There are only a few weeks left of the regular 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership season and from Round 23 this weekend until the finals kick off we are treated to games from Thursday night onwards.
Tonight’s first Thursday night footy feature pits the second-ranked Cowboys up against the fourth-placed Rabbitohs up at 1300 Smiles Stadium and it looks a beauty to get things going.
Friday night features another cracking clash with current ladder-leaders Brisbane looking to atone for their back-to-back losses with a Lang Park win at home over the Dragons, while the Round concludes on Monday night down at Shark Park with Cronulla hosting the Storm in a 5th vs 6th showdown not to miss.
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North Queensland Cowboys vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Thursday, August 13 – 7:45pm (AEST) – 1300 Smiles Stadium
The Cowboys are second on the ladder and looking to knock Brisbane off top spot in time to snare the Minor Premiership. They have a short turnaround from Saturday – Thursday here, but are playing up in North Queensland which aids their cause. They suffered the shock loss to the Sharks last weekend and will be keen to atone, something our markets say they can do against a Souths outfit that went down by 20 points to Manly last Friday night. Boosting the Cowboys is the return of Matt Scott, with Ben Hannant pushed to the bench to welcome him back into the line-up. The stats show, while North Queensland have been playing poorly at home of late, against the Bunnies they have the upper hand.
Brisbane Broncos vs St George Illawarra Dragons
Friday, August 14 – 7:45pm (AEST) – Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane are only just hanging onto top spot after back-to-back losses to Manly and the Bulldogs respectively over the past two weeks. Nobody is really sure what has gone wrong with the Broncos at the pointy end of the season, but if they are to stay the ladder leaders and do well in the finals they need to get their act together starting with this home game against St George. The Dragons are in seventh position and come off a confidence-boosting 36 – nil victory over the Warriors so could present some tough opposition to the home side. Brisbane play without he soon-to-retire Justin Hodges (suspension), and after a few of his embarrassing slip-ups last week that could actually be a positive if you ask the fans.
Wests Tigers vs Newcastle Knights
Saturday, August 15 – 3:00pm (AEST) – Campbelltown Stadium
The Tigers played on Monday night and scored the two point upset over the Raiders down in chilly Canberra, which was an excellent effort. They will relish a Saturday afternoon game at Campbelltown this weekend and also play the easiest team to beat in the competition – the Knights. Newcastle have been truly woeful of late including last round when going down to the Roosters at Hunter. Hard to see a turnaround from them big enough to defeat Wests at home and the odds reflect that. Newcastle have beaten the Tigers once before this season however and no-one wants to be left licking the wooden spoon – is that enough incentive?
Penrith Panthers vs New Zealand Warriors
Saturday, August 15 – 5:30pm (AEST) – Pepper Stadium
Penrith are 14th on the ladder and have already said goodbye to a finals bid, but they will still be keen to win for their fans this week at Pepper Stadium when hosting the 10th ranked Warriors on Saturday evening. Last week the Panthers lost to the Eels by six points in a low scoring affair while New Zealand played some of their most disappointing footy, unable to post a single point going down 36 – 0 to St George. Think New Zealand will be better than that this week, but probably not enough to win.
Sydney Roosters vs Parramatta Eels
Saturday, August 15 – 7:30pm (AEST) – Allianz Stadium
The Chooks are one of the hot favourites to go all the way and win the Grand Final this October. Last weekend the Tri-Colours, now third on the table, beat Newcastle (38 – 22), but they really stopped playing footy in the final quarter and with another 10 or so minutes it could have been interesting. They need to put in a full 80 minutes if they are to hold off some of the other top teams in the comp, but this weekend shouldn’t worry them too much as they host the Eels (12th) who beat the Panthers 10 – 4 last week.
Canberra Raiders vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Sunday, August 16 – 2:00pm (AEST) – GIO Stadium
The Raiders lost at home last Monday night against the Tigers in an upset and will be keen to atone, but sitting 11th on the ladder time is really running out for the Green Machine who must win and win well this week to stay in it. They’ll be really tested at home again when playing the on-point Sea Eagles who vie for a hat-trick of wins on the trot after upsets over Brisbane and the Bunnies in the last two rounds. Manly are on fire and have the finals firmly in their sight and really have more to play for sitting just one outside the Top 8 going into this clash.
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs vs Gold Coast Titans
Sunday, August 16 – 4:00pm (AEST) – Central Coast Stadium
The Bulldogs will be brimming with confidence after taking down the No. 1 team, Brisbane up at Suncorp Stadium last Friday night. They get a good break between games playing in a lovely Sunday afternoon timeslot here against the Titans who were thrashed by Melbourne last round and look no hope of beating Canterbury on the Central Coast, which is why they are out over $5 for the win they won’t get.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks vs Melbourne Storm
Monday, August 17 – 7:00pm (AEST) – Remondis Stadium
Round 23 comes to a close with a genuine blockbuster – 5th plays 6th – between the on-fire Cronulla at Shark Park and the Storm who are coming off a win over the Titans. The Sharks are going to be much harder to beat than the Gold Coast, especially at home off a 30 – 18 win over the second-ranked Cowboys. Should be a really close one, but think at the venue with all the momentum the Sharks hold the narrow advantage.