New Zealand Warriors v Wests Tigers @ Mount Smart Stadium
The Warriors and Wests Tigers will be looking to cash in on the Gold Coast Titans stumble when they clash at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday. The Titans loss means both club have the opportunity to put themselves within 1 point of a Top 8 birth knowing the Titans have to go on the road to North Queensland in the final round. With both clubs having home games in Round 26 the winner of todays match would be putting themselves in a great position to make the finals.
The Warriors will be looking to rebound from 2 shocking performances against the Rabbitohs and Cowboys. The Warriors conceded a total of 75 points in these games and failed to show the desire and aggression required for a team with their season on the line. The Warriors welcome back their top try scorer Solamone Kata while they make a change on the flank with Tuimoala Lolohea coming in to replace Ken Maumalo. The Warriors have won 4 of their past 5 in New Zealand against the Wests Tigers with a 13-13 split overall between the 2 clubs. I am sure Shaun Johnson will be looking to target Jordan Rankin under the high ball after he spilt 3 last week against Penrith.
The Tigers head across the ditch smarting from a very ordinary performance at the foot of the mountains as they dispatched 40-10 by Penrith. The Tigers had been in really solid form for a few months and Jason Taylor looked dumfounded as to the reason why the team turned up without their tackling boots at Penrith. Without James Tedesco and coming off a 1 point loss the week before what was clear is the Tigers could not mentally get themselves up for this game. Way back in Round 1 the Tiger defeated the Warriors 34-26 in a wild game out at Campbelltown Stadium with the Tigers racing to a 26-4 lead at halftime only to have to cling on to victory courtesy of a late James Tedesco try.
Verdict - It's very hard to predict anything with these 2 clubs. I expect this game to be wild and quite high scoring like most Warriors and Tigers games. However given the Warriors have a good record at Mount Smart Stadium and the Tigers are missing James Tedesco you would have to lean towards them. However their last 2 performances to me show me confidence is well down and if the Tigers can get ahead early the Warriors are the sort of team that can drop their heads. With the Titans loss last night surely the Warriors are highly motivated knowing 2 home wins and they are a great chance to make the finals. Warriors by 12.
Newcastle Knights v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Hunter Stadium
The Knights host their old boys days when they take on the Rabbitohs in their last home game of the season at Hunter Stadium on Sunday. It has been a year like no other for Newcastle managing just 1 win and 1 draw as Nathan Brown has been left to pick up the pieces after a turbulent few years. The Rabbitohs have found some last season form and will be aiming for 3 straight wins after impressive victories over the Warriors and Cronulla. when these sides met way back in Round 2 Souths gave Newcastle a bath winning 48-6 at ANZ Stadium.
Jarrod Mullen, Corey Denniss and Sione Matu'utai are come into the starting line up for the Knights as they get one last chance to reward their home fans after a long season. The Knights have an incredibly good record on Old Boys Day winning 12 of their final 16 matches at Hunter Stadium. It will be a double incentive for the Knights with them always farewelling retiring co-captain Jeremy Smith. The Knights have been thumped by a combined 56 points in their last 2 matches against the Panthers and Titans and surely they can lift and at least be competitive against the Rabbitohs.
Souths name an unchanged line up but have an extended bench of Zane Musgrove, Cameron Mciness and Dave Tyrrell. This is Souths first trip to Newcastle in 4 years and they will be keen to bring up a hat trick of wins for the first time this season. Sam Burgess might be used as an attacking weapon close to the line as Newcastle have given up a number of soft tries in the forwards in the past 2 weeks. Burgess has got back close to his best of late and ran off over 180 metres against Cronulla and made 50 tackles.
Verdict - It is impossible to tip Newcastle despite their record on Old Boys Days. Souths are playing a lot better of late and have enough points in them to win this game. I expect the Knights to come out firing and potentially lead this game at half time. However 80 minute performances from Newcastle are hard to find and I expect The Rabbitohs class to tell in the 2nd half. Souths by 10.