Canberra Raiders v Parramatta Eels @ GIO Stadium
The Raiders will be looking to keep their scintillating form intact when they take on Parramatta at home on Sunday afternoon. Canberra have been the form team in the NRL the past month after announcing themselves as title contenders with back to back wins against Cronulla and the Storm. Parramatta unsurprisingly have really dropped off of late and they were lethargic in being thumped by the Broncos 38-16 at Suncorp Stadium. Round 4 of 2016 seems must seem like a 100 ears ago for Eels fans, with Keiran Foran starring in a 36-6 rout of the Raiders.
The Raiders will have to do without star hooker Josh Hodgson after he choose not to contest his 1 match suspension for an ugly looking grapple tackle on Jesse Bromwich. Kurt Baptiste comes into the starting line up for a Raiders side brimming with confidence. In Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua the Raiders have found a deadly combination out wide. Both sit in the top 5 in the NRL for tackle busts and will fancy themselves to have a field day against Parramatta. Ricky Stuart has also formed a strong and formidable forward pack and mid season signing Junior Paulo will be looking to make an impact against his old club. Jarrod Croker is having a stand out season running away with the NRL Top Pointscorer's title currently sitting on 240 points. Croker has always been a point machine however he has found more consistency in his game defensively this season.
Finally some good news for Parramatta fans as they welcome back Semi Radradra and Beau Scott to a side limping to the finish line. The Eels have a terrible record in the Nations's capital losing their last 5 there and 9 of the past 10. Coach Brad Arthur sets high standards in terms of performance and he did not mince his words in the aftermath to the Broncos hiding. However even he must know deep down all that has happened at Parramatta is starting to take it's toll on their weary players. The Eels need one more win to finish the season with a 50% win record and they will want to that even thought it is all in vain.
Verdict - Hard to see anything other then a Raiders win here. The Eels get some strike back however their heads seem to be elsewhere at the minute. They will need to keep this close early otherwise Canberra might rack up a big score. A Day game on a fast track will help a Raiders side going at full throttle. Raiders might miss Josh Hodgson a fair bit in the middle of the field with his guile and leadership. Raiders by 20.
Sydney Roosters @ St George Illawarra Dragons @ Allianz Stadium
The Dragons will be looking to keep their faint finals hopes alive when they take on the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Sunday. The Dragons were expected to have hopes put to bed last week by rivals Cronulla, however they produced their best performance of the season in shocking the Sharks 32-18 at Kogarah. The Roosters are finally starting to hit their stride with close to their best side available and they will look to build on last weeks comfortable 22-10 win against the Cowboys. When the teams clashed in the traditional Anzac Day fixture earlier this year the Dragons won a tight game 18-14.
Tariq Syms is in doubt for the clash with the Dragons adding Leeson Ah Mah and Jacob Host to an extended bench. Syms was dynamic scoring 2 tries in last weeks win and would be a big out for Saints. The Dragons finally decided to throw away their ponderous structure last week and threw caution to the win with great effect. They created a season high 18 offloads and only 5 errors as they looked to loosen the reigns and promote the football. The Dragons need to win their remaining 3 games and hope the Titans and Warriors stumble badly if they are any chance of clinching 8th spot.
The Roosters name an unchanged line up as go in search of their 6th win of the season. The Chooks have won 7 of their last 10 clashes against the Dragons however just 15 from 35 overall. Last week Mitchell Pearce is outstanding in his conquest to make up for lost time after being suspended for the opening 9 rounds of football. The Roosters have the talent of a Top 8 team without question however they have had a horrible years with injuries and off field distractions. They will be using these last 3 games to build momentum for a massive 2017, with Roosters guru Nick Politis unlikely to tolerate 2 poor seasons on the bounce.
Verdict - Put simply I Think the Roosters are a better side then the Dragons at full strength. The Dragons do have more to play for so I expect this to be a tight football game. However I think the Roosters can extract a little revenge for earlier in the season by getting on top of Saints in the forwards. Roosters by 6.