100318_ant'sanalysisWhat a beat-up. Was the Storm’s loss to the Titans on the weekend controversial? No.  Hopoate’s tactics were controversial.  Changing the NRL anthem from Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’ was controversial.  Losing a game because a referee applied the rules of rugby league is NOT controversial.

The Storm (and in particular Cameron Smith) are just not used to losing.  They are notorious for testing the limits of the rules and the referees, to good effect.  Lets not forget that Bellyache and his players were pioneers of wrestling techniques in the tackle that have since been outlawed including: the grapple tackle; the grinder; the chicken wing; the reverse squirrel grip; Hot Carl; and my personal favourite, the Houdini.

Taking the full 40 seconds before executing a line drop out is just another example of the Storm using the rules to their full extent for competitive advantage.  Nothing wrong with that – but be prepared to get penalised if you get it wrong.  Cameron was given a 20 second and a 10 second warning, if you want to push the boundaries that far, then you have to wear the consequences.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  If you can lose a game because of a referee’s decision, you probably didn’t do enough to deserve the game anyway.

It’s a good thing I don’t get penalised for wasting time.

Titans v Dragons – 7:35pm Friday April 16, Skilled Park

I can smell an upset… The Titans should be buoyed by their home ground advantage, their unlikely victory over the Storm last week, and the fact that the same team that kept the defending premiers scoreless in the second half will take to the field this Friday.  The salary cap issues are behind them, and the Titans have quality upfront in Minichiello and Laffranchi, among others.  The Dragons were dominant against the Broncos last week, but they still conceded 16 points against an embarrassing Brisbane outfit.  The Dragons are further weakened in the forwards with Matt Prior and Jeremy Smith out injured, and to make matters worse, Weyman copped one week on the sideline at the judiciary.  The Dragons have a lot of points in their backs, but as we all know forwards win matches, backs just determine the margin. Neville Costigan is back for the Dragons, but he’s overrated anyway.  Provided the Titans attack the weak links in the Dragons’ line-up they should get away with this one.

Titans by 8.

Tigers v Bulldogs – 7:35pm Friday April 16, Sydney Football Stadium

The Tigers are leading the comp in tries scored this season, but they have leaked more points than any other team in the top 8.  That should give hope to the Bulldogs who have struggled this season with only one win from 5 outings.  The Doggies can hope all they like, but it won’t bring them a win.  Their forwards are struggling to set the platform up for their back.  Ennis can only do so much, while Kimmorley is looking every bit his age.  They weren’t far off beating the Warriors last week, but it was an error riddled and unconvincing performance.  There won’t be a whole lot in the Farah / Ennis showdown, but expect some heated contests in the backline with a lot of skills and big names on both sides.  Are the Tigers peaking too early? Probably – but two points now are as good as two points later, as long as they turn it up at the business end of the season.  Here’s hoping Benji stays healthy.  Bulldogs are a chance, but the Tigers are on a roll.  Momentum will continue.

Tigers to win by 10.

Knights v Cowboys – 5:30pm Saturday April 17, Energy Australia Stadium

So I was wrong about the Titans being able to win without Prince, but the Cowboys are a different kettle of rugby league players.  The Cowboys will struggle without their captain, and their difficulties will be compounded with the absence of Aaron Payne and Luke O’Donnell from last week’s line-up.  With so much of their salary cap sitting on the sidelines, you’ve got to wonder how much confidence the boys from Townsville will be taking into this week’s game.  Don’t forget they’ve got Mason!  Pffffft.  The Cowboys are bringing Carl Webb back to the bench, and he is an angry little man who can always cause trouble.  But when all is said and done, the Knights will take this one.  ‘Captain, my Captain’ Gidley is back for the Knights, and with a strong home crowd advantage, the Newcastle faithful will go home with their second win of the season.  The Cowboys haven’t travelled well this season with two losses from two starts, and the Knights are yet to register a win at home, but the Knights are due for a win.

Knights by 8.

Roosters v Raiders – 7:30pm Saturday April 17, Sydney Football Stadium

The last time the Raiders won two consecutive away games was in the first half of the 2005 season.  Call me a naysayer, but my pessimism in this instance is justified.  The Raiders will not back up the win last week.  They have shown plenty of guts this season, and it was a quality win on Monday night, but to follow that effort with another win outside the ACT – Fat chance.  Mind you, I saw enough last week to rip up my TAB stub for the Raiders to get the wooden spoon.  The Roosters were well and truly outplayed by the Panthers on Sunday.  Their body language was terrible, their commitment was non-existent, and their fans were let down.  They are bound to bounce back this weekend.  With three top class playmakers in Anasta, Pearce and Carney, the Roosters’ attack has already posted almost 50% more points than the Raiders.  The Roosters’ defence is suspect and the second worst in the comp, but the Raiders won’t be able to take advantage of their weakness.  With these two teams, attack will define the victors.  The Roosters have too many pivots, and too much offensive class.

Roosters by 6.

Broncos v Sharks – 2:00pm Sunday April 18, Suncorp Stadium

Baby Broncos versus toothless Sharks…  You will not be refunded if not entertained.  No, no, that’s a bit unfair.  The Broncos have played with gay abandon, and the ‘nothing to lose’ attitude that youth can afford.  Sharks fans on the other hand will not have their memberships refunded.  These two teams occupy the bottom two positions on the ladder, with the Broncos taking out bottom spot with a -71 points differential.  Congratulations, you must be proud.  Both teams have been ravaged by injuries, and neither team have done much to impress.  The reason the Broncos will win this one, is because the Sharks don’t know how to score points.  They have averaged just over 11 points in the first five rounds this season, while conceding twice as many.  The Broncos may not have experience, but they can score points.  The Sharks are not good enough to rely on their defence to win games.  The Broncos will repay the Suncorp attendees for the embarrassing effort they put in against the Warriors in Brisbane three weeks ago.

Broncos by 8.

Warriors v Panthers – 2:00pm (12:00pm AEST) Sunday April 18, Mt Smart Stadium

This is my game of the round.  The Warriors and the Panthers have been playing a brand of football that resembles pass the parcel more than rugby league.  Hot potato, hot potato.  Going into this match, the Panthers look the better side.  They were absolutely dominant against the Roosters last week, and carried on from their second half against the Knights the previous week.  Whereas the Warriors had a close win against the Bulldogs last week, and lost at home against Manly the previous week.  Not only do the Panthers have the form, but the Warriors are without the services of the Beast, Mannering, Luck, Ropati and dozen other top flight players.  It doesn’t matter.  The trip across the Tasman is far too East for the Panthers.  It’s 2 hours to the airport and another 3 on the plane.  They will be dishevelled at best come game time.  The Panthers have strength across the park, so it wont be easy for the Warriors, but it will happen. It was a 32-All draw last time these two played.  I dare you to pick another draw!  Warriors to edge home with the crowd.  I miss Stacey Jones.

Warriors by 1.

Eels v Rabbitohs – 3:00pm Sunday April 18, ANZ Stadium

What a bizarre media conference.  The Eels and Daniel Anderson were moderately pleased with their performance against the Raiders last week!  I guess they were employing the old adage “Expect the worst and you’ll be happy with whatever you get”.  There is obviously turmoil at the club, and it will take some serious Hindmarsh leadership to get them out of the deep chasm they find themselves in.  Will it happen this week? *Cue patronising laughter* The Rabbits were finding form as the Eels lost it.  Crowe’s men have won the last three games in convincing fashion, be it against teams at the lower end of the competition.  With their forwards on song, the Rabbitohs will ask too many questions of the Eels pack.  The Parramatta fans will ask too many questions about what has changed since the end of last year.  Flashy football is risky football, and while luck favours the brave, it is time for the Eels to stop relying on luck and build a structured game plan.  The Rabbitohs’ forwards look the goods.

Rabitohs by 14.

Storm v Sea Eagles – 7:00pm Monday April 19, Etihad Stadium

The Storm have only lost back to back, three times in the last four seasons.  But I’m a Manly supporter who laughs in the face of statistics.  Unless those statistics are of the 40-Nil grand final variety.  And don’t you forget it.  The Storm were beaten in unfamiliar circumstances last week.  They were leading, were chased down, and were kept scoreless in the second half.  Nice work Titans.  If the Titans can do it, surely Manly can!  Manly were impressive at Brookvale against the Sharks, but Cronulla do tend to flatter their opposition.  Still, apart from the first two games that Manly should not have allowed out of their grasp, the Sea Eagles have been comprehensive in attack and defence.  The young half combination of Hogkinson and Foran have stepped up.  Apparently Billy Slater has scored a thousand tries at Etihad Stadium.  Whatever.  Manly will keep their form going, focus on the forwards, with Lyon and Matai free to continue their brilliance.  Kite only knows how to run sideways and spin, he’s no big loss.

Sea Eagles by 14.

Progress Score Round 5 – 25/40 62.5%

Multi-Magic … My long shot bets for the punter within…

  • Titans v Dragons – Titans 1-12
  • Tigers v Bulldogs – Tigers -3.5
  • Knights v Cowboys – Cowboys +10.5
  • Roosters v Raiders – Rosters 1-12
  • Broncos v Sharks – Broncos 1-12
  • Warriors v Panthers – Warriors 1-12
  • Eels v Rabbitohs – Rabbitohs 13+
  • Storm v Sea Eagles – Sea Eagles 13+