South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canberra Raiders @ ANZ Stadium
The Raiders will be looking to keep their Top 4 chances alive with a win over the lifeless Rabbitohs on Sunday at ANZ Stadium. The Raiders have virtually locked up their finals position on the back of a 4 game winning streak. While the Rabbitohs are suffering a 7 match losing streak which see's them playing for nothing but pride over the finals 5 weeks of the season.
The Raiders have have finally put it all together this year in their 3rd year under head coach Ricky Stuart. They have managed to turn the close losses of 2015 into close wins and have been formidable at home. The Raiders have strike right across the park and will fancy their chances of creating some problems for a Souths defence that is down on confidence and form. The Raiders will have to improve on their completions and their discipline if they are to mix it with the better sides in the finals.
Souths will be looking to salvage something from their nightmare season. The last time Souths were out of finals contention this early in the season was way back in 2009. It is unfamiliar territory for coach Michael Maguire and their star cast including Sam Burgess, Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds and John Sutton. The next 5 weeks may give us a gauge of whether there is anything left in this squad, or whether major changes are needed in the off season.
Verdict - The Raiders always seem to keep their opposition interested. They are not at the stage where they can blow their opponents away. Having said all that they have way too much to play for year then to allow Souths an upset win. I expect Souths to show some fight, but the Raiders to have too many points in them. Raiders by 12
Manly Sea Eagles v Newcastle Knights @ Brookvale Oval
Newcastle make the short trip down to Brookvale to take on the resurgent Sea Eagles on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles are shooting for 4 straight wins and will relish a rare Sunday afternoon game at their beloved Brookvale. They have drawn the short side of the straw several times this season with several Thursday and Monday home games.
Manly are finally starting to put together some good football after a season punctuated by injury and poor performance. Despite their 3 game winning streak Manly remain rooted in 13th place on the ladder and only an outside chance of making the finals. The Eagles have built their recent wins on strong defence conceding just 12 points a game. Despite this they might see a chance here to unleash the hand-break and out on some points against a side with by far the worst defence in the competition.
The Knights are still in search of their first away win of the season and are unlikely to find the going easy here. The Knights were batted by the table topping Sharks 36-4 at Shark Park last week. Despite recent improvements in performances the Knights remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder and any win before the end of the season would be taken gratefully.
Verdict - Manly are finishing the year really well. I think their attack is starting to click and they will relish a dry track at Brookvale. While the Knights have been better in the last month I think there a more competitive side at home. Manly to score 30 + points here. Manly by 22.