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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

NRL round 7 preview: The worst team in Queensland

In a fascinating clash, the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans will battle it out at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday evening to decide the worst team in Queensland.

The Titans will be desperate to hand over the mantle they have held for several years, while the once proud Broncos club will look to avoid the title they have never held.

There are some other great matches to look forward to with several top-eight sides to play each other.

Penrith Panthers (3rd) vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (8th) Thursday 25 June 7.50pm @Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

The action kicks off tonight with a bang as two in-form teams do battle.

The Panthers are coming off an impressive win over the Storm last week and look like a genuine top four team.

The Rabbitohs have looked much better the past two weeks; the addition of Cody Walker has been massive to a side that was lacking spark in attack.

Since the restart, the Bunnies have lost to the Roosters and Storm, while beating up on the lowly Titans and Warriors so it remains to been seen if they can beat the top teams.

They’ll get the chance to prove themselves with the Panthers a big test for the rejuvenated Rabbitohs.

There’s plenty to celebrate in Penrith with the Panthers playing some good footy lately.

Melbourne Storm (6th) vs New Zealand Warriors (13th) Friday 26 June 6pm @Netstrata Jubilee Stadium

The Storm have been forced to relocate their game to NSW after the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Victoria, so they lose their formidable home ground advantage for the meantime.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy has been critical of his side’s inconsistent form this season so you would expect somewhat of a response.

They get winger Josh Addo-Carr and halfback Jerome Hughes back, which means that with an almost full-strength side to choose from, the Storm should be winning this.

The Warriors made the extraordinary decision to sack their coach Stephen Kearney after last week’s 28-point loss to the Warriors.

The players have since taken responsibility for his shock axing so it will be interesting to see how they respond under a new coach.

They are also without young forward Eliesa Katoa who has been a revelation and makes the already difficult task of beating the Storm even tougher.

Sydney Roosters (4th) vs St George Illawarra Dragons (12th) Friday 26 June 7.55pm @Bankwest Stadium

The Roosters look well on their way to a three-peat after beating the red-hot Eels last week so the Dragons shouldn’t pose much of an issue.

James Tedesco has been named despite copping a heavy knock last round, while Lindsay Collins and Sam Verrills come back into the side, so they are even stronger than last week. Look out!

The Dragons are coming off two consecutive wins but against lowly opposition in the Sharks and Titans.

James Graham has played his last game for the club as he heads back to England to finish his career, while young gun Jason Saab comes onto the wing for the suspended Jordan Pereira.

The Roosters are a major step up in competition and, while a win is not impossible, it’s hard to see it happening.

North Queensland Cowboys (10th) vs Newcastle Knights (2nd) Saturday 27 June 3pm @Queensland Country Bank Stadium

The Cowboys put in an absolute shocker against the Tigers last week, looking disinterested as they fell behind 34-0 at half-time.

Coach Paul Green gave his side a deserved spray at the break and they responded in the second half, but they’ll need a full 80-minute performance to upset the Knights.

The Knights sit second on the ladder after a strong start to the season and have a great chance to play finals football for the first time since 2013.

Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce continue to create chances in attack while their defence continues to improve under coach Adam O’Brien.

The Cowboys were diabolical against the TIgers last weekend.

Brisbane Broncos (14th) vs Gold Coast Titans (16th) Saturday 27 June 5.30pm @Suncorp Stadium

At least one Queensland side will have a win this weekend as these two struggling clubs go at it.

The Broncos have been incredibly poor since the season restarted and Anthony Siebold has finally made a change to his side, although perhaps not the one most were expecting.

18-year-old Tesi Niu gets his first start at fullback for the Broncos with Jamayne Isaako missing out.

Surprisingly, Anthony Milford has kept his starting spot at five-eighth but with Tom Dearden on the bench, it might be his last chance.

The Titans looked to have turned the corner with a win over the Tigers in round 4, but have followed it up with back-to-back defeats.

Ash Taylor is under as much pressure as Milford and another poor showing here could see him dropped as well.

Parramatta Eels (1st) vs Canberra Raiders (5th) Saturday 7.35pm @Bankwest Stadium

Despite losing to the Roosters, the Eels impressed many last round and showed they are one of the teams to beat.

Star lock Nathan Brown will miss through suspension, the second time already this season he has been suspended.

Their backline looks dangerous in attack and their front row of Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard continue to play well.

The Eels have had a tough run with games against Manly, the Panthers and Roosters in the last three weeks so we’ll see how much they have in the tank.

The Raiders were disappointing last round, failing to capitalise against a depleted Manly side.

They have struggled in attack the past few weeks with the only spark coming from their halves, George Williams and Jack Wighton.

Wighton continues to look dangerous when he runs the ball but the outside backs have failed to create many chances for themselves.

Ricky Stuart has named an unchanged side for this clash, backing in his team to turn it around quickly.

Jordan Rapana and Blake Ferguson will do battle again in Saturday night.

Manly Sea Eagles (7th) vs Cronulla Sharks (11th) Sunday 4.05pm @Central Coast Stadium

Although Manly were decimated by injury last round against the Raiders, they managed to come away with a gutsy win – but it came at a heavy cost.

Star fullback Tom Trbojevic has been ruled out for six weeks with a hamstring injury while Dylan Walker is also out for an extended period.

On the plus side, they get Jorge Taufua and Martin Tapau back and have won 11 of the last 12 matches against the Sharks, so they should go into this match confident of a victory.

The Sharks were lucky to escape last round’s match against the Bulldogs with a victory.

They have performed inconsistently so far this season and, if they are to beat Manly, they will have to produce a better effort than last week.

Canterbury Bulldogs (15th) vs Wests Tigers (9th) Sunday 6.30pm @Bankwest Stadium

You never quite know what you’re going to get from either of these sides, so the final round of the competition could make for interesting viewing.

The Bulldogs could very easily have won last round but instead find themselves 15th on the ladder with coach Dean Pay under significant pressure to keep his job as the rather large shadow of Wayne Bennet hovers over him.

Lachlan Lewis was a late omission last week and remains out as Brandon Wakeham retains the halfback spot alongside Kieran Foran.

The Tigers were at their inconsistent best last week with a scintillating first half followed by a lacklustre second half.

In huge blows for the Tigers, Alex Twal, Zane Musgrove and Robert Jennings are all out for an extended period with injuries.

Despite the injuries, if the Tigers are serious about playing finals this season, they must win this match.

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