NRL previews for round 19
WARRIORS V PANTHERS
Mt Smart Stadium, 6pm (AEST)
History: Played 38, Panthers 22, Warriors 15, drawn 1
Last met: Panthers 36-28, round 10, 2017
FOUR points out of the top eight and needing five wins from the remaining eight rounds to play finals football, this is D-Day for both these clubs. The team that loses this clash will be literally treading water for the remainder of the season. Fresh from a bye and without any Origin hangover, the Warriors look to be in the box seat against a Panthers outfit that struggled last weekend despite being aided by a bizarrely one-sided penalty count. But, as I always warn, who knows what the Warriors - and in particular the unpredictable Shaun Johnson - will bring to the table?
TIP - Warriors
RAIDERS V DRAGONS
GIO Stadium, 7.50pm
History: Played 27, Raiders 16, Dragons 10, drawn 1
Last met: Dragons 16-12, round 10, 2016
WITHOUT doubt, Ricky's Raiders have been the disappointment of the season, yet the coach names the same team week in, week out. Surely his faith is - like his team - on life support, because a loss here will be the end of the road. But strangely the Dragons, who have recently turned around a shocking record in Canberra, have decided to go into this vital clash without Origin reps Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell, while the Raiders will sweat on Josh Papalii. Despite looking like a side unravelling, I'm prepared to give the Raiders one more chance - but with no confidence.
TIP - Raiders
KNIGHTS V BRONCOS
McDonald Jones Stadium, 5.30pm
History: Played 46, Broncos 32, Knights 13, drawn 1
Last met: Broncos 53-0, round 7, 2016
NO DOUBT the thoughts of most punters will be with the shattered Knights after Sunday's demoralising loss, when defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. But the Broncos will also be on the rebound - a 48-12 embarrassment at home against the Storm 13 days ago still firmly in their memory bank. Add to that the absence of a host of big guns, including potent attackers Darius Boyd, Corey Oates and Anthony Milford, as well as three Origin players possibly backing up, and the pressure is firmly on the visitors. But if the Broncos are to be considered a serious premiership chance, they must win this, and win it in a canter.
TIP - Broncos
TITANS V SHARKS
Cbus Super Stadium, 7.30pm
History: Played 16, Sharks 8, Titans 7, drawn 1
Last met: Titans 16-12, round 8, 2017
AS IS the case with a number of teams with ambitions of playing finals, the Titans are on the brink - lose this and the dream is as good as over. But they have a handy record against the premiers, who may have to call on some back-up after last night's Origin decider. While the Sharks are always tough to beat, the Titans are fresh from a bye and on the back of successive wins for just the second time this season and could spring an upset in this. Much will depend on how the eight Origin players recover from last night.
TIP - Sharks
SEA EAGLES V TIGERS
History: Played 23, Sea Eagles 14, Tigers 9
Last met: Tigers 36-22, round 2, 2016
STILL smarting from a hammering from the referees last weekend and with only Jake Trbojevic involved in Origin last night, the Sea Eagles appear absolute specials to take the points in this. And although the Tigers are coming off a bye and were very impressive last-start winners against the Knights, their woeful season from hell is as good as over and their season average of 25 conceded points is in danger of being increased, especially if Origin reps Aaron Woods and James Tedesco don't appear. Tom Trbojevic, Dylan Walker and Daly Cherry-Evans could have a field day.
TIP - Sea Eagles
RABBITOHS V COWBOYS
Barlow Park, Cairns, 4pm
History: Played 28, Rabbitohs 14, Cowboys 13, drawn 1
Last met: Cowboys 20-6, round 5, 2017
THOSE expectant Rabbitohs fans, who glimpsed a faint light at the end of the tunnel when their Bunnies slaughtered the Panthers two weeks ago, can jump back into the burrow because finals footy for them will be on hold for yet another season after Sunday. Despite the Cowboys being without their two big guns and having three players on Origin watch, they have far too much stake, combined with the advantage of an away game in their own backyard. Souths had the chance to assert some authority against a greatly weekend Roosters last weekend, but offered little. A win to the Cowboys should cement their finals claims.
TIP - Cowboys
BYES: Bulldogs, Eels, Roosters, Storm