Round 16 of the NRL season sees only four games ahead of State of Origin Game 3 next Wednesday.
Ladder leaders Melbourne Storm get things underway with a visit to face St George Illawarra Dragons on Thursday night, while the Sydney Roosters feature in Friday night footy as they take on Wests Tigers.
We preview all four games:
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Melbourne Storm
Melbourne look to increase their already-healthy lead at the top of the competition ladder when they face off against the Dragons on Thursday night. Since a Round 8 loss to Cronulla, the Storm have won their last six matches to surge back into the competition lead, with their thrilling win over the Roosters last week handing them a six-point buffer at the top. The Dragons got the win they needed to keep pace with the top eight as they ran out 22-14 victors over the Cowboys last week. These two sides have split their last four meetings at two wins apiece, with the Dragons coming out on top in both of their matches in Sydney. They are in with a chance with so much star power missing from Melbourne, but the Dragons have also lost a lot of key figures as well. With the way they’re playing at the moment and having Smith on board, I’m backing Melbourne to grind this one out.
Prediction: Storm by 1-12 ($2.64 TopBetta)
Wests Tigers vs Sydney Roosters
With just one win in their last five games – against bottom-placed Canterbury – can the Roosters find some form again when they meet the Tigers on Friday night? It’s been a poor month or so of football for the Roosters, with Trent Robinson’s side falling from top of the ladder to third and just two points ahead of sixth-placed Manly. Their two-point loss to Melbourne last week saw the Storm rise six points ahead of them on the ladder. They run into a Tigers side who will be confident following their 14-9 victory over the Rabbitohs at Bankwest last week. The Roosters lose James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner to Origin, but they have Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk in the halves, along with Latrell Mitchell in the centres. They were close against Melbourne last week – surely they have got to win this one.
Prediction: Roosters by 1-12 ($2.66 TopBetta)
Newcastle Knights vs New Zealand Warriors
The Knights won their sixth game from their past seven starts last week with a resounding 26-12 win over the Broncos. The Warriors however, found another way to let a game slip, going down 19-18 to the Panthers at home. The Knights are on a high of late and their last three home games have resulted in big wins over the Broncos, Roosters and Eels. The Warriors have lost four of their past five games with a four-point win over the Titans being their only joy in the past six weeks. The Knights are at their most vulnerable this season which gives the Warriors a sniff at victory but they will also have to contend with the partisan Newcastle crowd who will no doubt turn up in their thousands to get behind the home side again. I think the Knights can still get away with this one.
Prediction: Knights win ($1.96 TopBetta)
Cronulla Sharks vs Brisbane Broncos
Last weekend, the Sharks were victims of this season’s biggest upset when they went down to the last-placed Bulldogs 14-12, while the Broncos’ season of woe continued as they were humbled 26-12 by the Knights. The Broncos were convincing winners in round seven but circumstances were vastly different back then. The Sharks had a skeleton line-up with several key players missing through injury. Coming off an embarrassing loss as they are, the Sharks will be keen to impress their fans by pulling out all stops to overcome a desperate Broncos side who must win to keep any hopes of a finals appearance alive.
Prediction: Sharks by 13+ ($2.04 TopBetta)