Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 19 Preview: Tidying up loose ends

With the 2020 NRL finalists now decided, interest in the final two rounds will centre on the order in which the top eight finish. Two matches this weekend will having some bearing on that outcome while, at the other end of the table, the wooden spoon is still up for grabs.

 

Tonight the Rabbitohs should give the hapless Bulldogs a touch-up at ANZ Stadium but it’s difficult to get too enthused about the men from South Sydney. At their best they play some electric footy but then they fall out of games for extended periods and almost let things slip from their grasp. Last week against the Tigers was a classic example. The Bulldogs, however, can’t remember how to win as they showed last week against Manly. So an easy choice here – the Bunnies, and comfortably at that!

 

On Friday evening, the Cowboys host the Panthers in Gavin Cooper’s farewell to Townsville. What a marvellous player he’s been! The Panthers will have just one thing in mind as they fly up north – secure the minor premiership with a win. And I think they’ll do it on the bit. The Cowboys had a good second half against the Storm last Sunday but that was more about the Storm playing in self-preservation mode than the Cowboys showing real form. This is a regulation win for the Panthers.

 

Tomorrow night, the Eels host the Broncos in Sydney. The Parra boys need to keep winning to secure a top four spot and I think that will be enough to see them over the line. Brisbane are even further weakened by another injury (Croft) and compassionate leave (Haas). The Broncos will be mindful that the last two meetings between these teams resulted in cricket score wins to the Eels. Can it be that bad for a third time? It’s not out of the question and the wooden spoon will still be a possibility for Brisbane in it’s worst season ever.

 

Come Saturday, the Sea Eagles are at home to the rising Titans. This could be the match of the weekend in spite of both teams being in the lower half of the ladder. Manly are hard to beat at Brookie but the team is still down on key personnel; the Titans are definitely on the rise and this game presents them with an opportunity to show that they have come a long way – win a match on the road against a not-at-their-best but very capable team at their fortress. I’ll be brave and go with the Titans.

 

Later on, the Storm take on the Wests Tigers on the Sunshine Coast. Another regulation win here for Melbourne. The Storm are brewing, regaining players from injury, easing them in, playing within themselves but building towards the finals. The Tigers play some entertaining stuff but are a class below the best teams. Possibly a high-scoring game not unlike last weekend’s Storm v Cowboys hit-out. Cameron Munster – what a talent!

 

On Saturday night the Roosters take on the Sharks. It will be interesting to see if Boyd Cordner plays given his concussion issues. What a loss to the code it would be if these concerns were to force his early retirement. Even if he is rested, along with Tedesco, the Roosters will be far too good here. The Sharks are too reliant on Shaun Johnson – he can’t drag them over the line every week.

 

Come Sunday, the Raiders will look to stay in contention for fourth spot when they tackle the Warriors. Again, that should be enough for Canberra to win but, in addition to that, their form last week was hot. Let’s face it, Canberra is the best team outside the top four. If they could creep into fourth spot they’d give it a bit of a shake. The Warriors went close last week but faded at the end. I doubt they’ll have the stamina to go with the Raiders.

 

The Knights play at home against the Dragons in a game you’d expect the home side to win. And I think they will. The return of Ponga will make a big difference to the side that surrendered so meekly to the Roosters. The Dragons created fire ever so briefly last week but they run out of puff and haven’t got what it takes to go the full distance. I’ll go with the Knights.

 

Finally, player of the week goes to the Eels’ Ryan Matterson for his quick-thinking, genuine and sustained concern for a Penrith player knocked senseless in a tackle last week. That’s the sort of thing we want to see on the field!

 

So my winners for this week are the Rabbitohs, Panthers, Eels, Titans, Storm, Roosters, Raiders and Knights.

 

Thursday September 17

Rabbitohs v Bulldogs, ANZ Stadium, 7.50pm

Friday September 18

Cowboys v Panthers, Queensland Country Bank Stadium, 6pm

Eels v Broncos, Bankwest Stadium, 7.55pm

Saturday September 19

Sea Eagles v Titans, Lottoland, 3pm

Storm v Tigers, Sunshine Coast Stadium, 5.30pm

Roosters v Sharks, Sydney Cricket Stadium, 7.30pm

Sunday September 20

Raiders v Warriors, GIO Stadium, 4.05pm

Knights v Dragons, McDonald Jones Stadium, 6.30pm

 

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Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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