After this round, we will be a third of the way through the NRL season.
Dragons v Roosters, Allianz Stadium, Friday
One of the biggest games in the rugby league calendar, this Anzac Day fixture has become as much a celebration as a match. The premiers escaped from Cronulla last week through some magic from the halves and outside backs while Saints played structural, match-winning football to beat off the Warriors. Representative football is around the corner and jerseys are up for grabs; many players from both sides will be vying for positions. Joel Thompson is back in the starting second row after missing last weekend with concussion for Saints and Daniel Tupou returns on the wing for the Roosters.
Newsroom’s prediction: Dragons by 11
Storm v Warriors, AAMI Park, Friday
Melbourne are 4-3 after returning from the nation’s capital without the two points. With the difficult Origin period around the corner threatening to take away its star players, the club is not where it wants to be. Both teams have had questionable defence thus far in 2014, with the Warriors on three straight losses. The Warriors have, however, won two of their last four Melbourne matches. For the Storm, Ben Hampton comes back into the five-eighth spot for Ben Roberts, who is out with a knee injury. Chad Townsend returns at five-eighth for Thomas Leuluai (groin), with Jayson Bukuya again named to start for the Warriors.
Newsroom’s prediction: Warriors by 4
Broncos v Rabbitohs, Suncorp Stadium, Friday
Brisbane are beginning to grow in confidence after a good win over the Knights, with Ben Barba showing glimpses of his potential. South Sydney are slowly losing their confidence, at three wins and four losses after a one-point loss to the Bulldogs last weekend. Brisbane are unchanged; George Burgess and Ben Te’o return from suspension to join Souths’ starting side.
Newsroom’s prediction: Brisbane by 12
Sharks v Penrith, Remondis Stadium, Saturday
Cronulla pushed the premiers to their limits last weekend with Paul Gallen returning to lead the boys out, but came up just short. Penrith’s season is well on track with four wins but they will need to fire up at Shark Park to beat a batch of highly motivated cellar dwellers. A short turnaround for Penrith leaves them in the firing line. Cronulla’s Beau Ryan has been named to play his first game of the season as the big name players return from injury. Penrith remains unchanged.
Newsroom’s prediction: Cronulla by 7
Cowboys vs Eels, 1300 Smiles Stadium, Saturday
Parramatta travel to Townsville with a five-day turnaround after a draining loss to West Tigers on Good Monday. Cowboys have had eight days’ rest after their controversial loss to Manly. For the Cowboys, Robert Lui has been dropped, Ray Thompson moves to number seven from hooker, Rory Kostjasyn starts at nine, and Kane Linnett returns. Pauli Pauli moves into the starting second row for Parramatta.
Newsroom’s prediction: Eels by 4
Bulldogs v Knights, ANZ Stadium, Saturday
Des Hasler likes his men to fly under the radar and, with three one-point wins in a row, that’s where they sit. Wayne Bennett’s men looked lost at home last weekend after losing convincingly to the Broncos. The Bulldogs were eliminated from the finals last year at the hand of the Knights and will look to exact revenge. The Dogs are unchanged; Kade Snowden returns for the Knights from concussion, replacing the suspended Willie Mason at prop.
Newsroom’s prediction: Bulldogs by 14
Sea Eagles v Raiders, Brookvale Oval, Sunday
Canberra head to the fortress of Brookie, with momentum after a confidence-boosting win over Melbourne, scoring two tries from behind. Manly were on the lucky side of yet another controversial call, which is becoming far too common in this great game. However, they lose Kieran Foran for a month with a knee injury. Daly Cherry-Evans returns; Anthony Watmough is in doubt with an elbow injury. Canberra are unchanged.
Newsroom’s prediction: Manly by 8
West Tigers v Titans, Leichardt Oval, Sunday
The Tigers won a gritty and entertaining contest against Parramatta in front of 50,000 fans on Monday, proving they are serious about this season. Gold Coast were knocked off the top of the table by a two-point loss in Penrith on Sunday night. Liam Fulton is back from a minor shoulder problem for the Tigers while the Titans’ Matt White is suspended for two games for a dangerous throw, with Mark Ioane coming into the 17.
Newsroom’s prediction: Tigers by 18 – Luke Mahoney
Top photo of Anzac Day Parade at a Roosters-Dragons match from Stan F’s Flickr photostream.