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Posted on 16/05 by Joe Gann

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Panthers v Tigers

Penrith moved back into the second place on Friday, courtesy of a 29-18 win over the Knights. Despite missing eight figures from their thirty-man squad, the mountain men continue to provide the answers to their problems, with replacements seizing their opportunities with both hands. This early season adversity may prove to be a valuable learning experience as the season wears on. The return of Nathan Cleary this week is a welcome tonic, following Trent Merrin’s early comeback last week. The Tigers preserved a proud 18-year winning record over the Cowboys with a comfortable 20-12 victory in Sydney in round 10 – maintaining a winning streak at Leichhardt Oval in the fixture that goes back to the year 2000. The win was doubly impressive given the short five-day turnaround following a cross-Tasman journey to face the Warriors.

Prediction – Panthers $1.50

Eels v Warriors

With just two wins now from their opening ten fixtures, the prospects of the Eels participating in finals footy this year would appear to be extremely slim. Confidence is ebbing away from the side with each passing week, and it is difficult to see how their season can possibly be rekindled. The 20-12 reversal to the Bulldogs made it back-to-back losses, defeats more painful after their confidence-building wins in rounds 7 and 8. The one small cause for optimism comes from the fact that they are the only side to have ever qualified for the play-offs after starting the season at 2-8, back in 2006. The Warriors will need to draw on their powers of recovery once more this season following heavy defeats to the Storm and Roosters in the last three weeks. The strangely flat performance against the Roosters, in which Stephen Kearney’s men drew a blank for the first time this season, serves to cast fresh doubt on their Premiership chances.

Prediction – Warriors $1.50

Broncos v Roosters

The Broncos became the first team in six weeks to fall at the hands of the Sea Eagles last week, and their indifferent form leaves them off the pace in the battle for a top-eight finish. However, Wayne Bennett’s side usually respond well to a defeat, and they have a decent record against the Tricolours in Brisbane - they will be hoping to gain some consistency in their results starting here. Will the commanding victory in Auckland last weekend prove to be the catalyst that can finally kick-start a sustained Roosters title bid? Having underperformed for large parts of the season to date, the emphatic 0-32 win had all the hallmarks of a team that has learned to play together at long last. Now at 6-4 for the year, they are poised to push on and challenge the top four after keeping the Warriors pointless in what was their finest performance of the season to date.

Prediction – Roosters $1.50

Titans v Knights

Back-to-back wins over the Broncos and Sea Eagles in rounds 4 and 5 seem a distant memory now and the Titans form has gone downhill rapidly since. Only the Eels are performing worse at the minute, with Garth Brennan’s outfit slumped in fifteenth place on the ladder. They received some good news at least this week, with Origin forward Jarrod Wallace opting to extend his stay on the Gold Coast until 2020. Knights coach Nathan Brown took the unusual step of singling out an individual as a cause for his side’s defeat to the Panthers at the weekend. Connor Watson’s errors were blamed for the loss of two competition points with his boss claiming ‘that’s where the game was won or lost.’ 5-5 now for a Knights side that has claimed some impressive scalps already this year yet remains a team in transition.

Prediction – Knights $1.50

Cowboys v Rabbitohs

The Cowboys fell to yet another defeat last time out - the 20-12 loss to the Tigers was their seventh of an increasingly frustrating campaign. The latest setback may prove to be a watershed moment for the North Queenslanders with coach Paul Green hinting at making wholesale changes in an attempt to lift his side out of their current malaise. The Rabbitohs were magnificent in their victory over the Dragons last week, becoming only the second team this season to conquer the table-toppers. Anthony Seibold has moulded one of the most entertaining sides in the competition in his short tenure, and the Bunnies will only get stronger as the campaign progresses. They will be confident of securing a seventh win of the year at the expense of a jaded looking North Queensland.

Prediction – Rabbitohs $1.50

Storm v Sea Eagles

A less than convincing win over the Titans doesn’t mask the problems facing the defending Premiers, who look a shadow of their former selves at present. Captain Cameron Smith will sit this match out with a one-week suspension after taking an early guilty plea for a grade-two dangerous contact charge for his ‘wishbone’ tackle on former teammate Kevin Proctor last week. It is the first time Smith has been suspended since missing the 2008 Grand Final, and only his sixth since he made his NRL bow in 2002. The Sea Eagles pulled off a terrific win over the Broncos last weekend, a victory that came as a welcome relief for beleaguered coach Trent Barrett after a turbulent period for the club. The loss of Smith is a massive fillip for Manly, and they will be confident of pulling off an upset against a Storm side who will certainly miss their talismanic skipper. The Silvertails received a further boost this week after securing the signature of Trent Hodkinson – the five-eighth has joined the club from Cronulla on an 18-month deal.

Prediction – Sea Eagles $1.50

Dragons v Raiders

The Dragons suffered a shock setback at the hands of the Rabbitohs last week but remain on the top of the ladder with an 8-2 record. They will need to deliver a response similar to the one that accompanied their first loss to the season – following defeat to the Warriors, Paul McGregor’s men overcame both the Roosters and Storm in the next two matches. Blake Austin faces a late fitness test after sustaining a serious looking ankle injury in Sunday’s deflating loss to the Sharks. With four wins from five prior to the match, the Raiders were gaining momentum after their dire opening to the year, and back-back defeats here will further undo their recent hard work.

Prediction Dragons - $1.50

Sharks v Bulldogs

The Sharks are quietly building up a head of steam with four wins in a row, and they have crept into the eight without grabbing any headlines. Andrew Fifita stood up when it mattered most for his injury-ravaged side at the weekend, completing the full eighty minutes in a hugely inspirational display that consisted of 51 tackles, 175 metres and 4 off-loads. The 24-16 success was their sixth straight win at GIO Stadium, and there is more good news for coach Shane Flanagan with Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Jason Bukuya and Wade Graham all nearing a return to action. The Bulldogs claimed two precious points after a vital win over the struggling Eels on Friday night; the victory broke a recent poor spell of three consecutive losses and moves them above the Cowboys into twelfth place. Danny Fualalo is set for a spell on the sidelines after sustaining an ankle injury during Friday’s win and will join Aiden Tolman in the casualty ward as the prop continues his recovery from an ankle problem of his own.

Prediction – Sharks $1.50

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