Round 22 Preview

Chip and Chase

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Round 22 Preview

I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that my chances of winning the tipping competition are heading the same way as Manly's chances of making the 8. Until I reach “mathematically impossible” territory I will continue to battle on, and hereunder offer another round preview for your amusement.

The battle for the spoon is almost as intriguing as the battle for the 8, as the lower placed teams continue to delve into their box of spanners, hurling them willy nilly into the machinations of those teams above them. It’s still a close run race for the semis, and the ability to handle the pressure of expectation will tell on some sides over the next month.

Cowboys v Dragons

A last ditch win against Manly has done nothing to inspire me with confidence that the Cowboys have regained some of their early season form. There is no denying they are a team overflowing with players who are fleet of foot and individually brilliant, but lack of structure may haunt them when the going gets tough. The ball will only bounce your way so often. Having said that, they will be a much tougher proposition with Rauhihi and Webb back, despite questionable levels of match fitness. They also seem to be a 10 or 12 point better team at home.

The Dragons disposed of the hapless Roosters, making a mockery of their previously much vaunted defence, and they do seem to be the form side of the competition. Could this be their year ? I imagine that the salivary glands of all those who follow the Red V are starting to kick into gear as their Pavlovian instincts overcome them at thoughts of a possible premiership. Pity they have the memory spans equivalent to Russian dogs as they forget the last 20 years of finals asphyxiation. Gasnier and Cooper are the keys to their attack, but they are faced with a pretty tough and experienced defensive pairing in Bowman and Hannay. I think the Dragons are tight enough up the middle to limit the Cowboys little men around the ruck, and they generally have a pretty good kick chase. Should be a cracker of a game, especially the battle between the props. Be interested if Firman can rub Browny’s nose in it.

My Tip: Dragons

Bulldogs v Knights

I thought the Dogs were back on track for a potential title defence and then they go and dish up a tripe performance against the Rabbits to make me reconsider. Even in the games they have won recently it seems that the opposition are still able to score plenty of points, so obviously they are having some defensive problems. Their forward pack still looks good on paper, and if Sherwin finds some form to complement Anasta than they will be hard to deny, despite a lacklustre backline. I think they need to play to their strength and just try and battle it out at the fringe of the ruck with Mason and Ryan getting some room on the back of O’Meley and Asotasi’s go forward.

Well the Knights keep the dream alive in their quest to avoid the spoon with a dominant performance against the very flat Storm outfit. The problem is that the Panthers and Rabbits keep winning as well, and with Souths having a bye this week they run the risk of losing touch if they don’t get the 2 points. Despite the fact that they ride so obviously on the coat tails of Andrew Johns, he still cannot be denied. Any teams game plan against the Knights would be simple, stop Joey and we will win. Can the Dogs do it ? I think so. In fact I’ll wager if they don’t, than they are gone for 2005.

My Tip: Bulldogs

Sharks v Storm

Two teams who were bitterly disappointing last weekend. The Sharks were embarrassed by the Tigers, copping a 40 point flogging, which was followed by a week of very public mud slinging between players, coach and management (don’t you love it) This crisis will either galvanise the players, or see the wheels fall completely off as they spiral out of the top 8. I’m betting the latter, as things seem pretty ugly out Sutherland way. Kimmorely is not a known fighter, preferring to go missing when times get tough, a skill he has honed at Cronulla, as he learns from the master David Peachey.

The Storm, by their own admission, were poor against the Knights. They started in neutral and quickly found reverse. They can be a very hot and cold side but rarely put two bad performances in back to back. They do struggle for consistency against the Sharks, but have a reasonable record at Shark Park. Scott Hill has hopefully found his feet now and I’m dreaming of Orford giving us a top shelf display. I think they’ll bounce back this week to demoralise the Sharks even further prompting a raft of sackings in the Shire.

My Tip: Storm

Warriors v Eels

I think the Kiwis costs themselves a top 8 chance when they went down to Penrith. Tackling obviously wasn’t a big priority in that game with a total of 76 points racked up, it’s not often you lose a game when you have 34 on the scoreboard. They are still a dangerous side but I wonder if they have already conceded for this year.

The bye has probably come at a good time for the Eels after losses to the Raiders and Knights. Their mid season form had me thinking they were a good chance, but they have gone off the boil. I think the week off and a chance to refocus will do them some good, and they seem to have the wood over the Warriors and don’t mind the trip across the ditch.

My Tip: Eels

Raiders v Tigers

The Raiders surprised me with their effort against the Broncos, they really hung in the game. Will be interested to see the battle between the old fox Smith and the young pup Marshall. Still think they will miss out on a semis spot, but experience tells me not to take them lightly as they rarely give up and give most games a shake.

What a revelation the Tigers have been, playing some very attractive football and having me dream of what it would be like to follow a team with attacking flair. Five on the trot has seen them rocket up the ladder as others head south. The win over Cronulla could be a defining moment in their season, as it will do wonders for their confidence and self-belief, bringing them within grasp of a finals berth. I think they will face a tougher defensive outfit in Canberra this week and will have to battle hard, but I can see them rolling on for 6 straight and an outside possibility of a top 4 spot.

My Tip: Tigers

Roosters v Panthers

Poor old Easts have being on the wrong end of the scoreline for 4 in a row now and look likely to miss the finals for the first time in a long time. Their up and in defence was exposed by the Dragons last week as the quickly spread the ball and skirted around them. Mind boggling positional plays from Ricky, with Ned Catic spending in inordinate amount of time out wide in the defensive line. It’s anyone’s guess who will line up in the halves for them this week as Ricky will no doubt try some mind games, but only end up confusing himself. The Roosters look tired and are running on old legs.

The Panthers generally play well against the Roosters and will be keen for a moral victory here to bring back memories of 2003, despite having lost the last two clashes. They scored a lot of points against the Warriors last week, but also leaked a lot. This game really means nothing in the big scheme of things, only personal pride and bragging rights. It’s a tough one to pick, but I’m going for the Panthers only because I’d prefer them to win than Gus’s Goons.

My Tip: Panthers

Manly v Broncos

Close, but no cigar for the Sea Eagles last week. The Cowboys got home on the back of some individual brilliance. It was one of Manly’s better performances of late, but still saw us record our 5th straight loss, and our 3rd straight at home as the Fortress crumbles. Sam Harris at 5/8th this week will either be a masterstroke or a complete disaster. He has some ball playing ability but, in my opinion, suspect hands and isn’t selective enough with his off loads. Allegedly we have a good record against the Broncos at Brooky, but I think that is more to do with lack of opportunity on their part. I keep thinking back to our first round clash where we crumbled under the weight of expectation, and with pressure now being applied in the form of final 8 chances we may find ourselves in the same boat.

The Broncos have not being as dominant over the last month, but they have a quality side and a forward pack that may embarrass some of our pretenders. Hard to get excited about our chances in this one but will be willing the boys on as usual. I just hope we are competitive and put in a performance that we can build on with the imminent return of Choc and Hecks.

My Tip: Broncos

Souths v Bye

Thank god, I keep writing off the Bunnies and they keep winning. Cost me a bloody point every week.

(Edit: Accidently put Sharks down as my tip when I meant Storm - fixed now)

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