Durko's dissections for round 19
EELS V BULLDOGS
ANZ Stadium, 7.50pm
Played 143, Bulldogs 76, Eels 62, drawn 5. Last met: Bulldogs 20-12 round 10, 2018
Few at season's start would have predicted the loser of this clash between two proud old clubs as destined for the dreaded wooden spoon. And unfortunately for the Eels, who need a stroke of luck, their home ground tonight is also the home ground of the Dogs, so no advantage there. The Dogs have looked better of late, but this is wide open.
TIP - Bulldogs
SHARKS V RAIDERS
SCG Stadium, 6pm
Played 70, Sharks 38, Raiders 32. Last met: Sharks 24-16, round 10, 2018
Minus their skipper and goalkicker for the rest of the season, the Raiders face their must-win quest for the top eight also without injured halfback Aiden Seizer, at a ground where they have tasted scant success. On the back of two successive wins the Raiders - who average 25 points a game with the ball - will have a renewed confidence, but the always reliable Sharks, boasting a workmanlike pack, appear to have a decided edge at home.
TIP - Sharks
BRONCOS V PANTHERS
Played 52, Broncos 32, Panthers 19, drawn 1. Last met: Broncos 13-6, semi-final, 2017
The brave bookies have the Broncos slight favourites in this, but the perplexing question is why. They were pathetic last weekend against the Warriors - a team the Panthers hammered 36-4 a week earlier. Both teams have rep players returning and much at stake, but it will take a herculean effort for the Broncos to turn around the embarrassing performance of four days ago. The Panthers, who welcome back a multitude of stars, look too strong in the forwards, too fast in the backs and too clever in the halves.
TIP - Panthers
KNIGHTS V TITANS
McDonald Jones Stadium, 3pm
Played 19, Knights 10, Titans 9. Last met: Titans 33-26, round 11, 2018
If history repeats, this will be an entertainment spectacular in Newcastle on Saturday. These teams have met 18 times since the Titans joined the premiership in 2007 and the average combined score has been 41 points. With only pride on the line, the leadership qualities of halfbacks Mitchell Pearce and Ash Taylor will be telling. It should be close.
TIP - Knights
TIGERS V RABBITOHS
ANZ Stadium, 5.30pm
Played 30, Rabbitohs 16, Tigers 14. Last met: Rabbitohs 28-8, round 10, 2017
The Rabbitohs may have won nine on the trot, jumped into outright premiership favouritism and have Sam Burgess building them up as better than the 2014 premiership team, but a few of those nine wins have been somewhat streaky. And if they relax against the gutsy Tigers in this - with Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall back in harness - they could be in for a torrid evening. But the 300th NRL-game milestone for John Sutton is sure to have their minds on the job.
TIP - Rabbitohs
COWBOYS V DRAGONS
1300SMILES Stadium, 7.30pm
Played 29, Cowboys 15, Dragons 14. Last met: Dragons 28-22, round 7, 2017
Two successive losses for the once high-flying Dragons do not spell disaster, but a lift in form and spirits will be needed to beat a Cowboys outfit that looks close to scoring the vital win that will edge them away from the dreaded wooden spoon. And haunting the Dragons as much as their slip in form is their record in Townsville - just two wins from 10 visits. While the clash of Johnathan Thurston and Ben Hunt adds interest, it is up front where the Dragons' powerful pack will likely prevail.
TIP - Dragons
WARRIORS V STORM
Mt Smart Stadium, 2pm (AEST)
Played 41, Storm 23, Warriors 16, drawn 2. Last met: Storm 50-10, round 8, 2018
With a horde of big names returning, the one certainty in Auckland on Sunday is that the Storm will not beat themselves. They are once again cruising under the radar and, back near full strength, will fully test the mettle of the Warriors, who have been freezing and then boiling in the past two weeks. But as impressive as the Warriors were last weekend, the stoic defence of the premiers will be a much greater test than the paper-thin Broncos.
TIP - Storm
SEA EAGLES V ROOSTERS
Played 131, Sea Eagles 84, Roosters 45, drawn 2. Last met: Roosters 22-20, round 9, 2018
Out of finals calculations they might well be, but the gusty Sea Eagles showed again last weekend that they could well determine the finishing places of some of the top eight, including the Roosters. And the favourable calls of last weekend may need to be with the Roosters again, who have an atrocious record of 13 wins from their 49 appearances at Brookvale and just two wins from the teams' past seven meetings.
TIP - Roosters
- COMPILED BY TONY DURKIN