Friday August 28, 7:45pm
The Sea Eagles season appears all but over after losing at home to Parramatta last round and no need everything to go their way to force an unlikely play-offs berth. Round 24 was just as devastating for the Rooster who despite beating Brisbane to put them in the box seat to claim a third-straight Minor Premiership, serious injuires to Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Mitchell Pearce has put their premiership credentials under serious question.
The terrible news for the Rooster is great news for Manly who faced an under-manned Bondi outfit knowing anything other than a win will end their season for good. The Sea Eagles aren’t without injury problems of their own with hooker Matt Ballin out with an ACL injury with Blake Leary coming in at #9.
How Sydney cope without JWH and Pearce will not only determine how they will go in this game but also how they will fare for the rest of the season. Both players were in immense form before their injuries and were a major part of the Chooks surge to competition leaders. Boom youngster Jackson Hastings comes into halfback for Pearce while Sam Moa returns from injury into the front-row.
Sydney have the edge over Manly with four wins from the last six encounters, however it was the Eagles with the past two. Roosters’ last win over Geoff Toovey’s men came back in the 2013 Grand Final.
Recent encounters between these two sides have either produced plenty of point or not many at all. The last six games have produced scores of 40, 8, 44, 4, 30 and 20. Rooster have the best points differential in the league with the third best attack with Manly eighth-best attack. Overs/Unders is almost impossible to call here but with history showing every second game produces a low scoring affair between these two, its unders turn up at the plate.
Manly are desperate and while it has seemed to work for them for most of the second part of the season it all fell apart against the Eels last weekend. Even though Roosters are hit with injuries they still laden with talent in the league’s in-form fullback in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and James Maloney has been in fine touch.
The tri-colours recent record is abysmal as Brookvale with just three wins in ten visits to the Northern Beaches. Even with that in mind it’s hard to go past Sydney at 1.85.
Roosters by 6
Saturday August 30, 7.30pm
To say last Monday night was a shocker for the Storm would be putting it politely. Melbourne bombed a chance to enter the top four when they surrendered to bottom-placed Newcastle Knights in what was the clubs worst performance of the season.
They now need a miracle to secure a double-chance in the finals and a fault-less final two games, starting with the North Queensland Cowboys at home this Saturday.
If Manly does them a favour and defeat the Roosters on Friday night, the Cowboys can join their Queensland counterpart Brisbane Broncos in the top-two leading into the final round of football. But if they have any hopes of that they must triumph in a state they have in the past struggled to win in. The Cowboys have just two wins in 10 visits to Victoria since 1998 and haven’t played down South since 2012 when they won 20-16. This may be the fifth year AAMI Park has been an NRL venue but this will be just their third visit to the venue, with a split record of 1-1.
Last week was a real shocker for Melbourne who struggled to match it with a side that is closer to Mad Monday than an assault on the finals. The loss highlighted Storm’s vulnerability when playing lessor sides and struggled to successfully complete their sets.
Storm remained unchanged from last Monday while North Queensland were dealt with a double injury blow with Michael Morgan and James Tamou set to miss this one. It remains to be seen how long both men will be out of the side for, seriously denting the Cowboys claim for a maiden title.
The Cowboys have an edge in recent battles with the Storm with four of the past six wins, with Melbourne winning the last eight before that. Storm do enjoy an all-time advantage over the Cowboys.
With this match set to have a major baring on the final make-up of the finals, much is expected in what they are billing as the Match of the Round.
The battle of the halves looks set to have a massive determining on this one with the game’s premier number sevens Cooper Cronk and Jonathan Thurston locking horns.
He was far from alone but Cronk had a game to forget against the Knights and will be keen to return to form with finals just two weeks away. Morgan out gives Storm a massive advantage and if Cronk and halves partner Blake Green can fire Storm should get home.
The margin was just one point to the Cowboys last time they played in Round 4 this season and this game promises to be another tight one.
The Cowboys have been outstanding on the road this season but are still very guilty of letting teams get a jump on them. They overcame a 16-0 deficit early against the Warriors last round to eventually win 50-16, such an opening won’t fly against a Storm side who are hard to chase down.
It’s hard to see Melbourne producing two shocking performances on the bounce, especially at home and ever more so this time of year. The Cowboys outs are huge which play into Storm’s hands.
Storm by 4