NRL Round 18

The Wests Tigers  and Canterbury Bulldogs  clash at the Football Stadium on Friday night should be a beauty provided the key Origin players are able to back up successfully. The Tigers don’t have recent good form at the SFS having lost their past three games at the ground. Leaving aside the Origin players, both sides will be freshened up by last week’s bye. The Tigers will be wanting to turn around successive losses to Newcastle and the Sydney Roosters but they face a Bulldogs side which is improving at every outing. Close but Canterbury Bulldogs 1-12

The Storm  at home should be too good for the Raiders  on Saturday afternoon but again that very much depends on how their Origin stars have recovered. Canberra did a good job in beating the Dragons last Monday night and showed some steel in coming back last in the game when they had surrendered a good lead. The Storm did have a narrow five point when against the Raiders in the first match of the season and Craig Bellamy has the ability to get a good showing from his team straight after an Origin game. In fact Melbourne has won its past five matches following Origin. Melbourne Storm 1-12

The New Zealand Warriors  should be too good for the Gold Coast Titans  at Skilled Park on Saturday night. The home side has key players backing up from the Origin game while the Warriors have to keep on winning to stay in touch with the top eight. If Canterbury beat the Tigers on Friday night, a Warriors win should see them take eighth spot. The Warriors have tremendous talent which often is not shown to its best but they did enough against a depleted Cowboys to suggest that at their best they can match it with anyone. Nathan Friend being back in the hooking role is a major plus. New Zealand Warriors 13+

Newcastle  has shown a long awaited improvement in form with back to back wins against Parramatta and the Wests Tigers but it will be tough to make it three straight against South Sydney  at ANZ Stadium on Sunday. The Bunnies are in a log jam for fourth with Brisbane and Manly and know that every win is going to be vital for their finals’ hopes. With rep commitments out of the way and the “Coal Train” David Taylor again wanting to show that he has what it takes despite a poor Origin series, Souths should win. Newcastle might be starting to heed the Wayne Bennett lessons but this should be a Bunnies’ victory. South Sydney Rabbitohs 1-12

Manly  will have too many big guns for Parramatta  at Brookvale Oval on Sunday. The Sea Eagles are starting to get back to their best look side and when Glenn Stewart returns, they will be every bit the team that took out last year’s title. Parramatta has shown glimpses of improved form but those glimpses have been few and far between. Maybe Chris Anderson’s help for Steve Kearney will have a positive effect but the Eels don’t have Manly’s class and have not won a daytime game in four starts this season. The Sea Eagles will win in a canter. Manly Sea Eagles 13+

Monday night football is at Toyota Stadium where Cronulla  should account for the Sydney Roosters . With rep duties complete, Cronulla can now concentrate on a top four finish and a home win against the Roosters will provide a valuable two points. The Roosters stunned the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval which isn’t easy to do but were then back to their old form with a 14-52 spanking by Manly. Monday night games have a habit of throwing up surprise resulst but it is hard to see the Sharks being beaten at home in this round. Cronulla Sharks 13+

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