NRL ROUND 7
Bulldogs v Rabbitohs
These two sides have started the season in very similar fashion and sit with three wins a piece, with both going into this off the back of a much needed win last week. On paper both sides have a similar look and feel to them, solid forward packs and a mix of experience through the backs but I see Reynolds as being a key point of difference as he’s been gaining in confidence as the seasons progressed.
The loss of Klemmer (injured) for the Dogs is a blow as he would have been one of the key men to suppress the Burgess brothers up front as the Dogs will need all the momentum they can get to limit Reynolds influence.
The bookies have the Bulldogs as the slight favourites here but I’m leaning towards the Rabbitohs getting the win; I’m placing a fair bit of faith in Reynolds to shine as his kicking game is superior to that of the Dogs halves and for the Bunnies pack to fire up, also for Sutton to step up and chime in and create extra options attacking the Bulldogs line. Pick – 3 units on Rabbitohs to win
Sea Eagles v Storm
The Sea Eagles are proving to be a headache for the bookies as they’ve been all over the show this season, this was highlighted last week when they backed up a gutsy win over the Roosters with an absolutely lame/pathetic performance in being thrashed by the Dragons. The Storm meanwhile have been consistent but were outplayed last week by the Sharks in terrible conditions to record their first loss of the season, that loss won’t have sat well with Bellamy though and I expect Manly to face a backlash here.
I’m surprised at how narrow the line is here, the Storm are pretty much at full strength with Chambers absence being the exception, and the Sea Eagles have lost two of their better forwards in Taupau and Myles. It appears the bookies still have their minds on the Sea Eagles performances against the Cowboys and Roosters but last week’s effort, along with their opening weeks, indicates to me that those wins were more of an aberration and they’re going to be a borderline top-eight side this season at best.
The only thing the Sea Eagles have in their favour is that this is a home game but that won’t bother the highly professional Storm side who will dominate every aspect of this game and win comfortably. Pick – 5 units on Storm -4.0 point start (BEST BET)
Raiders v Warriors
Both sides remain unchanged from their winning efforts last week in what will be arguably the toughest challenge the Warriors have faced thus far – away to a very good Raiders side who owned them last season, in fact embarrassed them in New Plymouth where it looked like men playing boys at times.
As improved as the Warriors have looked in winning two on the trot both those games have been in Auckland against much softer opposition and I don’t believe even Foran can lift them to come close to victory here, especially given the likely dominance the big Raiders forward pack will have over the often fragile Warriors pack.
Even if the Warriors were to mix it with the Raiders pack (which they won’t) they’d still be up against it trying to defend both edges with the Leilua/Rapana right side attack in particular looking as sharp as ever.
The Raiders have been a bit stop/start this season with mixed performances but they’ll use the thrashing of the Titans last week and the return home to gather momentum toward a charge on the top four – we’ll take them to win well. Pick – 2 units on Raiders to win by 13+ points
Panthers v Sharks
The Panthers have not played like the pre-season favourites they were billed as and the big question here is just how they will respond to the mounting pressure they’re under; they do get some heavy duty players back this week though in Moylan, Fisher-Harris, Peachey and Hiku.
I thought the Sharks would be up against it last week but they played superb wet-weather footy and came out on top of the Storm, this will be another massive challenge and I’ll be surprised if they lift again to those same heights.
Moylan is a key figure for the Panthers as he’ll have felt a burning shame following his dropping, especially being the captain of the side, and will be prominent in everything here.
I’ve no doubt Gus Gould will have been spending some extra time around the clubhouse this week employing all of his experience as a master motivator to get the Panthers back on track. As good as the Sharks have been they’re going to come up against a side that will have a single-minded determination to win here, mix that with the combined talent the Panthers have throughout their side and I can’t see any other result than a win to the home side. Pick – 3 units on Panthers -2.5 point start