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CRONULLA SHARKS V ST GEORGE ILLAWRRA DRAGONS – 8pm (AEDT)/10pm (AEDT), Thursday, March 15 @ Southern Cross Group Stadium

The southern Sydney derby shapes as being a little spicier than usual. The Sharks are coming off a gritty but sloppy 20-14 loss to the Cowboys that saw their grubby tactics pinpointed, their debutant winger suffer a broken jaw and Valentine Holmes ruin his fullback prospects. Coach Flanagan has already confirmed Josh Dugan will move to the custodian role, with Holmes to revert to the wing. The Dragons, meanwhile, are on top of the world after a Bronco-busting display inspired by marquee recruits Ben Hunt and James Graham. Round 1 form should carry through in this grudge match. Dragons by 4

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Sharks $1.75, Dragons $2.00 (Line: Sharks -1.5) . Tip – Dragons Win @ $2.00.

Warriors Fan Interest: Former Warriors NYC star Sosaia Feki and ex-Aussie imports Chad Townsend and Jayson Bukuya are in the Sharks’ line-up, while supporters will be eyeing off the Round 7 clash against bogey side the Dragons with more than a little trepidation.


SYDNEY ROOSTERS V CANTERBURY BULLDOGS – 6pm (AEDT)/8pm (NZT), Friday, March 16 @ Allianz Stadium

Another traditional Sydney rivalry – and both clubs have a point to prove. The big-spending Roosters have been pilloried for their 10-8 loss to the Tigers, while the Bulldogs’ revamped attack showed some promising signs in a 36-18 defeat to the Storm. All eyes are on Tedesco and Cronk to deliver after disappointing first-up showings for the Tricolours, but it’s the likes of enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves that need to step up – as does front-row counterpart Aaron ‘Dora the Explorer’ Woods. There’s more scope for immediate improvement from the Roosters. Roosters by 8

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Roosters $1.30, Bulldogs $3.30 (Line: Roosters -8.5). Tip – Roosters 12 & Under @ $3.00.

Warriors Fan Interest: The Warriors take on the Roosters twice in the first 10 rounds, including a trip to Sydney in Round 4. We wouldn’t hate their early-season rust hanging around.

BRISBANE BRONCOS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS – 7.50pm (AEDT)/9.50pm (NZT), Friday, March 16 @ Suncorp Stadium

Man, didn’t the Broncos cop it after the season opener? They were poor, but it looked more like an off night than the crumbling of an empire. Expect Milford and Nikorima to come out firing, but Boyd’s influence is just as crucial. The Cowboys were solid enough in accounting for the Sharks at home but it took way too long to close out the match. There could be an upset in the offing at Suncorp. Broncos by 1

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Broncos $2.35, Cowboys $1.55 (Line: Broncos +3.5). Tip – Broncos +3.5 @ $1.92.

Warriors Fan Interest: The Warriors host the Cowboys and Broncos back-to-back in Round 5 and 6 in a week that could change the trajectory of their season.


NZ WARRIORS V GOLD COAST TITANS – 3pm (AEDT)/5pm (NZT), Saturday, March 17 @ Mt Smart Stadium

The question on everyone’s lips is: can the Warriors back it up? They were, with the Dragons, the standout team of Round 1 – but that Perth breakthrough will count for little if they get rolled at home. The Titans pulled off a miraculous comeback at home against Canberra in Round 1, while Konnie Hurrell’s maiden Mount Smart clash against the Warriors adds another layer of intrigue. Warriors by 12

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Warriors $1.35, Titans $3.00 (Line: Warriors -8.5). Tip: David Fusitu’a To Score a Try and Warriors Win @ $2.00.

PENRITH PANTHERS V SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS – 5.30pm (AEDT)/7.30pm (NZT), Saturday, March 17 @ Panthers Stadium

The critics had Anthony Griffin walking the plank midway through Sunday’s clash with the Eels, but the Panthers – led by Nathan Cleary and big Bill Kikau – came home with a wet sail to provide an early glimmer that 2018 might just be their year. The Rabbitohs were categorically outplayed by the Warriors and have lost linchpin Adam Reynolds  to injury (debutant Adam Doueihi is his replacement). Souths need far more from big guns Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess, but it’s hard to see them turning things around sufficiently to snaffle a win out west. Panthers by 16

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Panthers $1.37, Rabbitohs $2.90 (Line: Panthers -7.5). Tip: Panthers 11-20 @ $4.00.

Warriors Fan Interest: Definite curiosity around how the Warriors’ well-beaten Round 1 opponents perform, particularly against one of the other better opening-week teams.


MELBOURNE STORM V WESTS TIGERS – 7.30pm (AEDT)/9.30pm (NZT), Saturday, March 17 @ AAMI Park

After a stirring win over the premiership favourites, Wests Tigers aim to back it up against the NRL’s benchmark. The Tigers’ win was one of the gutsiest in their history, but they come up against a far more clinical and settled heavyweight in the Storm, who comfortably put away the Bulldogs last week and get Billy Slater back for his 300th. The Tigers are 1-11 in Melbourne and are unlikely to improve on that record this week. Storm by 14

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Storm $1.16, Tigers $4.75 (Line: Storm -14.5). Tip – Storm 11-20 @ $3.50.

Warriors Fan Interest: The Anzac Day showdown with the Storm looms large on the Warriors’ schedule, while supporters will be keeping an eye on how Ryan Hoffman performs back in the purple jersey – as well as the bevy of ex-Warriors in the Tigers’ line-up.


MANLY SEA EAGLES V PARRMATTA EELS – 4.10pm (AEDT)/6.10pm (NZT), Sunday, March 18 @ Lottoland

One of only two clashes this weekend between two Round 1 losers. Manly lost few admirers in a golden point loss at a packed house at Newcastle, while Parramatta were rightly panned after building a 14-0 lead at Penrith before capitulating. The toughest game of Round 2 to tip, this shapes as the match of the week with both sides hell-bent on avoiding an 0-2 start. The Norman-Moses double act could provide the streaky Eels with an edge up against one-man band DCE. Eels by 2

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Sea Eagles $1.80, Eels $1.95 (Sea Eagles -1.5). Tip: Either Side 6 & Under or Draw @ $2.65.

Warriors Fan Interest: Manly have dropped former Warriors favourite Lewis Brown – who was left on the bench unused for 89 minutes last week – from their interchange in favour of fellow utility Jackson Hastings.


CANBERRA RAIDERS V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS – 6.30pm (AEDT)/8.30pm (NZT), Sunday, March 18, GIO Stadium

After losing eight games by six points or less in 2017, the Raiders produced a choke to trump any of last year’s agonising defeats, coughing up an 18-point lead against the Titans. Their response at home could set the tone for their entire season. The Knights, meanwhile, have to come back to earth after the hype of their golden point win and grasp the realities of the week-to-week grind with a trip to the capital. Another one that is destined to go down to the wire. Raiders by 4

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Raiders $1.60, Knights $2.25 (Line: Raiders -3.5). Tip: Raiders 12 & Under @ $2.90.

Warriors Fan Interest: Cult hero Charlie Gubb, whose treatment by the Warriors left many fans bitter, makes his debut for the Green Machine with fellow Wellingtonian Joe Tapine ruled out. A solid showing could see #GubbCity line up against his old teammates in Round 3.


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