Well, more upsets again last week but Parramatta emerged from round five as the only NRL’s unbeaten side. Some big games highlight round 6, none bigger than the Eels’ clash with the rampaging Roosters who’ve been tearing teams apart early in the season.
The Eels are giving up just eight points a game but the Roosters are scoring at an average of 30 points a game — so something is going to give. It’s hard to believe the Roosters are playing the brand of high-speed rugby league at this time of the year. It is like they are in finals mode already and if Parramatta can lower their colours it would consolidate their place as premiership favourites.
This clash is a true character test for Parramatta against a side which has won the past two NRL premiership and has scored 150 points in its five games.The Brisbane Broncos, unlucky losers to Manly last weekend, kick-off round six tonight against the Newcastle and have a few troops coming back including rugged forward Tevita Pangai-Junior who is back from a costly four-week suspension. They also welcome back their skipper Alex Glenn (leg cut) whose leadership will also make a difference and veteran Kiwi Test hooker Issac Luke who only joined the club this week from the Dragons.
The Blockbuster just keep coming with Penrith lining up against the Melbourne Storm at Campbelltown on Friday and last year’s grand finalists Canberra going head-to-head with Manly at the same venue on Sunday. Wayne Bennett’s wobbly Rabbits take on the quirky Warriors in another absorbing clash at Bankwest Stadium on Friday night when Latrell Mitchell can take another step in his development as a fullback in the class of James Tedesco and Kylan Pongs.
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NRL Tipping – Thursday, June 18
Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos
Venue: Central Coast Stadium | Start: 7.50 PM
Newcastle Knights – The Knights are on a high after securing the long-term signing of the club’s gun young fullback Kalyn Ponga. Back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon bolsters theirs back returning from a leg injury. After two good wins, the Knights ran into a Storm side which muscled-up on them and had too much possession in winning 26-12 last weekend on the back of a Cameron Smith master class. Still, there were plenty of positive signs to suggest Newcastle can bounce straight back. Big night for former Brisbane favourite Andrew McCullough who runs out against the club he played 260 of his 262 NRG games against since 2008. Macca made 65 tackles for his new club and a similar performance will be needed as the Broncos try and exploit the Broncos through the middle. Newcastle has plenty of strike in Ponga, Edric Lee, who is playing very well and exciting youngster Bradman Best who in a few games has established himself as a genuine try-scorer and game-breaker. As usual halfback, Mitchell Pearce will control the ruck speed and he will be looking to players like David Klemmer and Daniel Siafiti to get the Knights on the front-foot.
Brisbane Broncos – The loss of their attacking trump Kotoni Staggs (5 tries on last four games) is tempered by the return from injury of inspiration skipper Alex Glenn and aggressive young forward Tevita Pangi Junior, back from a four-week foul play suspension. Still, no David Fafita but Brisbane have enough bulk in the forwards to match the Knight’s engine room. Coach Anthony Siebold has moved young Herbie Farnworth to the centres for Staggs and returned Corey Oates to the wing after he played last week’s tough 20-18 loss to Manly in the forwards. Brisbane uncovered a real aerial weapon last week in youngster Xavier Coates who revived memories of a young Israel Folau as he flew through the air grabbing high kick after high kick. Brisbane will need to be careful with their bombs with Ponga so dangerous from the back. The Broncos lean heavily on their big forwards to get into stride but they looked good a few times when Anthony Milford ran a little wider. This game will come down to effort.
NRL Tipping – Friday, June 19
South Sydney Rabbitohs v NZ Warriors
Venue: Bankwest Stadium | Start: 6.00 PM
South Sydney Rabbitohs – Welcome back Latrell Mitchell. The enigmatic but richly-talented Mitchell displayed patched of his talent at fullback against the Gold Coast Titans last weekend but needs to go on with his progress against the Warriors who pose a far different threat. Coach Wayne Bennett believes Mitchell is best served in the No.1 jumper where he can utilise all his skills and not be targeted playing in a set position. He wasn’t fit at the season resumption but last week his timing and energy were back. Things started to click for Souths against the Titans and you get the feeling they may be about to build a winning streak. Cody Walker plays his 100th game and it could be one to remember if he turns up and plays the way we know he can. The Rabbits have a slick mobile pack but hooker Damien Cook has been a little off the pace in recent weeks but is a player who can put on a try and two in quick time. Walker and halfback partner Adam Reynolds will be very busy creating headaches for the Warriors bigger players, doing their best to fatigue them with their tactical kicking games.
NZ Warriors – The Warriors need to start putting a few wins back-to-back instead of playing strongly one week and then giving up the next. Coach Stephen Kearney has got a good young roster with speed and size and they just need to develop some consistency to convince punters they can play finals football in 2020. Certainly on their performance last weekend against North Queensland Cowboys they are good enough, it just comes down to doing it every week. If Latrell Mitchell is a key player for South Sydney them the effervescent Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is the spark for the Warriors. RTS ran over 200 metres last weekend against the Cowboys and when he is running at speed he is in the class of Ponga and James Tedesco as a dangerman. Kearney has retained the same 17 that ran over the Cowboys and while South Sydney will offer more resistance they have enough players who can test their defence line.
Penrith Panthers V Melbourne Storm
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium | Start: 7.55 PM
Penrith Panthers – We unable to hold off the Parramatta Eels last week after getting out to a 10-0 lead which should have been enough. Still, the Eels are top dogs at the moment as the only side unbeaten so the effort was not without merit. The return of Dylan Edwards at fullback is a bonus as he returns the ball well and find a hole in the defense. Liam Martin comes in the injured Luke Capewell who is facing some serious time on the sidelines. The tussle between Nathan Cleary and Ryley Jacks in the halves will be vital and Cleary’s running game can put Melbourne under pressure. He was good in his first game back last week, showing signs of the form that earned him NSW Origin selection. The Panthers will go to their big man Villame Kikau on the edges while James Tamou, James Fisher-Harris and Isaah Yeo will punch up the middle all night. Melbourne have been a real bogey team for the Panthers who in their past 20 meetings have only tasted victory twice since 2006.
Melbourne Storm – The moment you start doubting the Storm, coach Craig Bellamy and skipper Cameron Smith make you eat your words. Smith was masterful against Newcastle last week after debate about possibly shifting him the No.7 duties. He celebrates his 37th birthday the day before the game but you would not know it the way he plays for 80 minutes and touches the ball more than any other player on the field. Penrith will be hoping he celebrates hard and is a little lethargic but that’s not likely to happen. The Storm appeared to abandon some structure last week against Newcastle and they looked more dangerous with the ball. When Cameron Munster takes on the defence and goes to the line Melbourne have so many options. Brandon Smith is a beast off the bench and his try last week highlighted his brute strength and determination. You have to get excited by the clash of two big sets of forwards who will not shirk or take a backward step. Melbourne have some much scoring power in their backline but so do Penrith. You can almost guarantee big winger Suliasi Vinivalu will celebrate his 100th NRL game with a try or two. One of the games of the round for sure.
NRL Tipping – Saturday, June 20
Gold Coast Titans v St George Illawarra Dragons
Venue: Suncorp Stadium | Start: 3:00 PM
Gold Coast Titans – The Titans have rushed former Tigers utility Corey Thompson into the fullback role and he will add some spark to their attack if he gets some opportunities. His arrival means Phillip Sammy can revert to the wing and Brian Kelly to the centres where he is more dangerous. Dale Copely will miss the game. Tyrone Peachey has bee kept on the bench as an impact player and will be used that way at various times. Ash Taylor is playing with more confidence and hopefully can link with new buy Thompson in the middle when fatigue sets in. The Titans love playing at Suncorp (4 from last six) but off-setting that is they don’t go well against the Dragons who have won 5 of their last 7 showdowns. This is battle between the NRL struggler and one which could go either way.
St George Dragons – Finally cracked it for a win last week upsetting the Sharks 30-16. That was a huge improvement on their previous limp efforts. Coach Paul McGregor made a few changes and they paid off with million dollar man Ben Hunt playing at hooker where has played for Queensland and Australia. Hunt and Cameron McInnes worked well together and gave the Dragons a point of attack. Matt Duffy’s return to fullback also injected some life into the Dragons as his speed is a real weapon. Adam Clune is starting to take some responsibility in his role as halfback and his kicking game continues to improve. There is a lot to like about the Dragons pack led by James Graham, Tyson Frizell and Paul Vaughan. There’s nothing wrong with the Dragons rosters and now they have some belief back perhaps they can start winning a few more games.
West Tigers v Nth Queensland Cowboys
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium | Start: 6:00 PM
West Tigers – Still no Benji Marshall which to some is puzzling after their 14-6 loss to Canberra last round. Coach Madge McGuire. McGuire would have liked what he saw in the first half against the Raiders and will be hoping his tinkering with the side will pay off against the Cowboys who have dropped their past two games. The question has to be asked how long can young Harry Grant continue to provide such great service under heavy punishment but he looks a really quality player with a big heart. The Tiger’s forwards are not rated highly but for much of the game against the Raiders, they stood their ground. Halves Luke Brooks and Adam Reynolds need to overshadow the younger, inexperienced rivals Jake Clifford and Scott Drinkwater who are forging a good combination. With no Marshall, even more, the responsibility falls on Brooks who has been a little down on form in recent week. McGuire will be looking to Brooks to provide a spark in the big moments and involve himself more often. There’s a feeling it’s time for Brooks to take his game to the next level and take ownership of the Tiger’s attack.
Nth Queensland Cowboys – Not great news that Michael Morgan may be out for a few more weeks than first anticipated but at least it gives young Cowboys halves Jake Clifford and Scott Drinkwater more time on the park together. Each week they get a little better and Drinkwater is a great competitor while Clifford has a good head on his young shoulders. Fullback Valentine Holmes (ankle) is a few weeks ago and coach Paul Green has handed Hamiso Tabaui-Fidow his NRL debut. The reports about Tabaui-Fidow are glowing. Green will also give 21-year-old Connelly Lemuelu his debut on the wing. Big Jason Taumalolo will be the club’s third captain this season and you can bet he will take the extra responsibility on his big shoulders and smash out even more metres than usual. If you’re looking for a first try scorer throw some on winger Kyle Feldt who has scored a meat pie in his last four games against the Tigers.
Sydney Roosters v Parramatta Eels
Venue: Bankwest Stadium | Start: 7.35 PM
Sydney Roosters – The big concern with the Roosters is are they playing finals football way too early. If this is the Roosters warming up then you have to wonder how good will they be when the finals do come around. They have demolished their rivals in recent weeks and this clash is what fans and punters have been hanging out. The Roosters will come off a short turnaround after their game was delayed 24 hours until Monday because of a Coronavirus scare. Still, the way they have been playing it’s not likely to have much effect. If any team can stop Parramatta’s perfect start to 2020 in is the two-time defending premiers who look in awesome form. Where do you start with the Roosters? Upfront they have Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Siosiua Taukeiaho smashing it up early before the ball shifts wide to speed men before finding a Morris brother, Josh or Brett and eventually James Tedesco. Tedesco was superhuman on Monday night scoring three tries, setting up two more, making 10 tackle busts and running 231 metres. He is part of a high-speed non-stop attacking barrage that inevitably grinds team’s down. Parramatta has the best defence in the NRL so this will be a big test for them.
Parramatta Eels – Starring history in the face against the hottest team in the NRL. No Eels side in history has started a season 6-0 and Parramatta have had some great sides over the years. Parramatta’s defence is conceding 8 points a game but holding the rampant Roosters to that single-digit scoreline seems a difficult task given they are averaging 30 points a game. Still, Parramatta has a new resolve this season and they will approach this game as a character test knowing the Roosters have emerged as the premiership favourites on back of some lopsided score lines. It is widely regarded forwards win big matches and this will be the case when these two packs line-up. Mitchell Moses continues to play with flair while his No.6 Dylan Brown will relish the chance to go up against Luke Keary. Boyd Cordner, Angus Crichton and Victory Radley for mine give the Roosters an edge with their line-breaking ability which will come into play when the big boppers get tired, and they will.
NRL Tipping – Sunday, June 21
Canberra Raiders v Manly Sea Eagles
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium | Start: 4.05 PM
Canberra Raiders – Last year’s grand finalists have gone off the boil in recent weeks and they will need to address a few areas against a ruthless team like Manly. Canberra’s English connection in Josh Hodgson and new halfback George Williams need to pick things up but it is hardly panic stations for Ricky Stuart’s men. Williams turned in a blinder a few weeks ago against Melbourne but he has been quiet the last two losses. There is a theory teams have worked out how to cut down Hodgson’s time at dummy half but I can tell you quality players like Hodgson don’t stay quiet for too long. A good start will be crucial here for both sides and ball retention equals momentum under the new rule changes. Fearless young forward Cory Horsburgh returns at lock and will relish the physicality Manly like to impose on their rivals. If Williams and Jack Wighton, who has been in great form, can get some space off their forwards, the Raiders will take some holding off.
Manly Sea Eagles – Found a way to come from 18-0 and pip Brisbane 20-18 last week in a controversial finish. They have suffered two huge hits losing Martin Taupau (dislocated thumb) and Moses Suli upfront. Taupau and Suli are both damaging ball runners and losing both could be the difference between winning and losing. On the plus side, they get Curtis Sironen back from injury giving them some added back-row mobility and a player who can score on the edge. It worth noting also Manly’s excellent recent record against the Raiders. Manly has won 5 of their past 6 clashes but four of them have been by a try or less so these two teams have a decent rivalry. Still, it will be a big task for them to win without their muscle-men Taupau and Suli who provide so much of their middle intimidation and drive.
Cronulla Sharks V Canterbury Bulldogs
Venue: Bankwest Stadium | Start: 6.30 PM
Cronulla Sharks – A few weeks ago this would have been a pretty certain two premiership points and still may be. However, their 30-16 drubbing at the hands of the previously winless Dragons suggests they have some soul searching to do. It was a pretty insipid performance by the Sharks who a week early looked good in beating North Queensland. On paper, you would think the Sharks win this one but the competition this season just keeps tossing up upsets and it is hard to have confidence in inconsistent teams. Matt Moylan is still an outside shot at playing with the latest testing on his dodgy hamstring. New signing Bryson Goodwin sits on an extended Shark’s bench. Look Cronulla has a strong playing roster but for some reason, they are underperforming. It would nice to see halves Chad Townsend and Shaun Johnson get more involved. Townsend is down on form and confidence, not the first time in his career, but he can play his way back into form against the Bulldogs who sit second-last on the NRL ladder.
Canterbury Bulldogs – Can someone let the dogs out? Bulldogs fans are going through more pain after a brief moment of celebration with their first win of the season over the Dragons before giving up 42 points to the Roosters last week. The return of Reimis Smith from suspension in the centres will help a little. The problem for the Dogs is where do their points come from? Kieran Foran needs more help and can’t keep putting his body on the line every week which he has been doing. The Bulldogs have a tough pack with Dylan Napa, Josh Jackson and Adam Elliott who has added a new dimension in the middle, especially with the ball. It’s hard to warm to the Bulldogs but they are not totally out of the contest given the way the Sharks have been playing.