NRL Round 21

The Dragons  versus Storm  match at Win Stadium on Friday night now shapes as a desperate game for both sides after losses last weekend. Melbourne is in a slump and even coach Craig Bellamy doesn’t believe that the return of Billy Slater will cure the problem. The Dragons were ordinary and have now lost momentum as the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Canberra draw level with them on the points table. The home advantage should be a factor for the Dragons but it is hard to believe that Melbourne will drop five games in a row. Melbourne Storm 1-12

The Roosters  host the Titans  in the other Friday night game at the Sydney Football Stadium and this should be another two points for the Gold Coast. The Titans have been in very good form over the past few weeks and the victory over arch-rivals the Broncos was full of merit. The team is playing with confidence which can’t be said for the Roosters. They were shell-shocked by the last minute loss to the Rabbitohs and hadn’t recovered mentally for the meeting with Penrith. The Roosters are playing out time for season’s end, while the Titans, particularly with Greg Bird back, now have a genuine sniff of finals’ football after last weekend’s full results. Gold Coast Titans 1-12  

The Bulldogs  will start favourite against the North Queensland Cowboys  who have to back up from their Monday night win over the Wests Tigers when the two sides meet at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night. The Dogs were super impressive in their clash with the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval and the only thing that could go against them is a letdown after such a big build-up last week. But the Dogs are the form side and are playing with confidence. After a Monday night match, teams can struggle and for the Cowboys last round was an energy sapping game. Both teams have plenty to play for but the advantage is with the home team. Canterbury Bulldogs 1-12

Manly  takes its home game against the Warriors  to Paterson Stadium in Perth on Saturday and after losses for both sides in the last round this is an important game. Manly were competitive against the Bulldogs and giving up the Brookvale advantage could be a factor. The Warriors should never have lost after leading 18-0 at home to Newcastle and the manner of that loss could well play on their attitude in coming weeks. Lucky for the Warriors other results from last round went their way so they are still in the battle for a final eight berth. Manly should have too much fire power. Manly Sea Eagles 1-12

The Sharks  host the Panthers  at Toyota Stadium on Saturday night and it would normally be a matter of how far the home side. However last weekend’s loss by the Sharks to Canberra was their worst performance of the year and it will take plenty to bounce back from that loss but they can take heart from how the Raiders have done a similar thing in recent weeks. Penrith won against the Sydney Roosters but it was an average game and the assessment of the Panthers as an ordinary side just making up the numbers this season hasn’t changed. The Sharks have to turn around last week’s showing as they have too much to play for to let things slip late in the year and hopefully having captain Paul Gallen back will be a major boost. Cronulla Sharks 1-12

How can you possibly line up Canberra’s form or Newcastle’s for that matter? If NSW Racing’s Chief Steward Ray Murrihy were again called on for some Rugby League work both sides would be suspended on running and handling charges! Canberra  seems to play better on the road so that might favour Newcastle  this week. At their best, and you never know when that’s going to be, the Raiders are exciting to watch. Newcastle seems to have turned the corner and their comeback from 0-18 to beat the Warriors in Auckland showed some ticker that has been missing for most of the season. Just about impossible to tip a winner in this match with any certainty but take the risk that the Raiders might put things together for two in a row. Canberra Raiders 1-12

Sunday afternoon’s match at ANZ Stadium is now crucial for the Wests Tigers  after their loss in Townsville on Monday night. The Tigers are only one win in front of a host of chasing teams and their plight is not made any easier by the injury toll from the defeat at the hands of the Cowboys. South Sydney  is riding high but the suspension of Greg Inglis could be crucial to their finals’ chances.. The powerhouse fullback is in rare form and without him the Rabbitohs lose much of their attacking thrust. Against an injury hit Tigers, South Sydney should still be too good but expect Robbie Farah and Benjii Marshall to spur the Tigers on in the face of adversity. South Sydney Rabbitohs 1-12

The Brisbane Broncos  have a rare Monday night match home at home against Parramatta . Brisbane would be expected under normal circumstances to win easily but they have been struggling a little of late and suspensions as well as the injury to Justin Hodges don’t help their cause. However Parramatta, after the huge upset win over the Melbourne Storm, had the worst possible news with a season ending injury to their key attacking weapon Jarryd Hayne as well as losing experienced centre Willie Tonga for this game. Brisbane need an improvement of form and won’t want to take the Eels lightly but still should win. Brisbane Broncos 1-12

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