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NRL preview - Round 2
Thursday, March 6, 2014
This week's games:
Sea Eagles v Roosters Storm v Panthers Knights v Raiders
Broncos v Cowboys Roosters v Eels Bulldogs v Sharks
Warriors v Dragons Titans v Tigers  

 

SEA EAGLES v RABBITOHS
Gosford, Friday 7.40pm AEDT
Exactly six months after their final round minor premiership showdown last year the bitter rivals resume hostilities in a fitting start to the season. The Roosters have 16 of their premiership winning 17 back, with interchange forward Dylan Napa the only change, while Souths are beset by a slew of injuries with halfback Adam Reynolds (knee) and five-eighth Dylan Walker (ankle) in doubt with Luke Keary and Tom Burgess also sidelined. Both teams have had impressive pre-season wins. Souths hammered the Dragons while the Roosters emphatically claimed the World Club Challenge against Wigan. The Roosters supreme confidence and proven ability to win the big games could sway the match their way.

Key: Plenty of pre-game talk has surrounded the clash between Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Burgess. Their clash alone won't decide the contest but it could go a long way to doing so.

Tip: Roosters
Last clash: Roosters 24 bt Souths 12 at ANZ Stadium, round 26, 2013 Head to head: Souths 108, Roosters 94, drawn 5 Referees: Ben Cummins, Luke Phillips
Sea Eagles: Greg Inglis, Nathan Merritt, Beau Champion, Bryson Goodwin, Lote Tuqiri, Dylan Walker, Adam Reynolds, George Burgess, Issac Luke, Sam Burgess, Chris McQueen, Ben Te'o, John Sutton (capt). Interchange: Ben Lowe, Joe Picker, David Tyrrell, Luke Burgess, Joel Reddy, Kyle Turner (two to be omitted). Rabbitohs: Anthony Minichiello (capt), Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Boyd Cordner, Sonny Bill Williams, Frank-Paul Nuuausala. Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Aidan Guerra, Mitchell Aubusson, Dylan Napa, Kane Evans, Kurt Kara (two to be omitted).
$1.70 Odds $2.15

 

BRONCOS v COWBOYS
Suncorp Stadium, Friday 8.05pm AEDT
Both clubs are in something of a rebuilding process and will be very keen to impress first up. Broncos coach Anthony Griffin desperately needs early season wins to keep his job, while the Dogs won't want to start the year in the same terrible fashion they did in 2013. Josh Hoffman has been thrust into the No.6 role for Brisbane in a big gamble by Griffin. The Dogs are missing Sam Kasiano, Greg Eastwood, Krisnan Inu and Tim Lafai but the Broncos are bereft of genuine playmakers. Dogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds plays his first game this year after battling a shoulder injury.

Key: Ben Barba faces his old side in his first game for Brisbane in a great piece of scheduling by the NRL, can he slay the Dogs and silence their fans in the same way Sonny Bill Williams did last year?

Tip: Bulldogs
Last clash: Broncos 16 bt Bulldogs 11 at Suncorp Stadium, round 26 2013 Head to head: Broncos 23, Bulldogs 19, drawn 1 Referees: Shayne Hayne, Chris James
Broncos: Sam Perrett, Mitch Brown, Josh Morris, Chase Stanley, Corey Thompson, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Aiden Tolman, Michael Ennis (capt), James Graham, Frank Pritchard (capt), Tony Williams, Dale Finucane. Interchange: Josh Jackson, Pat O'Hanlon, Tim Browne, David Klemmer, Moses Mbye (one to be omitted). Cowboys: Ben Barba, Daniel Vidot, Jack Reed, Dale Copley, Lachlan Maranta, Josh Hoffman, Ben Hunt, Josh McGuire, Andrew McCullough, Corey Parker (capt), Alex Glenn, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett. Interchange: Ben Hannant, Martin Kennedy, Todd Lowrie, Jarrod Wallace, David Hala (one to be omitted).
$1.55 Odds $2.45

 

WARRIORS v DRAGONS
Eden Park, Saturday, 3.00pm AEDT
The NRL's biggest offseason recruiters, Penrith, come up against 2013's finals surprise packet Newcastle. The Knights will be keen to put a shocking pre-season behind them that included the jailing of Russell Packer for assault, a drink-driving charge for Willie Mason and a long-term hamstring injury to Jarrod Mullen. Out wide the Knights look strong but a question mark hovers over their halves and they look light up front. Kurt Gidley at hooker is a key player for the visitors but Penrith's canny recruiting looks to have them covered. Panthers centre Jamal Idris (hamstring) remains in doubt for his club debut.

Key: Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace. The Panthers halves have plenty to prove after being shown the door by their respective clubs last year.

Tip: Panthers
Last clash:
Knights 32 bt Panthers 14 at Sportingbet Stadium, round 19 2013
Head to head: Knights 22, Panthers 13, drawn 2 Referees: Matt Cecchin, Alan Shortall
Warriors: Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dean Whare, Jamal Idris, Dave Simmons, Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Brent Kite, Kevin Kingston (capt), Tim Grant, Lewis Brown, Elijah Taylor, Adam Docker. Interchange: James Segeyaro, Nigel Plum, Tyrone Peachey, Sam Mckendry, Jeremy Latimore (one to be omitted). Dragons: Darius Boyd, James McManus, Dane Gagai, Joey Leilua, Akuila Uate, Michael Dobson, Tyrone Roberts, Kade Snowden, Kurt Gidley (capt), Willie Mason, Beau Scott, Robbie Rochow, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Travis Waddell, Chris Houston, Alex McKinnon, Adam Cuthbertson, David Fa'alogo (one to be omitted).
$1.77 Odds $2.05

 

STORM v PANTHERS
AAMI Park, Saturday, 5.30pm AEDT
One of rugby league's greatest modern rivalries continues at one of its oldest venues. Manly always lift at Brookie and the Storm look less than their usual formidable selves with Ben Roberts at halfback although there is talk Cooper Cronk could be a late inclusion. George Rose returns to his old stomping ground against a Sea Eagles pack that has plenty of doubters. The pressure is on Manly props Brenton Lawrence, Josh Starling, Dunamis Lui and James Hasson to fill the hole left by a number of better credentialled departures.

Key: Brett Stewart. The superstar fullback is fit and firing according to coach Geoff Toovey, which makes him a near certainty to continue his incredible tryscoring record at Brookvale.

Tip: Manly
Last clash: Sea Eagles 28 bt Storm 8 at Brookvale Oval, round 25, 2013 Head to head: Storm 13, Sea Eagles 11, drawn 1 Referees: Gerard Sutton, Gavin Reynolds
Storm: Brett Stewart, Cheyse Blair, Jamie Lyon (capt), Steve Matai, Peta Hiku, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Starling, Matt Ballin, Brenton Lawrence, Anthony Watmough, Justin Horo, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: Jesse Sene-Lefao, James Hasson, Jamie Buhrer, Dunamis Lui. Panthers: Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Mahe Fonua, Young Tonumaipea, Ben Hampton, Ben Roberts, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (capt), Bryan Norrie, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hoffman, Ryan Hinchcliffe. Interchange: Kenny Bromwich, Tohu Harris, Jordan McLean, George Rose, Mitch Garbutt, Slade Griffin, Joel Romelo (three to be omitted).
$1.53 Odds $2.50

 

ROOSTERS v EELS
Allianz Stadium, Saturday 7.30pm AEDT
Surely the Cowboys will play to their potential this year? Surely? We have all asked that question for a few seasons and it really is now or never for them. Coach Paul Green could bring a vital edge after an impressive apprenticeship and their Auckland Nines win will give them plenty of confidence heading into the season proper. Canberra were a big disappointment last season too and much has been invested in three-time Raiders premiership winner Ricky Stuart to do that. His coaching legacy could well rest on what he does in Canberra. On paper the Cowboys look far too good. They could open the season with a big win here.

Key: The Auckland Nines. Stuart paid lipservice to the shortform event insisting his preparation was solely focused on round one. The Cowboys took the opposite approach and despite losing Lachlan Coote (ACL-season) they won the inaugural event. Which will prove to be the better preparation?

Tip: Cowboys
Last clash: Raiders 26 bt Cowboys 18 at Canberra Stadium, round 17, 2013 Head to head: Raiders 19, Cowboys 13 Referees: Gavin Badger, Brett Suttor
Roosters: Michael Morgan, Kyle Feldt, Brent Tate, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Johnathan Thurston (capt), Robert Lui, Matt Scott (capt), Ray Thompson, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Jason Taumalolo, Joel Riethmuller. Interchange: Rory Kostjasyn, Tariq Sims, Glenn Hall, Scott Bolton, Ashton Sims, Zac Santo (two to be omitted) Eels: Anthony Milford, Reece Robinson, Jarrod Croker, Matt Allwood, Edrick Lee, Jack Wighton, Terry Campese (capt), Dane Tilse, Glen Buttriss, Brett White, Josh Papalii, Joel Edwards, Shaun Fensom. Interchange: Josh McCrone, Jarrad Kennedy, Paul Vaughan, Shannon Boyd, Mark Nicholls (one to be omitted).
$1.30 Odds $2.50

 

TITANS v TIGERS
Skilled Stadium, Sunday, 2.00pm AEDT
Two sides who desperately need an early win to stave off pressure on their coaches and two teams who have been unlucky with pre-season injuries. The Tigers are missing David Nofoaluma (hamstring), Dene Halatau (ankle) and Tim Moltzen (knee) while the Dragons are without the focus of their attack Josh Dugan. Young gun halfback Luke Brooks is charged with filling the playmaking void at the Tigers left by Benji Marshall, while Gareth Widdop has been asked to do likewise at the spluttering Dragons. Both teams have been tipped to finish at the bottom of the ladder but this could be one of the most exciting and closest games of the round.

Key: Michael Witt. Chosen at halfback by Dragons coach Steve Price instead of Sam Williams. He will want to repay that faith if Price is to last.

Tip: Tigers
Last clash: Tigers 34 Dragons 18 at SCG, round 24, 2013 Head to head: Dragons 14 Tigers 13 Referees: Ashley Klein, Phil Haines
Titans: Adam Quinlan, Brett Morris, Dylan Farrell, Gerard Beale, Jason Nightingale, Gareth Widdop, Michael Witt, Jack de Belin, Mitch Rein, Dan Hunt, Leeson Ah Mau, Ben Creagh (capt), Trent Merrin. Interchange: Bronson Harrison, Kyle Stanley, Joel Thompson, Tyson Frizell, Mike Cooper (one to be omitted). Tigers: James Tedesco, Marika Koroibete, Keith Lulia, Chris Lawrence, Pat Richards, Braith Anasta, Luke Brooks, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah (capt), Martin Taupau, Liam Fulton, Bodene Thompson, Adam Blair. Interchange: Cory Paterson, Ava Seumanufagai, Sauaso Sue, James Gavet.
$1.90 Odds $1.90

 

KNIGHTS v RAIDERS
Hunter Stadium, Sunday, 3.00pm AEDT
Another promised new dawn begins at Parramatta under Brad Arthur after successive wooden spoons. The Eels have recruited well and have Will Hopoate, Corey Norman and Nathan Peats all debuting. The Eels do look to have a sharper edge to them in 2014 but if the performance at the Nines of Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins is anything to go by, so too do the Warriors. A 40-10 win by the Eels in this corresponding game to kick off 2013 was the highpoint of Parramatta's year and sent the Warriors into a downward spiral from which they never recovered. Both sides will want to change that.

Key: Sam Tomkins. The England superstar scored an incredible 144 tries in 151 Super League games, can he keep that record up in the NRL?

Tip: Warriors
Last clash:
Eels 40 bt Warriors 10 at Parramatta Stadium, round 1, 2013
Head to head: Eels 18 Warriors 13td> Referees: Adam Devcich, Henry Perenara
Knights: Jarryd Hayne, Semi Radradra, Will Hopoate, Willie Tonga, Vai Toutai, Corey Norman, Luke Kelly, Tim Mannah, Nathan Peats, Fuifui Moimoi, Ben Smith, Manu Ma'u, Kenny Edwards. Interchange: Joseph Paulo, Peni Terepo, Darcy Lussick, Kelepi Tanginoa, David Gower, Mitch Allgood (two to be omitted). Raiders:Sam Tomkins, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Carlos Tuimavave, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering (capt), John Palavi. Interchange: Jacob Lillyman, Suaia Matagi, Sione Lousi, Feleti Mateo, Jerome Ropati (one to be omitted).
$1.65 Odds $2.25

 

BULLDOGS v SHARKS
ANZ Stadium, Monday 7.00pm AEDT
The Titans have been virtually forgotten in the pre-season while the Sharks are still dealing with the supplements saga a year on. But the time for Cronulla to use that as motivation is gone, now it should be premiership glory. Todd Carney (hamstring) is only a 50-50 proposition for the Sharks. But even if he doesn't play and with Jeff Robson (facial fractures) also sidelined the Sharks look to have far too much class for the visitors with Wade Graham capable of moving into a playmaking role. The Titans will look to Greg Bird and David Taylor to spark them.

Key: Up front. If the Titans are to have any chance of holding the Sharks, with Carney or without, they need to dominate up front and they do have a pack capable of doing that.

Tip: Sharks
Last clash:
Sharks 12 bt Titans 10 at Remondis Stadium, round 1, 2013
Head to head: Sharks 6 Titans 4 Referees: Jared Maxwell, Grant Atkins
Bulldogs: Michael Gordon, Sosaia Feki, Blake Ayshford, Jonathan Wright, Beau Ryan, Todd Carney, Daniel Holdsworth, Andrew Fifita, John Morris, Bryce Gibbs, Matt Prior, Wade Graham, Paul Gallen (capt). Interchange: Isaac De Gois, Sam Tagataese, Tupou Sopoaga, Siosaia Vave, Tinirau Arona (one to be omitted). Sharks: William Zillman, Kevin Gordon, Brad Tighe, Maurice Blair, David Mead, Aidan Sezer, Albert Kelly, Luke Douglas, Beau Falloon, Nate Myles (capt), Greg Bird (capt), David Taylor, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Matthew White, Luke Bailey, Mark Minichiello, Paul Carter, Ryan James, Brad Takairangi, Ben Ridge (three to be omitted).
$1.58 Odds $2.37

 


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