NRL R23 Preview

What a blockbuster to kick things off for Round 23. Both Manly and the Rabbitohs are well credentialed to claim this year’s title. Souths are coming off a hard fought win against the Titans while Manly also endured a close battle against the Cowboys. Consolidating a top four berth will be the primary objective for defending premiers Manly and their hopes rely on a solid performance against the Rabbtiohs. The rejuvenated Bunnies have all but sealed a top fourth position and are still in the hunt for their first minor premiership since 1989 if results fall their way. It’s hard to separate these two sides however the patience and class of Manly should shine through for them to record a narrow win. Manly 1-12

Melbourne brushed aside their woeful form with a thumping win over Penrith last weekend. The Storm were back to their devastating best piling on 40 unanswered points in a performance that would have delighted coach Craig Bellamy. The Titans winning streak came to a crashing holt when they were edged out by the Rabbitohs at home. John Cartwright’s men are now in a logjam in equal ninth position outside the top eight and will need to win at least three of their four final games to reach the top eight. Melbourne 1-12

Parramatta’s form reversal took a drastic turn when they let in 51 points against the Tigers on Monday night. The Eels defensive effort will need to improve if they are a chance of containing the fast scoring Roosters. The Roosters threw a spanner in the works for both the top eight and wooden spoon race with their impressive win over St George last weekend and are still a slim chance of featuring in September if they can win their remaining four games. The Roosters will fancy their chances of emerging from the wooden spoon race after winning their past three against the Eels. Roosters 1-12

Wests can cement their position in the top eight with a win over the Dragons at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night which is shaping to be one of the games of the round. A Tigers win would see them at least two points ahead of their nearest rivals pending weekend results. St George’s final hopes took a massive hit after losing to the Roosters last weekend after stringing together back-to-back wins to keep their finals hopes alive. This clash is vital for both sides who are locked in a five-way battle for eight position on the premiership ladder. Wests 13+

North Queensland would be bruised and battered after last weekend’s narrow defeat at the hands of reining premiers Manly. The Cowboys showed plenty of grit in a solid eighty minute performance that will give them confidence heading into this week’s clash against the Warriors. Hailed as 2012 premiership contenders last year’s grand finalists the Warriors have failed to perform under new coach Brian McLennan. Their narrow finals hopes were put to rest in last weekend’s embarrassing 45-4 loss to the Sharks and there isn’t much left to play for the boys from across the Tasman. Cowboys 13+

Penrith’s disappointing season continued with a woeful performance against the Storm last weekend which saw them consolidate second last position on the competition ladder. The Panthers are now locked in a battle with the Eels for the wooden spoon and will need to beat Canberra to avoid the dreaded tag. Canberra showed resilience and poise to upset the disappointing Broncos last Sunday and are still an outside chance of featuring in finals football. The Panthers have shown they can be a different side at home and should test the inconsistent Raiders. Panthers 1-12

The Bulldogs can extend their unbeaten streak to eleven with a win over the struggling Broncos at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Bulldogs reinforced their premiership favouritism with a dominant 26-10 win over Newcastle last weekend and coach Des Hasler will be rubbing his hands together heading into the business end of the season. Anthony Griffin’s outlook for the Broncos would be completely different after stumbling to the Raiders last weekend, he will be hoping that his chargers can rise to the occasion against a highly motivated Bulldogs team. Corey Parker and Alex Genn are huge omissions for the visitors and it’s hard to see them returning to Brisbane with anything but a loss. Bulldogs 13+

The final game of round 23 sees a hopeful Newcastle Knights side face the rejuvenated Cronulla Sharks . Newcastle struggled against the top of the table Bulldogs last night while Cronulla returned to the winners list with a devastating 45-4 win over the Warriors in New Zealand. Master coach Wayne Bennet is sure to have something up his sleeve for what could be his sides final tilt at September football if they are to lose to the circling Sharks. Paul Gallen and Todd Carney returned in emphatic fashion last week and are sure to add further spark with a game under their belts. Sharks 1-12

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