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Monday, April 12, 2021

NRL round 16 preview: Just 5 rounds to go

Round 16 sees some teams fighting for their chance to play finals while the race for fourth spot heats up with just five rounds to play.

The Tigers, Dragons, Sea Eagles and Warriors are all just two games outside the top 8 but are running out of time to force their way in.

The Roosters, Raiders, Knights and Rabbitohs seem to be locked in a four-way battle for fourth spot on the ladder so will all be desperate for win.

Parramatta Eels (3rd) vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (7th) Thursday 27 August 7.50pm @Bankwest Stadium

The Eels sit 2nd on the ladder but their recent form has left many wondering if they peaked too early in the season.

They beat a Storm side last week but were underwhelming as they only managed two tries against a Storm side missing many of their key players.

With just 5 rounds left to play, the time is now for the Eels to get back to their top form and prove they are genuine contenders this season.

While the Eels have struggled recently, the Rabbitohs are coming off their best performance of the season and look to be peaking as finals approach.

Their backline with Adam Reynolds, Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker were superb last week and when given enough space, they look incredibly dangerous.

The Rabbitohs haven’t beaten anyone above them on the ladder and this is a real opportunity to prove they are contenders this season.

St George Illawarra Dragons (10th) vs Gold Coast Titans (13th) Friday 28 August 6pm @Netstrta Jubilee Stadium

The Dragons have recorded back-to-back wins since it was announced that Paul McGregor would step down as head coach.

They just got over the line against the Broncos last week and will need a better performance to overcome a competitive Titans outfit.

The Titans were well beaten by the Raiders last week but created several chances in attack with 8 line breaks.

The combination of Jamal Fogarty and Alex Brimson has looked dangerous with the ball and if they can sure up their defence, they should be right in this clash.

Sydney Roosters (4th) vs Brisbane Broncos (15th) Friday 28 August 7.55pm @SCG

The Roosters were undermanned last week but still took care of the Tigers with ease.

They now get Boyd Cordner and Daniel Tupou back for this clash and suddenly their injury crisis looks more than manageable.

They smashed the Broncos 59-0 at Suncorp Stadium earlier this season and there’s nothing to suggest they won’t account for them easily this time around at the SCG.

The Broncos tumultuous Anthony Seibold era finally came to its inevitable end this week, as the coach took a $1 million payout to step away from the club immediately.

It would be a relief for both parties as the media circus surrounding Seibold had become ridiculous in recent weeks, so perhaps the pressure will now be eased on the Broncos somewhat.

With Anthony Milford and Isaac Luke both out, Sean O’Sullivan has been called into partner Tom Dearden in the halves and Brodie Croft comes onto the bench.

The Broncos put in a much better effort against the Dragons last week, so hopefully they can at least be competitive in this one.

Broncos v Roosters
The Roosters thumped the Broncos 59-0 back in round 4 this season.

New Zealand Warriors (12th) vs Newcastle Knights (6th) Saturday 29 August 3pm @Scully Park

The Warriors continue to play consistent footy and were rewarded with a tight win over the Bulldogs last week.

They would need to win the rest of their matches to even be a slight chance of making finals which would be an extraordinary achievement considering the obstacles they have faced this season.

Eliesa Katoa and Chanel Harris-Tavita return to strengthen the side and the Warriors will no doubt fancy their chances of knocking over a top 8 side.

The Knights recorded a scrappy win over the Cowboys last week, but unfortunately lost Blake Green for the season to an ACL injury.

He has been replaced in the side by former first choice five-eighth Mason Lino, with Kurt Mann remaining at hooker and Phoenix Crossland on the bench.

Lino made 12 appearances for the Knights in 2019 but has yet to play in the first-grade side this season, so may need a couple of weeks to feel comfortable in the side.

The Knights are almost certain to make their first finals appearance since 2013, but with a top 4 finish still within their grasp, they must beat the Warriors here.

Cronulla Sharks (8th) vs North Queensland Cowboys (14th) Saturday 29 August 5.30pm @Netsrata Jubilee Stadium

The Sharks were disappointing in their loss to the Panthers last week and are still yet to beat another top 8 side this season.

Matt Moylan has been dropped after a poor performance and with Shaun Johnson ruled out, Connor Tracey and Braydon Trindall will form an inexperienced halves pairing.

They are still two games clear of the 9th placed Tigers, but with a tough last four games, they need to make sure they take care of the Cowboys.

The Cowboys are in freefall at the moment, losing Jason Taumalolo to a calf injury during their eighth straight loss last week.

In some good news, Valentine Holmes has been named to return from injury on the wing, so he should provide a spark for them in attack.

Penrith Panthers (1st) vs Wests Tigers (9th) Saturday 29 August 7.35pm @Panthers Stadium

The Panthers have been irrestible this season as they look destined to finish the regular season as minor premiers.

They will be looking for their 11th straight win here but will have to do it without Api Koroisau and Viliame Kikau

They have both had outstanding seasons and are a big part of the Panthers side, but they still have enough quality to be able to cover those two stars.

The Tigers season of disappointment continues last week with a resounding loss to the Roosters at their home ground.

Harry Grant returns to the side and has been their best player this year by a long way, but it must be bittersweet given he will return to the Melbourne Storm for next season.

They are still mathematically a chance to make finals, but they would need a few miracles to get there, including a win over the Panthers here.

Tigers v Panthers
There was plenty of feeling when these teams met back in round 8, so hopefully we see some more of that.

Melbourne Storm (2nd) vs Manly Sea Eagles (11th) Sunday 30 August @Sunshine Coast Stadium

The Storm may have lost Brandon Smith and Kenny Bromwich for this match, but they have regained some star players as well.

Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster, Jahrome Hughes, Jesse Bromwich and Marion Seve all return to the starting side as the Storm look to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Eels.

Smith and Munster in particular make such a difference to the side and with the Storm looking to secure a top 4 finish, it’s hard to see them losing this one.

Manly have fallen off a cliff in recent weeks and were smashed against the Rabbitohs last week with their season on the line.

It has been a tough season for Manly as they have battled injuries and form issues, but they always love to beat the Storm, so perhaps they’ll get themselves up to cause a big boil over in this one.

Canberra Raiders (5th) vs Canterbury Bulldogs (16th) Sunday 29 August 6.30pm

The Raiders have found their mojo in attack, racking up 74 points in the last two weeks against the Broncos and Titans.

Corey Harawira-Naeara is unable to play against the Bulldogs as part of the deal when they released him, paving the way for 20-year-old Matt Timoko to make his debut off the bench.

The 5th placed Raiders are in a battle for a top 4 spot, and with a huge clash against the Roosters next week, they simply can’t afford to drop this match to the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs have been competitive recently but just can’t find that win to get them off the bottom of the ladder.

Lachlan Lewis has been called back into the starting halfback spot, with Jack Cogger to make way.

Dylan Napa and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak also return to add some experience to the Bulldogs side.

They are quickly running out of time to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon, so the Bulldogs would love nothing more than to upset a finals contender and move ahead of the Broncos.

Bulldogs v Raiders
The Raiders will be looking to maintain their form as they press for a top four finish,

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