NRL Round 21 Preview

Mitchell Dale - Editor Rugby League Week
Editor of Rugby League Week, Mitchell Dale, provides TattsBet with an exclusive Round 21 Preview of the NRL.

Sea Eagles v Broncos

Brookvale Oval
Friday August 1 @ 7.50pm (AEST)

This is a tough game for Brisbane, in the middle of a very tough month of footy. But no-one said this National Rugby League caper was easy! The Broncos were outclassed by Cooper Cronk and the Storm last Friday, while the Manly juggernaut just kept rolling along, brushing aside off-field dramas, and an off-the-boil Warriors in New Zealand last Sunday. What’s more, Manly are undefeated in their past seven games at Brookvale Oval, and Brisbane have just three wins in their past 12 games against the Sea Eagles. Brisbane desperately need a win to remain in the eight – and prove they can do some damage, if they reach the finals this year. But I just can’t see Manly cracking.

My tip: Sea Eagles 1-12

Bulldogs v Panthers

ANZ Stadium
Friday August 1 @ 7.50pm (AEST)

The Dogs and Panthers sit third and fourth respectively – but neither looked like a top-four side last weekend. Both suffered disappointing losses in games they were expected to win. But, while the Dogs get NSW five-eighth Josh Reynolds back from suspension, the news is all bad for the Panthers. They’ve lost co-captain Peter Wallace for the year with a ruptured ACL – meaning they now have three halves options out for the season, with Isaac John and Tyrone Peachey also gone. Coach Ivan Cleary has opted to blood an exciting youngster, Will Smith – meaning headline writers around the country will be praying he plays well, and the Panthers wear their all-black strip, so they can trot out a Man In Black line. There is plenty to like about Smith – he is nippy and has been in top form for the Panthers’ NSW Cup side. But this will be a big step up in class. Penrith have won four of their past six clashes with Canterbury, but I think the Dogs will turn the tables this Friday.

My tip: Bulldogs 1-12

Sharks v Eels

Remondis Stadium
Saturday August 2 @ 3.05pm (AEST)

Cronulla have won three of their past five matches – the same amount of wins they recorded in their 15 games prior. Interestingly, all three victories were achieved on the road. They have lost their past five at Remondis, and a sixth, will confine the Sharks to their second longest home losing streak. Both sides are coming off strong wins last weekend – the Sharks upset the Panthers in Bathurst, while the Eels rode the Hayne Plane to victory over the Titans on the Gold Coast. Parramatta have won three of their last four games against Cronulla . . . but the Eels have not beaten the Sharks twice in the same season since the glory days of 1982. I give the Sharkies some hope, but with Jarryd Hayne in this sort of form, I can’t tip against the Eels.

My tip: Eels 1-12

Cowboys v Titans

1300SMILES Stadium
Saturday August 2 @ 5.35 (AEST)

After two wins on the bounce in Sydney, the Cowboys come home with a chance to really consolidate their place in the eight. While they might have struggled away from home until a fortnight ago, 1300SMILES Stadium has been a fortress for the Cowboys this year – they have won 11 of their past 12 there, and are on the cusp of a seventh-straight victory in their bacvkyard, which would equal the club’s second longest home winning streak. On top of that, the Cows also welcome back co-captain Matt Scott from a fractured jaw. Gold Coast have won four of their past five against North Queensland, but on current form, they are unlikely to extend that to five from six.

My tip: Cowboys 13+

Roosters v Dragons

Allianz Stadium
Saturday August 2 @ 7.35pm (AEST)

There’s no SBW this weekend . . . but that might not be such a bad thing for the Chooks. The Roosters have won five of the six games Sonny Bill Williams has missed since returning to the NRL last year. And if ever they need a win, it is this weekend. Despite their up-and-down form in 2014, the premiers are still only one win out of the top four, and with the Dogs and Panthers facing off on Friday, a win here will catapult the Tricolours into fourth. The Roosters have won five of their last six games at Allianz Stadium, while St George Illawarra are winless in their past four clashes between the two clubs – their longest losing streak against the Bondi boys. Although the Dragons have been the better-performed side over the past month of footy, I’ll go with the home team here.

My tip: Roosters 1-12

Raiders v Warriors

GIO Stadium
Sunday August 3 @ 2.05pm (AEST)

Ricky Stuart likened the Raiders to a reserve grade outfit after last Monday’s inept loss to the Rabbitohs, and it is hard to argue with him. The Raiders just made far too many simple errors to compete at NRL level. Canberra in the middle of winter should be the last place a team wants to go, but GIO Stadium does not hold much fear for opposition sides these days. The Raiders have saluted in front of their home fans just twice in their past 11 games. On top of that, they average a paltry 18.29 points at home this year – their second lowest since 1987. The Warriors have won just one of their past four away games – and have dropped their past two matches to undo a lot of the momentum they built during the Origin period. But I wouldn’t bet on Canberra with your money!

My tip: Warriors 1-12

Rabbitohs v Knights

Barlow Park, Cairns
Sunday August 3 @ 3.05pm (AEST)

The hardest thing to achieve in the NRL this year is to predict which Newcastle side will turn up on any given day. Newcastle’s yo-yoing season continued last Friday when the undermanned Knights knocked off the defending premiers. It came a week after turning in a decidedly flat performance on their biggest day of the season – in the Rise For Alex Round. While the Rabbitohs have not been a picture of consistency this year, it has been much easier to follow their formline. Their comprehensive shut-out of a poor Raiders outfit last Monday put the Bunnies in second spot – and in an ideal place to launch a finals campaign. Regardless of which Knights side turns up this Sunday, if the Rabbits can produce anything near their best, they should be too strong.

My tip: Rabbitohs 13+

Tigers v Storm

Campbelltown Stadium
Monday August 4 @ 7.05pm (AEST)

The Tigers have won seven of their past 10 games at Campbelltown . . . but have not managed to score more than 19 points in their past six starts there. While the Tigers’ finals hopes took a battering against the Dragons last weekend, Melbourne looked every inch a side on the rise. The Storm now look good things for a top-four finish . . . and from there, they will be very hard to stop. With Cronk back at full fitness and Slater running freely, it would take a brave man to bet against them here – and I am not a brave man!

My tip: Storm 13+

Mitchell Dale - Editor Rugby League Week

Mitchell Dale, Editor Rugby League Week


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