Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 21: Mouthwatering Matchups

You start to salivate when you think about the clashes in store in this weekend’s NRL Round 21! Results at the pointy end of the season carry extra weight, especially if your whole season is on the line. Add to that the prospect of the top four teams meeting in September previews and it’s non-stop action from Thursday night until Sunday evening.

 

We start tonight with the Cowboys v Broncos derby which always seems to bring out the best in both teams regardless of their ladder positions. Let’s face it, the Cowboys are gone already – ‘tell ’em they’re dreaming’ if they think they still have a mathematical chance of playing in the finals. It’s not going to happen. The Broncos are still alive but on life support. Lose this one and they’re gone, too. But don’t tell either side, they’ll go hell for leather anyway. Golden point, anyone?

 

The Warriors, also gone for my money, host the Sea Eagles in Auckland on Friday evening. Manly are hoping to swoop into the top four this weekend if the Rabbitohs lose. Des Hasler is one of the craftiest coaches around and Daly Cherry-Evans is killing it at the moment – watch the Manly lads soar across the Tasman.

 

Later that night, the Panthers and the Sharks will be trying to tear each other’s season apart as both sit precariously on the edge of the eight. The Panthers have home ground advantage but were poor last weekend; the Sharks have to travel but look much better with Wade Graham hitting his straps. I can’t see either side making much of an impact come September but neither is willing to let the opportunity slip just yet. James Maloney is out after being suspended on Tuesday night, so I’ll go with the Sharks.

 

Come Saturday afternoon, the Dragons play the Titans. Ho hum. They’re both so far gone, who cares? About the only interest in this one revolves around individuals at both clubs playing for their futures. Maybe that will provide a bit of intensity. I still don’t care.

 

The Eels v Knights early evening game is D-Day for the Knights who have been just plain awful lately. Lose this one and they, too, are looking towards next year. Oh, how the critics are fickle – six weeks ago Mitchell Pearce was Newcastle’s saviour and the best player in the comp., now he’s the Knights’ biggest problem! The Eels have been a surprise packet this season and I think they’ll consolidate their place in the top eight with a comfortable win. Earlier in the year I put in a plug for the Eels’ Maika Sivo, the Fijian flyer via Gundagai – he hasn’t let me down.

 

The evening concludes with the Bulldogs taking on the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium. The Bulldogs are long gone but proving to be a real nuisance of late. The Tigers were ‘running on Robbie’ last weekend and embarrassed the hapless Cowboys. They cling to eighth place and must win to stay in contention. I think that will be enough incentive for them to win this one, too.

 

But the real action will be on Sunday! In the afternoon game, the Raiders host the Roosters who have a poor recent record when playing in the capital. This game and their next against Melbourne Storm will tell us exactly where Canberra are at. It may also be a preview of Week 1 of the Finals. Both teams are coming off big wins, both teams want to get one over the other. My heart says Raiders but my head demands the Roosters even though they will be missing a couple of class forwards in Cordner and Taukeiaho. I still think they’ll break their Canberra hoodoo.

 

In the later game, top of the table Storm visit the Rabbitohs. On last weekend’s performances, you’d say Storm to drown the Bunnies in their burrow. After winning ugly for several weeks, is the season catching up with South Sydney? They have a place in the top four to defend, incentive enough to regain some form. Sam Burgess has survived the judiciary but will come in for plenty of attention from Melbourne’s big boppers. To be fair, Melbourne also won ugly for several games but their annihilation of the Broncos last Friday was truly awesome. Melbourne comfortably.

 

So I’m going with the Cowboys, Sea Eagles, Sharks, Dragons, Eels, Tigers, Roosters and Storm. If it turns out that way, I think we’ll have our top eight just about settled.

 

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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