Durkin dissects Round 9 of NRL

TONY Durkin previews Round 9 of the 2012 NRL season.



Cowboys V Dragons:
At Dairy Farmers Stadium, 7.35pm
Head-to-head: Played 21; Dragons 11, Cowboys 10
Last meeting: Cowboys 22-8, round 9, 2011

Cowboys fans hope boom boy Tariq Sims puts in a little more than last week. Touted as a Blues Origin certainty on the back of just 23 NRL games, Sims waited 24 minutes before his first touch against the Rabbitohs. But the accusation of sporadic form is not just on him, and it's time the Cowboys became serious. The Dragons will be extremely formidable opposition, and this shapes as an absolute cracker.

Eels V Bulldogs:
At ANZ Stadium, 7.35pm
Head-to-head: Played 130; Bulldogs 68, Eels 57, drawn 5
Last meeting: Eels 8-7, round 20, 2011

Having played a record 355 NRL games, Darren Lockyer is qualified in what it takes to find form, and he reckons the 31-point avalanche by Parramatta last weekend might just turn their season around. The Bulldogs tonight will be a tough opponent, but the local derby may be the motivation needed. Don't be surprised if Chris Sandow starts.



Warriors V Broncos:
At Mt Smart Stadium, 7.30pm (local time)
Head-to-head: Played 29; Broncos 18, Warriors 11
Last meeting: Broncos 40-10, qualifying final, 2011

Defence remains a concern for the Warriors, and leaking 18 points in 11 minutes at their last start and 22 in a win the previous round is a telling stat. Interestingly, their best defensive effort all season has been 18 points, and that is the least number the Broncos have scored in eight outings. The Broncos keep finding ways to win and although a loss is probably on the horizon, it's difficult imaging defeat being inflicted by the ill-disciplined Warriors.

Titans V Tigers:
At Skilled Park, 7.30pm
Head-to-head: Played 9, Gold Coast 5, Wests Tigers 4
Last meeting: Tigers 39-10, round 25, 2011

The 11 minutes from hell last weekend aside, the Tigers did look something like top-four material against the Eels and may well have found their bite. Even the Titans showed some spirit in the second half against the Broncos, albeit they were 20-nil down. Both sides were touted as hotshots pre-season, but have failed to cut the mustard, although the Tigers are shooting for three wins on the trot. Scott Prince is a massive Titans' loss.

Panthers V Storm:
At Centrebet Stadium, 7.30pm
Head-to-head: Played 23, Storm 17, Panther6
Last meeting: Storm 26-6, round 22, 2011

On the back of three thumpings, things are not improving for the hapless Panthers with possibly their three big guns out for their toughest battle of the season. Walsh is gone, while Jennings and Lewis remain doubtful. Worse still, the Panthers have not beaten Melbourne in seven seasons. Confident, calculated and controlled, the Storm keeps rolling on, averaging 30 points a game in 2012.



Sea Eagles V Raiders:
At Brookvale Oval, 2pm
Head-to-head: Played 43, Sea Eagles 25, Raiders 17, draws 1
Last meeting: Sea Eagles 20-nil, round 9, 2011

David Furner did not make changes at the selection table, but he might before Sunday's game - and the axe is apparently hovering over young centre Jarrod Croker. Shaun Berrigan is also likely to play hooker. But none of that will concern the Sea Eagles who have struck form with the return of several stars. Disruption may be around the corner though, with a number of players in delicate contract talks.

Roosters V Knights:
At Allianz Stadium, 3pm
Head-to-head: Played 41, Roosters 21, Knights18, draws 2
Last meeting: Knights 18-10, round 16, 2011

The loss of Kurt Gidley for the season is a disaster of gigantic proportions for the Knights - almost knocks them out of the ring. And despite some encouraging glimpses against Penrith, with Danny Buderus also sidelined for Sunday their chances slip alarmingly. The Roosters have had 10 days to absorb their last-minute Anzac Day loss but should still be in good spirits.



Rabbitohs V Sharks:
At ANZ Stadium, 7pm
Head-to-head: Played 77, Sharks 40, Rabbitohs 34, draws 3
Last meeting: Sharks 26-46, round 17, 2011

This could be the best Monday night contest of the year. The Rabbitohs have caught the eye of late and their 20-nil onslaught against the Cowboys was at times breathtaking. Rookie forwards Tyrell and McQueen are doing a great job and big Dave Taylor is on fire. But the Sharks have been the consummate professionals and their 44 points last week is their highest score since round 15, 2009.

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