Broncos coach Wayne Bennett directs proceedings at training on Monday in Brisbane.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett directs proceedings at training on Monday in Brisbane.

Durko's dissections: NRL previews for round 23

Veteran rugby league scribe and astute tipster Tony Durkin assesses the NRL's round 23 clashes

 

 

 

THURSDAY NIGHT

BRONCOS V RABBITOHS

Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm

History: Played 37, Broncos 27, Rabbitohs 9, drawn 1. Last met: Broncos 24-20, round 8, 2018

Ladbrokes odds: Broncos $2.30, Rabbitohs $1.65

The equation is simple - the Broncos need to win this to avoid the real threat of a first finals miss under Wayne Bennett in 27 years. And after their successive losses - and lamentable defence - against teams struggling to avoid the wooden spoon, that consequence appears very much on the cards judging by recent form. Sitting atop the points ladder but second on percentage, the proud Rabbitohs are strong and dominant in most areas. Despite some key personnel again missing this week, they should avenge their round eight loss. But if the Broncos can muster lost spirit, and control the Rabbitohs' massive pack, this may at least be close.

TIP - Rabbitohs

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FRIDAY NIGHT

The Titans' Jai Arrow serves it up to the Sea Eagles in round five. Picture: Jono Searle/Getty
The Titans' Jai Arrow serves it up to the Sea Eagles in round five. Picture: Jono Searle/Getty

SEA EAGLES V TITANS

Lottoland, 6pm

History: Played 17, Sea Eagles 10, Titans 7. Last met: Titans 32-20, round 5, 2018

Ladbrokes odds: Sea Eagles $1.44, Titans $2.85

According to the bookies, these are the two sides favoured to win the wooden spoon - a bad rap when three teams are below them on the ladder. But on recent form, and what we have seen on their good days, the clash should produce end-to-end attack and possibly go down to the wire. And the Sea Eagles have a ledger to square after their round five loss in Gladstone started their melodramatic 2018 slide, on and off the field.

TIP - Sea Eagles

 

STORM V EELS

AAMI Park, 7.55pm

History: Played 33, Storm 20, Eels 13. Last met: Storm 18-16, qualifying final, 2017

Ladbrokes odds: Storm $1.22, Eels $4.40

With coach Craig Bellamy accusing his side of lacking hunger, and the somewhat resurgent Eels looking for another top-eight scalp, stand by for fireworks in Melbourne. Notwithstanding the fact they now sit third and have blown out to $4.25 for the premiership, only a fool would back against the talented Storm in this, so expect a powerhouse performance. While the Eels may have put 40 on the Dragons, this is a very different proposition, and opposition.

TIP - Storm

 

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SATURDAY

The Panthers' James Maloney will be out for the next few games at least.
The Panthers' James Maloney will be out for the next few games at least.

PANTHERS V KNIGHTS

Panthers Stadium 3pm

History: Played 46, Knights 23, Panthers 20, drawn 3. Last met: Panthers 29-18, round 10, 2018

Ladbrokes odds: Panthers $1.28, Knights $3.75

They snuck away with a golden-point win last round after a tumultuous week off field, but the Panthers should be too strong for the Knights, who were never in the hunt against the Warriors. But the absence of James Maloney means the Panthers have lost a coach and a captain within a week, and that creates a huge character test.

TIP - Panthers

 

TIGERS V DRAGONS

Leichhardt Oval, 5.30pm

History: Played 35, Dragons 19, Tigers 16. Last met: Tigers 20-16, round 18, 2018

Ladbrokes odds: Tigers $1.73, Dragons $2.15

Leichhardt Oval has been the graveyard of many clubs, and on Saturday evening it could inflict mortal damage on both the Dragons and the Broncos. If the Tigers can win - which is likely on recent form - they could relegate the Broncos to ninth and the Dragons to their sixth loss in seven weeks. Conversely the Tigers - who have won three of their past four at Leichhardt - have a recent five-from-six winning record including a 20-16 victory over the Dragons just five weeks ago.

TIP - Tigers

 

Valentine Holmes has been in phenomenal form for the Sharks. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP
Valentine Holmes has been in phenomenal form for the Sharks. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP

SHARKS V COWBOYS

SCG Stadium, 7.35pm

History: Played 45, Sharks 27, Cowboys 18. Last met: Cowboys 20-14, round 1, 2018

Ladbrokes odds: Sharks $1.40, Cowboys $3.05

After recent resurgent form in their quest to send off Johnathan Thurston on a high note, the Cowboys face their nemesis on Saturday night. Not only do the Sharks hold a commanding advantage in overall games, the Cowboys have won only five of 18 visits to the Shire. And while the Cowboys produced some of their gunfire of old last weekend, the Sharks were superb against the Storm. Lacking genuine pace, the visitors will find the likes of Valentine Holmes hard to handle.

TIP - Sharks

 

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SUNDAY

BULLDOGS V WARRIORS

ANZ Stadium, 2pm

History: Played 36, Bulldogs 20, Warriors 14, drawn 2. Last met: Warriors 21-14, round 16, 2017

Ladbrokes odds: Bulldogs $2.50, Warriors $1.55

With their finals berth now seemingly safe, expect a no-holds-barred performance from the Warriors at the stadium they will need to conquer if a first premiership is to come their way in 2018. The greatly weakened Bulldogs have been brave of late, but could well be swamped if the Warriors fire.

TIP - Warriors

 

Dylan Napa could be a potent force for the Roosters. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP
Dylan Napa could be a potent force for the Roosters. Picture: Dean Lewins/AAP

RAIDERS V ROOSTERS

GIO Stadium, 4.10pm

History: Played 59, Roosters 32, Raiders 27. Last met: Raiders 24-16, round 12, 2017

Ladbrokes odds: Raiders $2.85, Roosters $1.44

Call them unlucky, but there is no escaping the fact the Raiders are ill-disciplined and as a result the most talented team outside the top eight. And that is why an upset is on the cards in the national capital, where the Raiders have a 13-6 winning edge. The Roosters also have discipline issues and minus Jared Waerea-Hargreaves their sometimes-suspect pack loses some muscle, but Dylan Napa is a handy replacement. With much more on the line, the Roosters should prevail.

TIP - Roosters

 

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