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NRL round 17 preview

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/06/2016 Steve Zemek, James MacSmith and Matt Encarnacion

Previews of NRL round-17 matches (all times NZT):


Sydney Roosters v Canterbury at Allianz Stadium 9.50pm

Head to Head: Roosters 84 Canterbury 79 drawn 5

Last clash: Round 11 2016 - Canterbury 32 bt Roosters 20 at ANZ Stadium

It really has become do-or-die time for the Roosters who welcome back halfback Mitchell Pearce for just his fourth game of the year. The Dogs' forwards were brutal in their big win over Brisbane last weekend and it is doubtful whether the Roosters have the form or the inclination to stop them after coach Trent Robinson questioned his players' commitment after their 46-0 loss to Melbourne in their last start at home. Greg Eastwood returns from injury into the back row for Canterbury, who might also have Josh Morris as a late inclusion from a groin injury.

Key: Pearce. The Roosters have missed him dearly and this is the start of his chance to repay teammates for his off-field indiscretions.

Tip: Canterbury

FRIDAY, July 1

Brisbane v Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium 9.50pm

Head to Head: Broncos 12 Storm 25 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 26 2015 - Storm 15 bt Broncos 8 at Suncorp Stadium

This top-four battle will be a great gauge of where these sides are at, as the Origin period draws to a close. Both outfits were lethargic post-Origin II last week but have had a week to recover. Brisbane are 6-1 at home this year. The Storm knocked them off at Suncorp Stadium in round 26 last year, but Ben Hunt was rested from that game. Hooker Andrew McCullough makes a critical return from injury for the Broncos. Nelson Asofa-Solomona is out with a knee injury; Matt White takes his place in the Storm side. Cameron Munster and Blake Green could be late inclusions for the visitors. Should be a cracker of a game and a preview of what we can expect in September.

Key: Ben Hunt. Needs to find form, and quickly.

Tip: Broncos


Warriors v Gold Coast at Mt Smart Stadium 5.00pm

Head to Head: Warriors 11 Titans 7

Last clash: Round 15 2015 - Warriors 36 bt Titans 14 at Cbus Super Stadium

Tenth meets 11th in what shapes as a pivotal clash for the only two sides on the NRL ladder on 16 points - just two shy of the top eight. Warriors coach Andrew McFadden curiously continues to experiment with David Fusitua at fullback despite Tuimoala Lolohea's strong form in the No.1, with youngster Nathaniel Roach re-instated onto the bench. The Titans get co-captain William Zillman back from a foot problem, but have been forced to keep Chris McQueen in the centres for injured rookie Nathan Davis.

Key: Speculation Ashley Taylor could miss the clash would be a huge blow to the Titans' hopes.

Tip: Titans

Wests Tigers v Penrith at ANZ Stadium 7.30pm

Head to Head: Tigers 11 Panthers 16

Last clash: Round 16 2015 - Panthers 35 bt Tigers 12 at Leichhardt Oval

Two of the most high-octane attacking teams in the competition face off in what is likely to be the highest-scoring match of the round. Defence could take a back seat in this one as NSW fullback candidates Matt Moylan and James Tedesco meet for the first time in their NRL careers. But there is plenty at stake: Penrith are clinging onto eighth spot while the Tigers are back in 12th and need to stay in touch with the top eight. Robbie Farah's benching is again a talking point, just days before a probable call-up for NSW in State of Origin III.

Key: Which one of the game's young stars in James Tedesco, Matt Moylan, Mitchell Moses, Bryce Cartwright, Luke Brooks and Nathan Cleary will stand up as a match-winner for their team?

Tip: Tigers

Cronulla v Parramatta at Southern Cross Group Stadium 9.30pm

Head to Head: Sharks 42 Eels 39

Last clash: Round 25 2015 - Sharks 35 bt Eels 28 at Pirtek Stadium

The Sharks are top of the ladder after 11 straight wins and are firming by the week for that elusive premiership. A victory here will see them set a new club record for most-consecutive victories. They are also unbeaten this season at Shark Park. The Eels are in all sorts of trouble with the axe about to finally fall from the salary-cap scandal, Kieran Foran stripped of the captaincy and Semi Radradra AWOL after taking a mid-season sojourn to his native Fiji. Whether the most-destructive winger in the game will turn up remains to be seen.

Key: James Maloney's right boot. It's proved the decisive factor in wins over the Bulldogs, Cowboys and Warriors in the past three rounds with the NSW five-eighth coming up with clutch plays when his side have needed it most.

Tip: Sharks

SUNDAY, July 3

Canberra v Newcastle at GIO Stadium 4.00pm

Head to Head: Raiders 24 Knights 18 drawn 2

Last clash: Round 3 2016 - Knights 24 drew Raiders 24 at Hunter Stadium

Newcastle are on track for the worst season in NRL history. They're on a nine-game losing streak and have let in 521 points in 15 games (the next worst is Wests Tigers with 380). It looks like a long rebuild is ahead for Nathan Brown. The Raiders are showing signs of peaking at the right stage of the year following last week's impressive win over Gold Coast. They're into the eight and are pushing for top four and competition for spots is so great, not even cult hero Shaun Fensom can win a spot in Ricky Stuart's top 17.

Key: Joey Leilua leads the league for offloads and is second for tackle busts, and he'll be out to push for a place in the NSW side for Origin III.

Tip: Raiders

South Sydney v North Queensland at Barlow Park 6.00pm

Head to Head: Souths 14 Cowboys 14 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 7 2016 - Cowboys 44 bt Souths 18 at 1300SMILES Stadium

The Cowboys suffered an almighty fright against Manly on Monday night and will be out to atone. They snuck home on the back of a powerhouse performance from Jason Taumalolo, who has been a pillar of strength through the Origin period. Souths' season is all but over after last week's loss to Penrith. Adam Reynolds returns, meaning Michael Maguire's side is just about at full strength and out of excuses.

Key: Can the Cowboys fire without Michael Morgan? The Queensland Origin playmaker is out for a month with a knee injury and they missed his presence against Manly. Ray Thompson replaces Rory Kostjasyn in filling in at No.6.

Tip: Cowboys

MONDAY, July 4

Manly v St George-Illawarra at Brookvale Oval 9.00pm

Head to Head: Dragons 15 Sea Eagles 8

Last clash: Round 4 2015 - Dragons 12 bt Sea Eagles 4 at WIN Stadium

Manly are in a huge slump - having lost their past seven and nine of their past 11. They looked a much-improved unit with Daly Cherry-Evans back on the park this week but have been massive underperformers in Trent Barrett's first year in charge. While it sure looked like Benji Marshall and his Dragons were back last week, it's difficult to read anything into a win over Newcastle. The Dragons still have the second-worst attack in the competition (behind Newcastle) and their halves need to show more.

Key: Has the Prince of Brookvale been dethroned? Brett Stewart is in the worst form slump of his career and rumours abound that he will be moved on next year. Can he break the shackles and spur Manly to victory?

Tip: Sea Eagles

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