Matt Pritchard navigated a tricky National Rugby League Round 22 with six from eight. Here’s his Round 23 predictions.
Brisbane Broncos vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (Thurs 7:50pm, Suncorp)
Last Five: Brisbane 5 wins, South Sydney 0 wins
A blockbuster in Brisbane opens round 23 of the competition. Brisbane Broncos replace the New Zealand Warriors in the ‘death set’ after two straight losses on the road, while a loss for South Sydney could see them drop to third pending Melbourne’s game with Parramatta on Friday night. The impact of Brisbane ‘BBQ-gate’ and speculation Wayne Bennett won’t be at Red Hill in 2019, combined with South Sydney’s makeshift backline, and you have one intriguing game!
For Souths to win, the responsibility is on Adam Reynolds and Damien Cook to play up the middle and expose Brisbane’s defence. It might just be the likes of James Roberts and Corey Oates which have the final say in this one, despite the pressure on the Broncos to perform.
PREDICTION: Broncos 22 Rabbitohs 14
Manly Sea Eagles vs Gold Coast Titans (Fri 6pm, Lottoland)
Last Five: Manly 3 wins, Gold Coast 2 wins
This game might not have any bearing on the finals, but will provide headlines post-game about how Trent Barrett walked out on the club, other than the focus being on the actual match. Manly’s win over Canterbury Bulldogs in the Women In League continued their good late season form.
For the Gold Coast Titans, they went so close to beating the Penrith Panthers last weekend but failed, like others before them, to play out the full eighty minutes against the side dubbed the comeback kings. The combination of AJ Brimson at fullback and Kane Elgey at six was successful last week, but the form of Ash Taylor is a concern. If Manly can break down the Titans defence out wide, it could be a successful evening for the side.
PREDICTION: Sea Eagles 30 Titans 14
Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta Eels (Fri 7:50pm, AAMI)
Last Five: Melbourne 3 wins, Parramatta 2 wins
Parramatta Eels fans are scratching their heads thinking what could have been if they performed as well as they have the past fortnight throughout the season. This game should have been preparing them for finals footy, as well as revenge for their defeat in the Qualifying Final last year. Jarryd Hayne scored a hat-trick in last week’s thrashing of top 4 side St George-Illawarra Dragons.
This week they meet a Melbourne Storm outfit trying to avoid three straight losses. They looked tired in the second half against South Sydney and couldn’t win the arm wrestle with Cronulla at home last week. I wonder if Jahrome Hughes’ experiment at halfback is over and whether the Storm should go back to Ryley Jacks or Brodie Croft. A good start vital for Melbourne to reassure their fans that they can defend their crown. Eels will throw the kitchen sink at them.
PREDICTION: Storm 28 Eels 24