Sunday’s triple header pits two teams on the lower rung coming off their first victories in over a month respectively, a foundation club backing up a big win against a completion heavy weight reeling from a last gasp upset loss and two Sydney clubs with a rich history penning a new chapter in their long rivalry.
KNIGHTS V PANTHERS
Sunday 21 May, 2:00pm at McDonald Jones Stadium
Its team 14 taking on team 16 and I’m almost tempted to call this the battle of the “Also Rans” but the truth is the Panthers and Knights, though on 6 points and 4 points respectively are only 4 and 6 points out of the top 8. Should one team start a run now and other results go their way…well anything is possible, glass half full and all that.
The Knights put an out of sorts Canberra outfit to the sword last week and given the Panthers woeful form this season apart from the miracle at Pepper Stadium, they’ll be quietly confident of another boilover.
The Panthers will march into McDonald Jones high on confidence after coming back from the dead at home last week. They’ll have to overcome a worrying late start trends if they want to win this. They have been guilty of playing catch up footy over several matches and their opposition this Sunday afternoon tend to fly out of the blocks early. They’ll need to contain the men from the Hunter and also click into gear on the attack front from the first whistle.
Tip: Another game, another audition. Dane Gagai is without a doubt the best thing going for the Knights right now. He has been head and shoulders above the rest of his team. Playing fullback this round he will have more space and time with the football. He does have a full supporting cast in second rower and captain Sione Mata’utia, rookie halves Jaelen Feeney and Brock Lamb and Enlglish import, backrower cum centre Joe Wardle.
On the other end fullback Matt Moylan will be hoping a big performance this weekend will push him above the logjam of contenders vying for a NSW halves spot. Former NSW forwards James Tamou and Trent Merrin will also be sending a clear message to the selectors as well.
On paper the Panthers look to have too much experience and talent for the home side and look set to run up a cricket score but I said that last week before the Knights tore up the Raiders.
Fingers crossed, Panthers by 18.
BULLDOGS V ROOSTERS
Sunday 21 May, 4:00pm at ANZ Stadium
The Roosters come into this “away” game sitting on 4th place and high on confidence after dismantling the Tigers in round 10. Their forwards paved the way then and set up their talented spine and backs to rip in. They’ve got firepower across the paddock and will look to do the same against the Bulldogs.
Canterbury have been stuttering through 2017 but had welcome news during the week that Tongan rep Will Hopoate will now start every Sunday. Matt Frawley has been a revelation at halfback with his kicking game, general passing and level head providing an attacking spark that the Blue and Whites haven’t had in several seasons.
Tip: The Roosters for mine. They have been the better of the two this season and going into the Origin period will want to sure up a top spot. The forward battle will be huge with two monster packs ready to rumble. Look to man mountain Sam Kasiano to put in after signing with the Storm for 2018. He will want to leave Belmore knowing he gave it his all. He’ll have support from James Graham, Dave Klemmer and Greg Eastwood but I can’t see them get past the likes of Jared Warea-Hargreaves, Dylan Napa and Boyd Cordner.
A primed Sydney City by 12.
RABBITOHS V STORM
Sunday 21 May, 6:30pm at nib Stadium
The 12th placed Rabbitohs take their home game to Perth for a showdown with table toppers the Storm.
This is an interesting affair seeing Melbourne somehow lost to the Titans last week, a clinical display somehow not enough to get past a determined underdog. The Storm we all know will not let this happen again, not with Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater at the helm of an imposing outfit.
The Cardinal and Myrtle won’t be pushovers though. The 2014 premiers have showed glimpses of their best when they destroyed the Tigers several days before. Robbie is finally finding his feet, Sam Burgess is turning back the clock with barnstorming runs and the switch to fullback from pivot has not dulled the undeniable talent of Cody Walker.
Tip: The Storm rarely slipup and it’s even more uncommon that they lose two on the trot. With forwards Tohu Harris and Dale Funicane and a spine of Slater, Cronk, Smith and impressive youngster Cameron Munster feeding proven finishers, Suliasi Vunivalu, William Chambers ,Cheyse Blair and Josh Addo-Carr, Souths will be in for a long afternoon. The Rabbitohs will need Walker, Farah, Adam Reynolds and the elder Burgess to fire if they are a chance.
The Storm by 18.
– The 3rd Ref –