping out. Michael Gordon and Valentine Holmes also swap between wing and fullback. A rib injury looks certain to rule Paul Gallen out.
The match-up: In-form Knights winger Akuila Uate will have his hands full with underrated Sharks flyer Sosaia Feki.
The history: Newcastle holds a 27-17-1 lead in 45 matches since 1988, including a 14-5-1 record at Hunter Stadium.
The last time they met: Cronulla sprung a 22-6 upset at Remondis Stadium in Round 6.
The stat: The Knights have won just one of their last six at home; prior to that, they won seven in a row at Hunter Stadium.
The verdict: Newcastle has been genuinely awful for two and a half months, and there’s little hint of a turnaround heading into this clash. Cronulla has an uncanny knack of frustrating its opposition and should have no problem doing so against a team so badly out of sorts. As always, posting tries will be the Sharks’ bugbear, but they should be able to get the job done at Hunter Stadium. Sharks by 8
Storm v Broncos – 4.00pm, Sunday, June 21 @ AAMI Park
The storyline: Rocked by the season-ending injury to Billy Slater and still without injured linchpin Cooper Cronk, it’s backs-to-the-wall territory for the Storm as the Broncos arrive in town gunning for a rare win over their archrivals.
The form guide: Melbourne has lost two of its last three, backing up a trademark 20-0 shutout of Penrith with a controversial 26-22 loss at the hands of Parramatta with Origin players unavailable. Ladder-leading Brisbane has notched three straight wins over Newcastle, Canberra and Manly, the latter a 44-10 drubbing.
Ladder: Storm 4th, Broncos 1st
Attack: Storm 10th, Broncos 2nd
Defence: Storm 3rd, Broncos 4th
The selection table: Billy Slater has been ruled out for the year, while Will Chambers and Cameron Smith have been named to return from Origin. It means Cameron Munster will retain his place at fullback, but Hymel Hunt and Nelson Asofa-Solomona drop back to an extended bench and Ryan Hinchcliffe returns to the interchange. Tim Glasby and Tohu Harris swap between front and back row. Corey Parker will return at lock for the Broncos with Sam Thaiday dropping back to the bench in place of 19th man Francis Molo. Justin Hodges has been named but is always a chance of dropping out of post-Origin fixtures.
The match-up: Queensland Origin tyro Josh McGuire will have his mettle tested by arguably the game’s No.1 front-rower, Jesse Bromwich, whose leadership in the Storm line-up becomes even more crucial following the loss of Slater.
The history: Brisbane record against Melbourne is worse than against any other club, with the Storm ahead 24-11-1 in 36 clashes since 1998. The Storm has won four of the five encounters at AAMI Park – including the last four in a row.
The last time they met: Melbourne subdued Brisbane 22-12 at AAMI Park in Round 26 last year, a result close enough to secure eighth spot for the Broncos.
The stat: The Storm is on an eight-match winning streak over the Broncos, whose last win in the rivalry came in the Storm’s first-ever match at AAMI Park, back in 2010.
The verdict: Melbourne’s long-held psychological edge over Brisbane is unlikely to mean much without Slater and Cronk on board, and the Broncos’ sizzling form of late should see them retain their spot at the top of the table. Broncos by 12
Dragons v Roosters – 7.00pm, Monday, June 22 @ Allianz Stadium
The storyline: The feisty rivals come together for what could potentially be a season-defining match for both clubs, while it could be the best Monday night showdown of 2015.
The form guide: The Saints crashed to a 29-16 loss to Canterbury last start after heading into the last 20 minutes with a six-point lead; it was just their second loss in 10 outings. The Roosters responded to their upset loss at the hands of Cronulla with a courageous 25-21 win over the Warriors in Auckland, overturning a 20-6 deficit to snatch victory via a last-minute Blake Ferguson try.
Ladder: Dragons 3rd, Roosters 5th
Attack: Dragons 13th, Roosters 6th
Defence: Dragons 1st, Roosters 2nd
The selection table: Joel Thompson’s leg injury sees Will Matthews start and Jake Marketo come onto the bench, the only change for the Red V. Michael Jennings’s expected return from Origin sees Shaun Kenny-Dowall move to the wing and Brendan Elliot drop out of the team. Mitch Pearce’s return sees Jackson Hastings return to the bench in place of Matt McIlwrick. Boyd Cordner and Aidan Guerra also make up a new back row partnership as Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Mitchell Aubusson drop back to the bench in place of Willie Manu and Suaia Matagi (18th man).
The match-up: Coming off a rare, confidence-boosting win at Origin level, Mitchell Pearce goes head-to-head with Dally M Medal leader Benji Marshall.
The history: St George Illawarra holds an 18-14-1 lead in 33 matches since 1999, but the Roosters are in front 12-10 in matches at Allianz.
The last time they met: The Dragons edged out the Roosters 14-12 in an unforgettable, weather-interrupted encounter on Anzac Day.
The stat: The Roosters boast seven wins in their last eight Monday night games, while the Dragons have lost four in a row in the timeslot.
The verdict: In a showdown between the two best defensive outfits in the NRL, the firepower of the Roosters’ three-quarter line could prove the difference after the two outstanding spines and rugged forward packs cancel each other out. This should be a cracker. Roosters by 2