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NRL round-19 preview panel

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/07/2016 Steve Zemek

Preview of round-19 matches in the NRL (all times NZT):

FRIDAY, July 15

St George-Illawarra v Gold Coast at UOW Jubilee Oval 9.50pm

Head to Head: Dragons 11 Titans 5

Last clash: Round 7 2016 - Dragons 19 bt Titans 14 at Cbus Super Stadium

This is a "four-point game" and the Dragons have been hit hard with injury. Playmaker Benji Marshall has again been ruled out of what was set to be his 250th game with a hamstring strain. Josh Dugan is set for an extended stint on the sidelines after suffering a broken jaw in State of Origin III. The Titans, on the other hand, have a raft of players returning including Ash Taylor, David Mead and Konrad Hurrell. The Dragons go into the game in eighth with the Titans two points behind in ninth. This game could well decide both sides' finals' fate.

Key: Can Ash Taylor get the Titans back on track? The young halfback has been one of the buys of the year and was sorely missed in last week's loss to the Warriors.

Tip: Titans

SATURDAY, July 16

Manly v Warriors at nib Stadium 7.30pm

Head to Head: Sea Eagles 20 Warriors 8

Last clash: Round 6 2016 - Sea Eagles 34 bt Warriors 18 at Mt Smart Stadium

Manly coach Trent Barrett this week made the tough decision to suspend centre Dylan Walker for four weeks for punching a door but just how costly will it be? The Sea Eagles' finals chances are fading fast but they broke their seven-game losing streak last week. Any chances of them making the finals will depend on halfback Daly Cherry-Evans getting back to his best. The Warriors are firing, having lost just one of their past five - and that defeat was against ladder leaders Cronulla in golden point. It's become expected that the Auckland-based side makes a run at the eight at this time of the year and they are showing good signs they are peaking.

Key: With Brett Stewart potentially out for the rest of the season, Tom Trbojevic has a chance to make the fullback jumper his permanently. Manu Vatuvei's return from injury is also a big plus.

Tip: Warriors

South Sydney v Brisbane at ANZ Stadium 9.30pm

Head to Head: Souths 9 Broncos 23 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 8 2016 - Broncos 30 bt Souths 8 at Suncorp Stadium

The Origin period is over and crunch time arrives for these two out-of-form sides. The 12th-placed Rabbitohs have lost their past five and their finals chances are disappearing fast - and they'll likely be without star man Greg Inglis for an extended period, after he left NSW's Josh Dugan with a broken jaw in Origin III and was slapped with a three-week ban by the NRL judiciary. The Broncos have lost six of their past eight and are losing touch with the top four - and while they lose bench weapon Kodi Nikorima (shoulder) and Corey Parker to Origin suspension, they regain Jordan Kahu and Sam Thaiday. With rep season done and dusted, normal service is expected to resume for Brisbane.

Key: South Sydney will throw everything at this one so Brisbane need to get back to their old ways in defence.

Tip: Broncos

SUNDAY, July 17

Newcastle v Melbourne at Hunter Stadium 4pm

Head to Head: Knights 15 Storm 20

Last clash: Round 5 2016 - Storm 18 bt Knights 14 at AAMI Park

This could get ugly, folks. The Knights are rock bottom after losing 10 straight and the return of five-eighth Jarrod Mullen from a months-long injury layoff probably won't make a difference against the in-form Storm. Craig Bellamy's men have won nine of their past 10, destroyed the Broncos in Brisbane before the bye and are humming along nicely in second place. Melbourne's record in the Hunter isn't great, but anything other than a Storm win would come as a huge surprise, even if they decide to rest Origin stars Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.

Key: Can the returning Mullen conjure up something to inspire his battling teammates on his return?

Tip: Storm

Penrith v Parramatta at Pepper Stadium 6pm

Head to Head: Panthers 44 Eels 62 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 5 2016 - Panthers 20 bt Eels 18 at Pirtek Stadium

Another week, another crisis for Parramatta with five-eighth Corey Norman stood down for this weekend's clash with Penrith following his drugs conviction. The Eels have also officially had their 12-point deduction enforced for salary-cap breaches, meaning they go into this match outside the eight. Kenny Edwards is expected to take Norman's place in the line-up, while NSW Origin hero Michael Jennings returns in place of injured flyer Semi Radradra. The Panthers are expected to play NSW pair Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour while Tyrone Peachey could return to the starting line-up.

Key: Can Parramatta keep going in the wake of their latest controversy and with their season seemingly over?

Tip: Panthers

MONDAY, July 18

Sydney Roosters v Cronulla at Allianz Stadium 9pm

Head to Head: Roosters 58 Sharks 35 drawn 2

Last clash: Round 13 2015 - Sharks 10 bt Roosters 4 at Southern Cross Group Stadium

High-flying Cronulla travel to the struggling Roosters chasing a 14th straight victory. With three wins from their past three encounters with the Roosters, the Sharks will go in confident. Origin stars Jack Bird, Wade Graham, James Maloney, Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita are all expected to back up for the Sharks, although Fifita will need to beat a contrary-conduct charge to be eligible to play. The Roosters have not named their Origin pair Aiden Guerra and Blake Ferguson but don't be surprised if both are late inclusions.

Key: Is coach Trent Robinson able to rediscover the form of years past for his Roosters? If not, they're no chance against an in-form Sharks outfit.

Tip: Sharks

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