NRL Round 2 Preview

Mitchell Dale - Editor Rugby League Week
Editor of Rugby League Week, Mitchell Dale, provides TattsBet with an exclusive Round 2 Preview of the NRL.
TattsBet NRL Round 2 Preview

Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles
Bluetongue Stadium 
Friday March 14 @ 18.40 (AEST)

These two sides fought out some ding-dong battles last year, but with Brett Stewart out – and Greg Inglis in the form of his life – it is hard to see a Manly win. The Bunnies got the better of the Sea Eagles in both regular season games last year, including a 22-10 at Gosford in round 23. I’m thinking it will be a similar margin this time. On the evidence of what we saw last Thursday night, Souths have adapted well to the new rule changes that speed up the play-the-ball area. Their big boppers rumbled through the middle easily against the Roosters and will be out to do so again on Friday night against a Manly side that looks a bit light-on up front.

My tip: Rabbitohs 1-12 

Suncorp Stadium
Friday March 14 @ 19.40 (AEST)

The stage has been set for a cracking Queensland derby after both clubs posted solid first-up wins. The Broncos showed a toughness and desperation in defence – particularly in the second half – that was missing throughout 2013. Sam Thaiday tells RLW this week that those sort of efforts can really set a platform for the season ahead and it is hard to argue. On the other hand, the Cowboys continued their stellar start to the year with a comeback win over the Raiders at home. They weren’t perfect, but no one is in round one. As you would expect from an all-Queensland affair, it will be a knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out battle – and there won’t be much in it. I’ll take Brisbane to just get the cash in a tight one.

My tip: Brisbane 1-12

Warriors v Dragons
Eden Park
Saturday March 15 @ 14.05 (AEST)

Matt Elliott’s men would not have been able to get home quick enough after the drubbing they copped from Parra last Sunday. They have six days to re-group and come out firing in what should be a big occasion at Eden Park. Sam Tomkins showed he can certainly handle the NRL with some nice touches in round one. But the speed of the game also got to him and he wasn’t able to run amok like he did for Wigan in the Super League. The more NRL he plays, the better he will get. But a few degrees of improvement from the Englishman will not be enough to turn the ship around for the Warriors. They will need a massive improvement across the park if they are to knock off the Dragons. Like the Bunnies, the Dragons have adapted well to the new rule changes. Their mobile pack ate up the metres against the Tigers last Sunday, leaving space for Gareth Widdop to wreak havoc. On the back of last week’s effort, the Warriors don’t deserve to be favourites. But, having said that, I’ll completely contradict myself and go for a New Zealand win … only because it is at home.

My tip: Warriors 1-12
Saturday March 15 @ 16.35

So much for theory of The Big Three! To win without Cooper Cronk – and to do so in such amazing fashion – will be a massive confidence boost for the Storm. To come back from 20-0 down against Manly at Brookie is a huge effort. They’ll be brimming with confidence. The Panthers also had a big morale boosting win in round one. Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace ran the show superbly for the Panthers in their demolition of Newcastle – they both kicked well and controlled the tempo of the game. Penrith were entitled to wallop an injury-ravaged Knights at home – which they did. But it will be a much tougher prospect in Melbourne.
My tip: Storm 1-12

Roosters v Eels
Allianz Stadium
Saturday March 15 @ 18.35 (AEST)

If you go by last year’s form, this will be a bloodbath. But the Eels look to have a different resolve about them in 2014. Brad Arthur has given them a harder edge in defence and a licence to throw the ball around in attack. The Roosters, on the other hand, started slowly against the Rabbitohs last week and have been weakened by the loss of Sonny Bill Williams to suspension. It is still difficult to see anything but a Roosters win, but consider this: the defending premiers have lost to the previous year’s wooden spooners seven times in the past 10 years. It can happen! This game will be closer than many expect.

My tip: Roosters 1-12

CBus Super Stadium
Sunday March 16 @ 14.05 (AEST)

Tigers fans, it’s gonna be a loooong season. Any hopes of a Tiger revival in 2014 were snuffed out by a dreadful second half last weekend. They started like a house on fire against the Dragons, but quickly crumbled like a house of cards. Young half Luke Brooks showed glimpses of class in the first half, but he was targeted in defence by the Dragons and came up short. The Tigers were terribly ill-disciplined – they got caned in the penalty count and deservedly so. Of their off-season recruits, only Marty Taupau looks to have added any quality. The Titans got home against a depleted Cronulla side in a scrappy Monday night win, largely on the back of some Albert Kelly magic. Look for their forwards to roll over the top of the Tigers this week, creating more time and space for Kelly to cut loose.

My tip: Titans 13+

Knights v Raiders
Hunter Stadium
Sunday March 16 @ 17.35 (AEST)

So far, 2014 has been a Knightmare for Newcastle. Over the off-season, they lost their main off-season recruit, Russell Packer, Willie Mason went DUI and Dane Gagai went AWOL at Queensland’s Emerging Origin camp. Life hasn’t got any rosier since the footy started. They have lost star half Jarrod Mullen for at least half the season when he tore the hamstring off the bone at the Nines, and in round one they lost Darius Boyd. They’re back home for the first time this year, but they face a Raiders side that already looks to have improved under Ricky Stuart. The Knights have a good record at home against Canberra, having won 13 of 18 clashes at the venue. But, given the Knights’ mounting injury toll, I’m going against that stat and taking a Canberra win.

My tip: Raiders 1-12

Bulldogs v Sharks
ANZ Stadium
Monday March 17 @ 18.05

If the Knights thought they had injury problems, they only need to look at the Sharks to realise it could be worse. No less than six regular first-graders are out with injury, including inspirational captain Paul Gallen and Test star Luke Lewis. On top of that, they have two players – Todd Carney and Chris Heighington – coming back from injury this Monday. It is a severe test of depth for the Sharks, and I doubt they can cover all those losses. The Dogs weren’t great against Brisbane, but they will find the going easier this Monday night and post their first win of the year.

My tip: Bulldogs 1-12

Mitchell Dale - Editor Rugby League Week

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