Paul's previews are in for the shortened NRL Round 15. Still lots of good contests potentially ruined by missing Origin players.
Look back through the NRL teamlists for Round 15 here, and check back here on the weekend for LIVE updates of each game.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Sydney Roosters
ANZ Stadium, Friday 7:45pm
Round 15 kicks off with what should have been another gripping chapter to one of the great rivalries of the NRL, the ‘Dogs and the Chooks. In their last meeting, a much hyped and much anticipated round 6 match at Allianz Stadium quickly turned into a bloodbath with the Roosters winning 38-0. Since that night, the ‘Dogs have won 7 from 8, including 4 in the trot to sit 7th on the ladder. The Roosters have hardly skipped a beat either and are still placed in the top 4.
Unfortunately, the two teams in this run of good form won’t be the teams you see on Friday night. The rep calendar has destroyed this match but both forward packs are relatively intact so be prepared of another physical contest between two powerhouses of the NRL. The Bulldogs are heavy favourites to exact revenge and with Trent Hodkinson outplaying the replacement Roosters halves combo of Dan Mortimer and Mitch Aubusson, they will.
My tip: Bulldogs 20-12
Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday 7:30pm
Tough to watch the Tigers last Monday night. Firstly because it may have been labelled in this ‘column’ as an ‘upset of the week’ and secondly because they looked like little boys playing against men. A number of soft tries in their match against the Broncos last week but more importantly, little to no resolve in their defensive middle. The Tigers simply were not tough enough and this must have been very hard to swallow for a proud club.
Well, things will only get tougher if the Tigers can’t harden up this week and the loyal Campbelltown crowd may not like what they see. The Raiders are coming to town on Saturday night in Sydney’s west and even with Josh Papalii on rep duties; you won’t find a harder pack of forwards than the Green Machine. They’ll do plenty of damage and then Terry Campese and co will take over against a retreating defensive line. Campo a standout.
My tip: Raiders 30-20
Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs
ANZ Stadium, Sunday 3:00pm
Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium has the table topping Bunnies heading west to face the NRLs cellar dwellers, the Eels. Parra fans surely are at their wits end. They’ve not finished higher than 8th since 2008 and have delivered plenty of reserve grade level performances already this year. Now, Eels fans are expected to wait another year with coach Ricky Stuart essentially treating this season as a write-off.
Well, what better way to promote this blockbuster than to inspire your members to get out to the game the way Parramatta have. South Sydney, by contrast, have rewarded their long suffering fans with a remarkable season so far and even with their try scorers missing from this match, they’ll be very, very hard to beat. Adam Reynolds and Issac Luke lead the way again here as Parramatta again realises they paid for the wrong halfback.
My tip: Rabbitohs 28-8
Gold Coast Titans v Melbourne Storm
Skilled Park, Monday 7:00pm
Monday night football comes from Skilled Park to close out round 15 and with a much anticipated origin II only 48 hours after this match; you’ll forgive NRL fans for not being too engaged here. Pity, there is plenty to like about the contrasting styles of the Titans and the Storm. Melbourne have been as good as ever in defence and will bring that same attitude to Robina, while the Titans have shown some streaks of excitement with the ball.
So, with the Storm development structure being tested here, we welcome five eighth Ben Hampton to first grade to partner a man 10 years his senior, Brett Finch. Fantastic. What better way to make your debut than right next to Finch for a weekend in the Gold Coast. Hampton will come away from his time with Finch a smoking, drinking, giggling, bona fide 1st grader. Long may it continue. On the field, the Titans are favourites and their spine should outscore the replacements from Melbourne.
My tip: Titans 18-12