Last week we picked six out of the eight winners, including the Gold Coast Titans over Wests Tigers. Matt Pritchard casts his eye over the reduced round 17.
Melbourne Storm vs St George-Illawarra Dragons (Thursday 7:50pm, AAMI)
Last Five: Storm 3 wins, Dragons 2 wins
This game between first and third spot is deprived of nine players who are out through Origin representation, taking away from the contest. The advantage for the Storm is Cam Smith’s decision to retire from representative football and this no doubt will boost their chances in a relatively important game. A result in favour of the Dragons would see Melbourne drop six points below the league leaders. Sandor Earl has been announced on an extended Storm bench in his first official team listing since his drug ban in 2014. Keep an eye on Dragons halfback Darren Nicholls who’s been the best for a number of years in the Queensland and New South Wales version of the Intrust Super competition. A well deserved call-up. As for the game, the slight advantage goes to the Storm on home soil. The Dragons might need to wait another year to win their first at AAMI.
PRECITION: Storm 20 Dragons 16
Penrith Panthers vs New Zealand Warriors (Friday 7:55pm, Panthers)
Last Five: Panthers 4 wins, Warriors 1 win
Penrith Panthers are looking to avoid three straight losses when they host New Zealand Warriors. Automatically you could turn to the absence of James Maloney and Nathan Cleary and think the Warriors are dead certainties. They will welcome back Corey Harawira-Naera and Waqa Blake to the side, while Tyrone May gets his chance to play NRL after showing promise at the back-end of last year. Surely they won’t complete at a horrible rate like last week. Meanwhile the Warriors have David Fusitu’a, Adam Blair and Ken Maumalo returning to the side. Their away record is good compared to their home record. Can they overcome their last trip here where they led 28-6 at half time and got mowed down 36-28?
PRECITION: Panthers 24 Warriors 22
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Canberra Raiders (Saturday 7:35pm, Belmore)
Last Five: Raiders 3 wins, Bulldogs 2 wins
It’s the second time this year Canterbury have returned home to Belmore. On June 16 they were trounced on the Moses Mbye farewell day convincingly by the Gold Coast Titans. Since their return to their sacred home the Bulldogs have won two and lost five including a 22-8 loss against the Raiders in 2016. That Raiders side ended up in second spot that year before being knocked out in the Grand Final qualifier in Melbourne. This current Raiders team are unable to close out matches and last week’s result demonstrated that. They are a team clinging to life in the battle to make the finals. Last week the Bulldogs played with enthusiasm to get home against Newcastle, a side who’s won just two from eight at home this year. Josh Hodgson is the key. If he influences for the full eighty minutes, the Raiders are home.
PRECITION: Raiders 26 Bulldogs 14