New Zealand Warriors v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks @ Central Coast Stadium – 2 pm AEST
Team List Notes
- Warriors: Kodi Nikorima and Eli Katoa are welcome additions for the Warriors; Chanel Harris-Tavita and Jack Murchie make way.
- Sharks: Ronaldo Mulitalo returns to replace Nene Macdonald on the wing. Jack Williams’ errors have finally cost him his place in the side with Toby Rudolf to start at lock.
Your Edge: Highest error rates per touch since 2018
Key Factor: A Game of Two Halves
It’s an all-time classic saying, but it being “a game of two halves” rings especially true in this head-to-head match-up.
The Warriors do a lot of their damage in the first 40 minutes. Just last week they scored two tries in the first ten minutes before barely threatening the line from there.
The Sharks, on the other hand, can take a minute to get going. Again, like the Warriors, they displayed as much last week in allowing the Panthers to score five tries before clicking into gear themselves to scoring two late in the first half and another two in the second.
As two of the most frustrating and inconsistent teams in the NRL right now, both can score points in a hurry when switched on. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tohu Harris and Kodi Nikorima can cause plenty of problems in attack. Former Warriors half Shaun Johnson once again commands one of the best right sides in the competition.
This one will be decided by which team can produce across the full 80 minutes – another all-time classic.
Penrith Panthers v North Queensland Cowboys @ Panthers Stadium – 4:05 pm AEST
Team List Notes
- Panthers: Dean Whare returns to the centres pushing Brent Naden to the wing with Charlie Staines out of the side.
- Cowboys: With Valentine Holmes and Scott Drinkwater out, Justin O’Neill moves to the wing with Mitchell Dunn into five-eighth. Daejarn Asi makes his debut off the bench for Peter Hola (wrist)
Key Factor: Cowboys Edge Defence
Jason Taumalolo can run for 300 metres through the middle. Jordan McLean can make his return and partner Josh McGuire at prop to run for another 350 metres between them. But it will all be for nothing if the Cowboys don’t address their edge defence.
Per Fox Sports Lab, North Queensland’s right-side combination of Esan Marsters and Kyle Feldt have the most try causes in the NRL to their name with 12 each. With Matt Ikuvalu scoring five tries through their left edge last week, neither side of the field can be relied upon defensively.
With the Panthers left-edge developing nicely as Jarome Luai, Viliame Kikau and Stephen Crichton link up for points every week, and Nathan Cleary in career-best form on the right side, Paul Green will know what is coming his way. Whether or not he can stop the turnstiles down his defensive edges or not will determine how competitive the Cowboys are on Sunday.
Sydney Roosters v Canberra Raiders @ Sydney Cricket Ground – 8 pm AEST
Team List Notes
- Roosters: Brett Morris returns to the wing for Ryan Hall; Matt Ikuvalu retains his place. Boyd Cordner is back in the second row pushing Mitchell Aubusson to the bench and Poasa Faamausili out of the 17.
- Raiders: Josh Hodgson and Bailey Simonsson have both been ruled out for the season. Siliva Havili and Jordan Rapana replace them in the starting 13. Tom Starling and Curtis Scott join the bench.
Key Factor: Luke Keary v Jack Wighton
It’s the head-to-head battle that will decide the game. At least, if Jack Wighton can get the wood over Luke Keary, the Canberra Raiders might just have a chance at beating the Sydney Roosters. Both are battling it out for the New South Wales State of Origin jersey with the representative element to this encounter sure to rate a mention throughout the 80 minutes.
With Josh Hodgson now out for the season with an ACL injury, it’s down to Wighton to pick up the slack – this is what the Raiders pay him the big bucks to do. Already, Wighton’s left edge is the source of over half of Canberra’s tries. Per Stats Insider’s ‘Try Scoring Analysis’, the Raiders have scored 15 of their 29 tries (52%) down the left edge.
The issue: Roosters rank 2nd in defence conceding just 12.4 points per game. There is a glimmer of hope for the Raiders, though. The Roosters may have only conceded 18 tries all season, but ten of them have come through their right edge – Wighton’s attacking side.
Another issue: Roosters rank 1st in attack scoring 29.8 points per game. The worry for Wighton and his battle with Keary is the diminutive Roosters five-eighth has already handed out ten try assists this season (2nd in the NRL).
Wighton has announced himself as one of the best halves in the NRL over the last 18 months. He has the Origin call-up and Clive Churchill Medal to prove it. However, dragging his struggling team to victory against an in-form Roosters outfit without Josh Hodgson might be his toughest challenge to date.
Melbourne Storm v Gold Coast Titans @ Sunshine Coast Stadium – 6 pm, AEST
Team List Notes
Storm: Cameron Munster returns and pushes Ryley Jacks out of the side. Brandon Smith starts at prop for the injured Jesse Bromwich while Felise Kaufusi returns from his injury pushing Tino Fa’asuamaleaui to the bench.
Titans: The Titans centres receive a much-needed boost this week with Brian Kelly and Phillip Sami wearing the three and four jerseys. Beau Fermor retains his place in the starting 13 to play in the back row with Bryce Cartwright and Sam Stone out of the side.
Key Factor: Titans Tackling
Missed tackles don’t always translate into a team being bad defensively, but for the Titans, it’s their biggest weakness. No team misses more tackles per game than the Titans and only the Cowboys concede more than their 27.2 points.
The problems have been on the edges but the Titans may finally start to improve in the area with some consistency in the team list. Beau Fermor and Keegan Hipgrave in the back row with Phillip Sami and Brian Kelly in the centres could be that consistent presence on the edge.
Missing only 15 tackles last week will give the Titans confidence. Although, the Warriors are one of the worst attacking teams in the NRL right now. The Storm, on the other hand, have scored 20+ for three consecutive weeks and welcome back Cameron Munster for this one.
The result seems set in stone already. It’s not a case of whether or not the Storm wins, but by how much. How the Titans defend, especially on the edges, will determine how close they keep to an in-form Storm side that appears to be getting better every week.
Wests Tigers v Brisbane Broncos @ Leichhardt Oval – 8:05 pm AEST
Team List Notes
Tigers: Michael Maguire has put his axe through the Tigers and hit Luke Brooks on the way through. With Josh Reynolds out due to suspension, Benji Marshall and Billy Walters make up the new-look halves pairing. In other changes: Tommy Talau replaces Reece Hoffman on the wing, Russell Packer takes Oliver Clark’s spot at prop while Sam McIntyre and Chris McQueen earn a spot on the bench in place of Michael Chee Kam and Elijah Taylor.
Broncos: Ben Te’o starts for the injured Alex Glenn with Joe Ofahengaue coming onto the bench is the only confirmed change. Although, Herbie Farnworth, Tesi Niu and Xavier Coates all started the week under an injury cloud.
Key Factor: Unsettled Halves
Both the Wests Tigers and Brisbane Broncos are struggling for form in the halves. Benji Marshall and Billy Walters are the fourth different halves pairing the Tigers will send out this season. Marshall knew he would be out there the moment Josh Reynolds kicked Campbell Graham in the face last week. However, many will have been surprised to see Luke Brooks punted from the side in favour of Walters who has started just one game in the halves throughout his six-game career (Round 16, 2019 for Storm).
While Brodie Croft and Anthony Milford have started every game of the 2020 NRL season beside each other in the Broncos halves, they’re far from a settled pairing. Croft hasn’t offered the guidance and control many expected from him this season while, before Round 9, Milford only averaged 30.5 receipts per game, down from 46.2 receipts per game in 2019.
Given the injuries the Broncos are facing at the moment, the two teams match up relatively even. How these unsettled halves pairings link up will more than likely decide the winner.
St George-Illawarra Dragons v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs @ WIN Stadium – 3 pm AEST
Team List Notes
- Dragons: Jason Saab replaces Jordan Pereira (suspended) as the only change to the side.
- Bulldogs: Lachlan Lewis replaces Brandon Wakeham in the halves while Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is pushed to the wing for Nick Meaney. Reimis Smith is unavailable (suspended) with Kerrod Holland taking his place in the centres. Jeremy Marshall-King starts at hooker.
Key Factor: Bulldogs Building Points
They are the worst attacking team across the last three seasons with 2020 being the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs’ worst. They’ve scored just 94 points this season at 10.4 points per game. While the Dragons are a below-average attacking team themselves, the 34 points they hung on the Sea Eagles last week is more than the Bulldogs have managed in any match since Round 24 in 2018.
Even against a Broncos side riding a six-game losing streak into Round 9, once they got out to a 14-4 lead with 35 minutes to play, the mountain already looked too high for the Bulldogs to climb.
Lachlan Lewis replaces Brandan Wakeham in the halves this week. Manufacturing points isn’t his strong point and he’s unlikely to inspire much of an improvement himself. It needs to come from Kieran Foran. If the Kiwi international can get downhill and dig into this questionable Dragons defensive line, the Bulldogs might just be able to exceed 20 points for just the second time this season.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Newcastle Knights @ Bankwest Stadium – 5:30 pm AEST
Team List Notes
- Rabbitohs: Latrell Mitchell, Campbell Graham and Liam Knight are all out for varying reasons and lengths of time. This week, Alex Johnston moves to fullback, Dane Gagai to centre, and Jaxson Paulo makes his debut on the wing. Corey Allan earns a recall to play in the centres.
- Knights: Jacob Saifiti replaces his injured brother Daniel in the starting 13. Connor Watson, Mitch Barnett and Sione Mata’utia all return to make up a versatile Knights bench.
Key Factor: The Kicking Game
Adam Reynolds and Mitchell Pearce assume more of the kicking duties for their side than any other players in the NRL.
For the Knights recently, that has worked to their detriment. When scrolling down the Knights column on the notepad, “Pearce – poor kick” has popped up far too frequently over the last fortnight for a halfback that accounts for 74.1% of his team’s kicking metres. His kicking game across the park has left a lot to be desired. Meanwhile, Adam Reynolds manages to keep the ball on a string more often than not for his 75% portion of South Sydney’s total kicking metres.
With a more settled forward pack and up against a disrupted Rabbitohs back-three, Pearce’s boot can be the difference between winning and losing for the Knights on Saturday.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Parramatta Eels @ Lottoland – 7:35 pm AEST
Team List Notes
- Sea Eagles: Morgan Boyle is out allowing Taniela Paseka to start at prop and Corey Waddell to join the bench.
- Eels: Unchanged 17.
Key Factor: Dominant Halves
Despite Daly Cherry-Evans having 225 games to his name along with appearances for the Kangaroos and Queensland and Dylan Brown running out for just his 25th NRL game on Saturday, the two halves have the same task: Lead the team to victory.
Both will look to do it through their attacking play.
Cherry-Evans, while awful overall last week (3 errors), showed what he can do when he gets his hands on the ball. He just needs to hold onto it this week to give himself and the Sea Eagles a chance. Meanwhile, Brown struggled to wrap up Parramatta sets with poor 5th-tackle options plaguing their attack.
With such a significant role to play in their team’s attack, expect the opposition to send plenty of traffic towards Cherry-Evans and Brown in defence. Both are decent enough defenders, so they won’t be targeted for a particular weakness.
Rather, sapping the energy out of the opposition’s main attacking man can pay dividends late.
The Sea Eagles didn’t turn up last week. Now on a three-game losing streak, expect a much better performance from Des Hasler’s men with the master coach likely to apply plenty of pressure to the Parramatta five-eighth.