NRL Round 22

The Roosters  and Dragons  meet on Friday night at Allianz Stadium, and while the home side is playing out time until season’s end, the Dragons have plenty to play for after their important win over Melbourne last weekend. They are still out of the eight but only on for and against so it is vital that they keep winning, particularly as they have sides around the same area of the ladder to play in the coming weeks. The Dragons need some consistency in their season and that might come if they make it back to back wins this week. St George-Illawarra Dragons 1-12

It would have seemed unthinkable only a few weeks ago that Melbourne  could be playing for their season when they meet the lowly Panthers  at home on Saturday afternoon but that is now the case. They should still make the finals being three wins clear of the eighth placed Gold Coast with five games remaining but no one would have believed that they would lose five games on the trot. Surely with Billy Slater having some football under his belt, the Storm will start to pull out of the slump but Penrith after a close win over Cronulla will be confident of causing an upset. The Storm has too much to play for here not to produce an improvement. Melbourne Storm 1-12

Newcastle  at home to the premiership favourites Canterbury  at Hunter Stadium on Saturday shapes as one of the matches of the round. Des Hasler has relegated the previous coaching king well down the list in the latest Rugby League Week Players’ Poll but the last few weeks have shown that the Bennett touch is at last starting to produce dividends. Newcastle has hit some form and will m ake it tough for every finals’ contender they meet in coming weeks. However the Bulldogs are very much the form side of the competition and Newcastle will measure recent progress by how they shape up against them. Will be a tough game and the Knights will enjoy great crowd support but it would surprise to see them win. Canterbury Bulldogs 1-12

The North Queensland Cowboys  host a vital match against the Manly Sea Eagles  at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday night with the home side now inside the top four and the reigning premiers pushing for a similar berth. With Brisbane and Melbourne struggling there is a real chance for both of these sides to make the top four which under the new finals’ system is crucial. The Cowboys were never a real chance of beating the Bulldogs but certainly weren’t disgraced while Manly won against the Warriors but would not have been happy with conceding a 0-18 start. A lot of travelling for the Sea Eagles, Perth one week and Townsville the next isn’t ideal, so maybe the home side has a slight advantage. North Queensland Cowboys 1-12

The New Zealand Warriors  deserve all the criticism that is coming their way at home after squandering 18-0 leads in the last two games against Newcastle and Manly and with now three losses on the trot, hopes of a finals’ position are fading quickly as they tumble to 12th on the table. It is a must win game for both the Warriors and Cronulla  at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday. The Sharks cling to seventh position but are coming off three losses and a draw and will be relieved to have both Paul Gallen and Todd Carney back from injury. The Warriors have too much talent to fade quickly out of the season’s picture so stung by the fans’ criticism they should not make the same mistakes this week. New Zealand Warriors 1-12

The one thing in the Broncos  favour is that they play the Raiders  in Canberra on Sunday and for a team that always prided itself on being near impossible to beat at home, Canberra this season have been woeful. In fact so hard to follow is the Raiders’ form that coach David Furner has had a psychologist helping the side this week. The Broncos dropped out of the four with their dismal loss to bottom side Parramatta last Monday and will be desperate to get back some form. On current indications, Brisbane will be one of the first sides out of the finals’ race, if in fact they make the finals at all. Almost impossible to pick this game given the Raiders record but maybe this week will be different. Canberra Raiders 1-12

The Gold Coast  and South Sydney  should be one hell of a game at Skilled Park on Sunday with both sides in good form and the Bunnies without Greg Inglis going on their winning way to be in number two spot. Many Rabbitoh greats, including Bob McCarthy, are claiming that this is the best Souths side in forty years. Whether or not that is the case is debatable but there is no doubt that they are right in the premiership race. Gold Coast is now in the eight on for and against so it is vital that they post a few more wins to secure their spot. South Sydney probably looks just to be the overall stronger side but a home win would certainly not surprise. South Sydney Rabbitohs 1-12

Monday night football is at Campbelltown for a western derby between the Wests Tigers  and Parramatta . The Tigers are in trouble through injuries to key players and for a team that was pre-season favourite, they are now out of the eight and needing luck to reverse their recent form. In contrast, the Eels might still be on the bottom but know that they can overhaul neighbours Penrith in the wooden spoon battle and wins against both Melbourne and Brisbane under interim coach Brad Arthur has them full of confidence. Many players will want to impress Ricky Stuart so the Eels have plenty of motivation. Parramatta Eels 1-12

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