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NRL round-five preview

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/03/2017 Matt Encarnacion



Canterbury v Brisbane at ANZ Stadium, 8.05pm

Head to Head: Broncos 29, Bulldogs 21, drawn 1

Last clash: Round 24, 2016 - Broncos 20 bt Bulldogs 10 at Suncorp Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Bulldogs $3.15 Broncos $1.36 Draw $23

FootyTAB: Bulldogs +8.5

All eyes are on how the 1-3 Bulldogs respond after a week in which coach Des Hasler's credentials have been on the hot seat. Rookie Matt Frawley has been handed the reins in attack after a one-game suspension for Moses Mbye, giving them three first-year players in the backline. The Broncos are likely to put out the same 17 after ending a two-game losing streak with a last-gasp win over Canberra.

Key: Do the Bulldogs have enough points in them to get past a Brisbane defence who haven't leaked more than 20 points in a game this year?

Tip: Broncos

FRIDAY March 31

Sydney Roosters v Manly at Allianz Stadium, 6.00pm

Head to head: Sea Eagles 87, Roosters 48, drawn 2

Last clash: Round 4, 2016 - Sea Eagles 22 bt Roosters 20 at Allianz Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Roosters $1.38 Sea Eagles $3.10 Draw $23

FootyTAB: Sea Eagles +7.5

The ladder-leading Roosters are undefeated and have been ominously bolstered by the return of skipper Jake Friend, with Blake Ferguson and Kane Evans on an extended bench. But Manly have some momentum of their own with a combined 72 points in back-to-back wins, and could get a big man back as well in Lloyd Perrett.

Key: The Sea Eagles - specifically the enigmatic Daly Cherry-Evans - could earn some serious stripes if they can upset the early competition leaders here.

Tip: Roosters

North Queensland v South Sydney at 1300SMILES Stadium, 8.05pm

Head to Head: Cowboys 15 Rabbitohs 14 Draw 1

Last clash: Round 17, 2016 - Cowboys 20 bt Rabbitohs 0 at Barlow Park, Cairns

Tab Sportsbet: Cowboys $1.30 Rabbitohs $3.50 Draw $26

FootyTAB: Rabbitohs +10.5

North Queensland welcome back Jason Taumalolo at lock after a difficult fortnight without the suspended star. Lachlan Coote also returns at fullback, meaning teen sensation Kalyn Ponga drops back to an extended bench. South Sydney are still without George Burgess and Hymel Hunt through suspension, after struggling to convert their opportunities last week against the Roosters. They'll need a big turnaround in their attacking fortunes to spring an upset.

Key: The Cowboys' pack have struggled in recent weeks without Matt Scott and Taumalolo. They get one back this week and they'll hope it makes all the difference.

Tip: Cowboys


Cronulla v Newcastle at Southern Cross Group Stadium, 3.00pm

Head to head: Sharks 20 Knights 27 Draw 1

Last clash: Round 20, 2016 - Sharks 36 bt Knights 4 at Southern Cross Group Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Sharks $1.12 Knights $6.25 Draw $41

FootyTAB: Knights +17.5

The Sharks are yet to register a win at home this season, and will be desperate to find some consistency on Saturday against Newcastle. It was at this time last year the eventual premiers kicked into gear. They'll want to repeat that to stick with the competition's heavyweights. Newcastle have shown signs of improvement in the opening month, but were back to their struggling worst in last week's 40-0 flogging by Penrith.

Key: Sharks coach Shane Flanagan will be keen to see James Segeyaro's involvement increase after an impressive performance last week in his club debut.

Tip: Sharks

Canberra v Parramatta at GIO Stadium, 5.30pm

Head to head: Raiders 27 Eels 26

Last clash: Round 24 2016 - Raiders 28 bt Eels 18 at GIO Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Raiders $1.38 Eels $3.10 Draw $26

FootyTAB: Eels +7.5

This clash looms as a timely NSW State of Origin audition for both backlines. Canberra centre Joey Leilua will look to reignite his remarkable try-scoring combination with winger Jordan Rapana against rivals Michael Jennings and Semi Radradra - if Canberra can hold onto the ball. Silly handling errors this season have cost the Raiders who are also sweating on hooker Josh Hodgson (sternum). Back-rower Sia Soliola returns to the starting side for the suspended Elliott Whitehead. The Eels welcome back Tepai Moeroa from suspension. Canberra have a 15-4 home record against the Eels, winning the past five.

Key: Can the Raiders close out a tight one? Since 2015, Canberra have won just five of 19 matches that have finished with a four-point margin or less.

Tip: Raiders

Melbourne v Penrith at AAMI Park, 7.30pm

Head to head: Storm 24 Panthers 7

Last clash: Round 13 2016 - Storm 24 bt Panthers 6 at AAMI Park

Tab Sportsbet: Storm $1.58 Panthers $2.40 Draw $21

FootyTAB: Panthers +4.5

No Bryce Cartwright - no problem. That seems to be Penrith's motto after their 40-0 thumping of Newcastle. Injured back-rower Bryce Cartwright (ankle) is still sidelined but the Panthers face a very different opponent this weekend. The undefeated Storm had to rely on a second-half comeback last round to overcome the Wests Tigers 22-14 but were expected to find another gear at home against fifth-placed Penrith. Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary is a very different prospect to his rookie debut last year against Melbourne. Penrith have only beaten Melbourne twice in 12 years. The Panthers have the second-best attack and the Storm boast the best defence. Something has to give.

Key: Against a red-hot Panthers, can Melbourne overcome the uncharacteristic sluggish start that plagued them last round?

Tip: Storm

SUNDAY April 2

Warriors v Gold Coast at Mt Smart Stadium, 2.00pm

Head to head: Warriors 13 Titans 7

Last clash: Round 22, 2016 - Warriors 24 bt Titans 14 at Cbus Super Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Warriors $1.48 Titans $2.65 Draw $23

FootyTAB: Titans +6.5

Warriors playmaker Kieran Foran is set to make his long-awaited return to the NRL after tweaking his hamstring last week in the warm-up. Titans skipper Ryan James is free to play after successfully being cleared of a shoulder charge at the judiciary. The Warriors will be desperate to snap a three-game losing streak with a narrow victory at home to the struggling Knights in round one their only success for the year. The Titans, also 1-3, have a shocking record against the Warriors, losing 11 of their past 12 encounters.

Key: After more than 300 days since his last NRL game, can Kieran Foran's hamstring carry him and the Warriors to a much-needed victory?

Tip: Warriors

Wests Tigers v St George-Illawarra at ANZ Stadium, 4.00pm

Head to head: Tigers 15 Dragons 17

Last clash: Round 20, 2016 - Tigers 25 bt Dragons 12 at ANZ Stadium

Tab Sportsbet: Tigers $2.25 Dragons $1.65 Draw $21

FootyTAB: Tigers +3.5

The Tigers are slowly moving towards normality with Ivan Cleary widely expected to be unveiled as the club's next coach. They will hope to build on an improved performance against the Storm but will need to improve in attack after scoring 22 points in their past three games. The Tigers face an emboldened Dragons who will be out to silence more doubters by retaining their unexpected place in the top four. Dragons fullback Josh Dugan is third in the NRL for tackle breaks behind Tigers pair James Tedesco and David Nofoaluma.

Key: The Dragons' forward pack have been crucial to their early-season success, with Paul Vaughan drawing praise from Blues coach Laurie Daley.

Tip: Dragons

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