NRL ROUND 13
Eels v Warriors
The final score in the Eels win over the Rabbitohs was not a true reflection of their dominance as they had it all over the Bunnies; their forward pack in particular were brilliant and their backline complemented the effort with a clinical display, Moses in particular looking a lot more at ease in his new team.
It’s hard to gauge much from the Warriors win last week as the Broncos were depleted and those that did turn out put in a rather limp performance; the Warriors effort levels were up from previous weeks but they’re still very vulnerable when confronted with a hardened forward pack which this Eels side has. The Warriors did beat the Eels in Auckland earlier in the year but that means little here as they’re dreadful on the road and the Eels will no doubt be lining them up to square the ledger.
The bookies are obviously leaning towards some sort of Warriors revival given the narrow start and whilst I’m sure they’ll put up some initial fight the Eels will wear them down and the likes of Radradra, French and Takairangi will start to carve up the notoriously weak Warriors defence. Pick – 4 units on Eels -2.5 point start (BEST BET)
Dragons v Tigers
Under coach Ivan Cleary the Tigers started with a hiss and a roar but now the honeymoon is over they’ve reverted back to old habits and have looked every bit the 15th paced side in the competition. There will be plenty of interest surrounding the Tigers new recruit - five-eighth Tuimoala Lolohea who has been pushed from pillar to post by the Warriors this and last season and we’ll hopefully get to see him settled into his preferred position, the jury is well and truly out though as to his ability to guide/steer the offence which is a crucial quality in the halves.
The Dragons followed up their thrashing of the Warriors with the Bye round last week so will come into this rested, they have named Dugan (pending getting through origin) and Widdup in the squad which if they do play will be a massive boost to their attacking options, regardless though they still have a dangerous side with a forward pack that’s quickly establishing themselves as one of the more fearsome in the competition. Meanwhile the Tigers have named Tedesco and Woods to back up from origin, either or both of those players withdrawing here would have a big impact on the side as they’ve both been stand outs this season.
Unfortunately for the Tigers the writing does seem to be on the wall for 2017 and getting the side up for each game is going to be Cleary’s biggest challenge with big names already confirmed leaving the club at seasons end; I guess their motivation could come later whilst trying to avoid the wooden spoon. The Dragons should have it all over the Tigers here and a big win is certainly on the cards. Pick – 3 units on Dragons -10.5 point start
Cowboys v Titans
Despite being named on the extended bench there’s very little likelihood Thurston will take the field here, regardless of this though the Cowboys are still hot favourites to take this as they proved in thrashing the Bulldogs in round 10, and again in their last match out narrowly losing to the Sharks that they’re still a force without their superstar halfback. The return of Granville at hooker has had a big impact on the Cowboys recent performances as his influence around the ruck is huge and I suspect will again be a big feature here.
The Titans have been a hard team to get a gauge on thus far as they’ve been brilliant one week and pedestrian the next but following a big loss to the Sea Eagles one suspects they’ll have prepped well for this and will at least turn up to play. There’s no denying the attacking capabilities of the Titans, particularly with Hayne at full flight and along with their exciting halves in Elgey and Taylor they’ll ask plenty of questions of the Cowboys defence.
I can’t see there being too much in this but the Cowboys should edge it through the strength they have up front and with the added spring in their step from playing in front of their home fans. We’ll take the value on the Cowboys win in the margins. Pick - 2 units on Cowboys to win by 12 points and under
Roosters v Broncos
Both these sides enter this game off the back of losses, albeit without their origin stars, both sides are expected to get the majority of those players back here though. Of the two sides it was the Roosters that put in by far the more competitive effort last week in narrowly losing to the Raiders, a performance that will certainly buoy them going into this clash; the Broncos on the other hand were dreadful against the Warriors with the returning Hunt likely to have caused Wayne Bennett the biggest concerns as he was well and truly off the pace.
The Roosters have been the more consistent of the sides thus far and I like them to take this one at home. There are a few players in their pack, notably Warea-Hargraves, Cordner and Friend who are really putting their hand up and they’ll be right into this against their old Queensland foe. Defence will be the order of the day for both sides and I just can’t help but feel the Roosters will be less troubled repelling the Broncos especially off the back of what I saw from Hunt at halfback last week - we’ll take the Roosters to win In the margins. Pick - 3 units on Roosters to win by 12 points and under
Sea Eagles v Raiders
With their hard fought win over the Roosters last week the Raiders have now snuck into the top eight but will sink straight back out if they don’t secure the win here. The intimidation factor of playing away may not be such a worry for the Raiders here given the Sea Eagles have won just one out of five games they’ve played at Brookvale (Lottoland) this season.
The Loss of Tom Trbojevic at fullback for the Sea Eagles wasn’t a factor in their big win over the Titans a fortnight ago but they’ll badly miss his pace and size here on attack against a more hardened Raiders side. With Trbojevic out it puts a bit more pressure on DCE and Walker in the backline to create opportunities and whilst Walker did this admirably on one leg against the Titans he won’t be afforded such an armchair ride in the face of the tougher Raiders defence.
The Raiders are a quality side and won’t be happy with 8thposition on the ladder; Ricky Stuart will have them primed for a huge game here and will be looking to his large forward pack to lay the platform. Out wide the Raiders have the edge over the Sea Eagles with Rapana continuing to amaze with his try scoring abilities, Leilua with his raw strength and Croker/Wighton as the steadying hand – take the Raiders for the win. Pick - 3 units on Raiders to win