Friday Night NRL

Source: Colleen Petch/News Limited
QLD origin half Cooper Cronk was instrumental in the Storm's win over Penrith. Source: Colleen Petch/News Limited
Storm v Titans

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy unleashed a frank assessment on his Storm troops before last weekend’s emphatic 46-6 win over Penrith and will be praying that his tirade sunk into players ahead of this weekend’s all important round 23 blockbuster against the Titans . The Storm brushed aside any query’s over their recent form to pile on forty unanswered points against a flailing Penrith side. The Titans run to the finals took another turn when they were upstaged by a fast finishing Rabbitohs outfit to see them drop outside the top eight. Greg Bird has been named on an extended bench after missing the past two weeks with an ongoing hamstring injury.

History – Unlike other teams the Titans enjoy a solid record at AAMI Park recording two wins from four appearances. Melbourne have bragging rights in their three most recent encounters including an impressive 30-6 win in round three this season thanks to a second half Billy Slater double. The Storm has totalled an impressive 110 points in their past three games against the Titans.

Dangermen – Storm centre Justin O’Neill scored a double against the Panthers last week and is a pretty sight in full flight. The Storm flyer has scored ten tries this season playing in a number of backline positions. Titans fullback William Zillman had a quiet start to his 2012 campaign however has come on leaps in bounds in the back end of the season to add much needed potency to the Titans attack.

Prediction – Are the Storm back? They piled on the points against Penrith last week and should be too strong for the Titans at home. Storm 13+ .

Souths v Manly

Friday night’s round 23 clash between Souths and Manly shapes to be one of the most defining games of the season. Both teams are well credentialed to claim this year’s premiership and are highly likely of facing each other during finals football. Kiwi international Isacc Luke returns for the Rabbitohs after a three weeks suspension while the Sea Eagles welcome back inspirational skipper Jason King into the front row. Roy Asotasi has been named on an extended Souths bench however coach Michal McGuire will give the skipper until kick off to prove his fitness after returning from a pectoral injury that almost ended his 2012 season.

History – These two sides have met an astonishing 127 times with the Sea Eagles winning 70 to the Rabbitohs 57. Manly will appreciate the return to the Central Coast’s Blue Tongue Stadium where they average an impressive 33 points from nine games while the Rabbitohs have recorded three successive wins at the same venue.

Dangermen – Souths flyer Nathan Merritt has been devastating at the back for the Bunnies in the absence of the suspended Greg Inlgis. Merritt has scored four tries in his past three games and will feature heavily in any backline raids. Sea Eagles custodian Brett Stewart #QL_SS# made a successful return in last weekend’s thrilling win over the Cowboys and will be better for the run heading into Friday night’s clash.

Prediction – Souths have been impressive however can they maintain their form against the reigning premiers? It’s just a matter of time before Manly start to fire and once they can cause some real damage on this competition. Manly 1-12.

Click here to bet on Friday night NRL