Round 5 Preview
Fri: Sydney Roosters v Canterbury Bulldogs at Allianz: Canterbury swamped a Smith-less Storm in Perth, while the Roosters will not have taken kindly to being held scoreless by Manly. This match should provide an excellent gauge of where both sides are at as teams attempt to gain a foothold in the eight ahead of the demanding rep program. TIP: Roosters by 10
Fri: Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels at Suncorp: Two of 2014’s big improvers square off on Friday, with both coming off emphatic Round 4 victories. Brisbane has to be favoured, while all eyes will be on Justin Hodges’ return – but the Eels are difficult to stop when they get on a roll and have a handy recent record at Suncorp. TIP: Broncos by 7
Sat: Cronulla Sharks v New Zealand Warriors at Remondis: The winless Sharks have been dreadful on the paddock and have myriad problems off it, while the Warriors produced a brilliant last 50 minutes to trounce the Tigers last week – but this is the type of match the NRL’s enigmas habitually lose. This is likely to be a Warriors cakewalk or an at-the-death victory for the Sharks. TIP: Warriors by 20
Sat: Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders at Sportingbet: This shapes as the closest match of the round, with both sides producing some good form so far in 2014 but neither able to post consecutive wins as yet. The Panthers have had consistent injury disruptions and were touched up by Parramatta last week, while the Raiders’ 30-18 win over heavyweights Souths was more convincing than the scoreline indicated and they have key players in great form. TIP: Raiders by 4
Sat: St George Illawarra Dragons v South Sydney Rabbitohs at SCG: A bumper Saturday night encounter usually reserved for Channel Nine’s Sunday afternoon timeslot. It’s nostalgia time as the two most famous clubs in the code return to the game’s former spiritual home – and it is a vital match in the context of both teams’ seasons. The Saints could use a heavyweight scalp as a platform to cement a place in the eight, while the Rabbitohs can get their ailing campaign back on track with a win over one of the form teams of 2014 to date.
Sun: Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans at AAMI Park: The Titans somehow find themselves with a 3-1 record so far, making up for a lack of quality and cohesion in their performances with an overload of grit. The Storm were embarrassed without their skipper last week and will be out to make a statement against the pesky Gold Coast. TIP: Storm by 14
Sun: Wests Tigers v Manly Sea Eagles at Leichhardt Oval: The resurgent Tigers received a reality check in Wellington, while the Sea Eagles need to be wary of suffering a letdown from their high-intensity Grand Final rematch triumph. Leichhardt Oval traditional injects something extra, a dash of the unexpected and spectacular, into a match and this is set to be a real see-saw battle. TIP: Sea Eagles by 1
Mon: North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights at 1300SMILES: The Knights were courageous last week in their shutout of Cronulla in the wake of arguably the most difficult week in the club’s history – but how long can they ride that emotion before it takes a negative toll? The Cowboys are extremely desperate for a momentum shift in their season, winless since the opening round. TIP: Cowboys by 6.
Round 5 Most at Stake
Fielding a re-jigged line-up, the heat is on South Sydney to break a three-match losing streak by subduing the much-improved St George Illawarra Dragons. The Rabbitohs will risk giving their rivals too much of a start with a 1-4 record.
The Selection Table:
Souths coach Michael Maguire bit the bullet and moved John Sutton back to five-eighth and Dylan Walker out to the centres; Bryson Goodwin has been shunted to the wing, meaning out-of-form Lote Tuqiri has been dumped from the side. In another reshuffle, lock Ben Lowe was also dropped, with Sam Burgess donning the No.13 and Dave Tyrell moving into the starting front-row. Josh Dugan, Michael Witt and Dan Hunt all return from injury to bolster St George Illawarra’s line-up, with highly-rated Canberra recruit Sam Williams failing to do enough to hang onto the Dragons’ No.7 jumper.
Justin Hodges makes a surprise early return from his achilles injury, while Dale Copley moves out to the wing after deputising impressively in the centres; Lachlan Maranta is the odd man out, bumped back to an extended bench. Konrad Hurrell will make his first starting appearance for 2014 after Jerome Ropati broke his jaw, while Feleti Mateo returns from injury to take Hurrell’s place on the bench. Sebastine Ikahihifo is the likely replacement if, as expected, Sione Lousi is suspended for a dangerous throw on Tigers backrower Cory Paterson.
Tim Grant, Josh Mansour and Peter Wallace all come back into the Penrith side after injury layoffs, while teenager Dallin Watene-Zelezniak makes his debut on the wing for the injured David Simmons. Tim Simona and Liam Fulton return from concussion layoffs to replace Sauaso Sue, who is out for a couple of months with an ankle injury, and Cory Paterson.
-The Bulldogs have won just three of their last 11 matches against the Roosters at Allianz.
-The Warriors have lost four straight to Cronulla and boast just two wins in their last eight games at the Sharks’ home ground.
-Manly has won nine of its last 12 against Wests Tigers, but have lost three of the last four games staged at Leichhardt Oval.
-The Cowboys have won five of their last seven against the Knights, and four of the last five between the clubs in Townsville.
-St George Illawarra has won the last three matches against South Sydney played at the SCG.
-Gold Coast is winless in three matches at AAMI Park and has won just one of six in Melbourne.
Round 5 Best Individual Match-ups:
-The Josh Dugan v Greg Inglis fullback battle at the SCG will be a doozey.
-James Maloney has the inside running for the NSW No.6 job, but a match-winning performance from Josh Reynolds could sway the selectors.
-Burgeoning young hookers Andrew McCullough and Nathan Peats will have a major say in the outcome of Friday’s clash.
-Andrew Fifita will be eager to make some positive headlines, but big Ben Matulino will be standing in his way at Remondis Stadium.
-Penrith winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has a dream debut assignment up against Bill Tupou.
-Two game-breakers with the No.13 on their backs square off on Saturday night: Sam Burgess and Trent Merrin.
-If the reports doing the rounds are to be believed, Canterbury’s 2015 fullback candidates James Tedesco and Peta Hiku will line up opposite one another at Leichhardt.
-John Sutton will take sole ownership of South Sydney’s all-time appearances record, moving past Bob McCarthy in his 212th first grade outing. Nathan Merritt joins McCarthy on 211 appearances for the Rabbitohs.
-Corey Parker is just six points away from becoming the third player after Darren Lockyer and Michael De Vere to score 1,000 points for the Broncos. Parker’s 431 career goals is already a club record.
-Billy Slater’s next try will see him move into outright fifth on the all-time tryscorers’ list; he is just five away from Terry Lamb and six short of Andrew Ettingshausen.
-Akuila Uate, with 88 tries in 118 games, is three tries short of the club record owned by currently injured teammate Timana Tahu, who has crossed for 91 tries in 124 games for the Knights.
Commentary gold: Midway through the second half of the topsy-turvy Warriors-Tigers contest in Wellington – Andrew Voss: “There’s still a whole book to be written about this game!”
Daryl Halligan: “I don’t think I wanna read it.”
Try of the Year contender: The Warriors’ outrageous four-pointer after the halftime siren was a once-in-a-season try. Possession changed hands twice in a bizarre, helter-skelter sequence before the ball landed in Konrad Hurrell’s hands. The wrecking ball centre started a 70-metre movement that featured quick hands, loose passes, a kick and an in-goal fumble by Robbie Farah before Shaun Johnson slammed the ball down.
Blunder city, population …
-Sam Tomkins gambled and lost while willing a kick to go over the dead-ball line during the first half, with Tigers opposite James Tedesco leaving the pasty Brit more red-faced than if he had spent a week at Bondi Beach.
-Erratic winger Bill Tupou gave Raiders fans a terrifying window into life without Edrick Lee, butchering a certain try against Souths with a lazy putdown.
Form Origin Teams
Each week, the below line-ups will be updated for NSW and Queensland State of Origin sides if NRL form was the only selection factor.
1. James Tedesco
2. Pat Richards
3. Will Hopoate
4. Joseph Leilua
5. Brett Morris
6. Terry Campese
7. Albert Kelly
8. Aiden Tolman
9. Robbie Farah
10. Aaron Woods
11. Boyd Cordner
12. Greg Bird
13. Trent Merrin
14. Josh Reynolds
15. Anthony Watmough
16. Tyson Frizell
17. Luke Douglas
1. Anthony Milford
2. Darius Boyd
3. Greg Inglis
4. Dane Gagai
5. Dale Copley
6. Cooper Cronk
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Jacob Lillyman
9. Cameron Smith
10. Corey Parker
11. Nate Myles
12. Sam Thaiday
13. Matt Gillett
14. Andrew McCullough
15. Brenton Lawrence
16. Ashley Harrison
17. Dylan Napa
This week in history:
1953 – In an opening-round rematch of the previous year’s wildly controversial Grand Final (won 22-12 by Wests over Souths after a string of dubious decisions by referee George Bishop), Western Suburbs blitzed South Sydney 44-28 at the SCG, with centre Keith Cullen scoring four tries. Amazingly, the Magpies slumped to finish with the wooden spoon while the Rabbitohs won the premiership.
1960 – Reg Gasnier scored four tries and Brian Graham racked up 25 points as St George thumped minnows Parramatta 52-0 in the opening round of the season.
1967 – Cronulla beat Eastern Suburbs 11-5, while fellow premiership entrants Penrith went down 15-12 to Canterbury in the respective clubs’ maiden matches.
1983 – In a major boilover at Lidcombe Oval, eventual wooden spooners Wests defeated reigning champs and eventual premiers Parramatta 9-2.
1992 – Gold Coast staged a courageous 18-8 win over emerging contenders Illawarra after having Test prop Brent Todd sent off in the first half, but the Seagulls’ premiership points were stripped in the aftermath for fielding an illegal fifth interchange player.
Mav63, you are an excellent tipper after the fact – I hope you headed down to the retrospective TAB on Saturday morning and put the house on the Broncos! Credit where it’s due, though, the Broncos started brilliantly and were too good for a disjointed Dragons side who went away from what had been working for them in the opening three rounds.
The Punters Guide to the 2014 NRL Season: If you haven’t picked up your copy of Nick Tedeschi’s all-encompassing, fascinating bible for NRL consumption in 2014, what are you waiting for? Anyone who has a punt, makes a fantasy trade or even sits down to watch a game is selling themselves short by not consulting this super-affordable tome first. Get it at newsagencies or on the iTunes store.