100318_ant'sanalysisIt was a game of two halves.  Lockyer and Thurston.  The margin may have only been 4 points, but the game was all Maroons.  They were up quicker in defence, more assured in attack, more effective with their kicking game, and brilliant out wide.

In short, the Maroons are a far better side than the Blues, and deserve to be staring down an unprecedented fifth straight series title, likely to be clinched with win up at Suncorp Stadium in a few weeks time.

The Blues deserve some praise.  Individually, most players put in a commendable effort, but collectively the combinations were lacking and the lack of belief was clearly evident.

Kimmorley and Lyons both put in decent showings, but their combination in attack just didn’t work.  Their inability to set up attacking plays made the Queenslanders’ defensive task far too easy.  Tries came from Maroons’ mistakes rather than the Blues’ structure or skill.

Our defence out wide sucked.  Hayne must play and he must play at fullback.  Unfortunately that means Gidley should be relegated to the bench.  I don’t care who you put in there, but we need a specialist winger.  Darius Boyd is one of the weakest links in the Queensland backline, and he should not be given the opportunity to run up against a player playing out of position.

The Blues’ job does not get any easier.  They are up against a tried and true combination of passionate Queenslanders, many of whom will be around for years to come.  Here’s hoping the next Greg Inglis is a New South Welshman.

Just quietly, does anyone actually own a 3D TV (or a pair of those fancy spectacles)?

Oh yeah, Stuart quit the Sharks.  Better late than never.  He destroyed the Roosters, destroyed the Sharks, is anyone going to take him?

Dragons v Eels – 7:35pm Friday May 28, WIN Jubilee Stadium

This is easily the game of the round.  This match should attract the rugby league faithful from the ‘Gong, and those who frequent mud wrestling matches.  As this wet weather is predicted to continue, it will have a massive impact on the result.  Both of these teams are coming off last round losses, but the Dragons’ clinical and structured playing style will be much more suited to the conditions than the “what’s Jared going to do?” style of the Eels.  The fact that the Eels lost to the Sharks for the second time this season does not bode well for their chances in the premiership.  The Dragons and Bennett will not slump to a second loss in a row.  Wayne just won’t let it happen.  The Eels on the other hand, are a shaky bunch.  They followed up their last loss to the Sharks with a home ground loss to the Raiders!  The Dragons do have a few more players backing up after origin, but the Eels have a few injury concerns themselves.  No Cooper doesn’t matter.  Dragons will eventually prevail in what will be a messy error riddled affair.  Thanks rain.

Dragons by 14.

Tigers v Warriors – 7:35pm Friday May 28, Campbelltown Sports Stadium

I was wrong about the Warriors last week – they proved me wrong and fought out a gutsy win against the Rabbits.  To show them that I took notice I’ve decided to tip them this week, against a Tigers outfit that has not returned to their early season form despite a last round win against the Knights.  The Warriors have won six out of the last seven against the Tigers, and the Tigers have lost the last two they’ve played out at Campbelltown.  Maybe that’s why the Magpies are defunct.  The Warriors have Mannering back in the side, but the Beast is still out.  Shame, but the Warriors proved last week that they can win without him.  The wet weather forecast will play in favour of the Warriors who have a slightly more formidable forward pack.  The class of Farah and Marshall will be dampened by the rain, and assist the Warriors’ cause.  On a dry track you would expect these two teams to pile on the points, but not this week.  The Warriors will add to their two wins on the trot.  Unfortunately for the Tigers, they will revert to their losing ways.

Warriors by 4.

Sharks v Broncos – 5:30pm Saturday May 29, Toyota Stadium

Hmmm what to do, what to do?  My gut seems to think that the Sharks will put in a special performance to let Ricky Stuart know that he made the right decision, but the Cronulla boys will really have to turn it on if they are to beat the Broncos who are coming off two wins and a bye.  With Folau hitting his straps (if not so much in Origin), Lockyer at the helm and Thaiday throwing his hair around, the boys from Brisbane are a intimidating bunch.  But the Sharks have won the last three games against the Broncos played at Toyota Park, and that home ground advantage will be just enough to see them post their first back to back wins of the season.  If the Sharks play like they did against the Eels, and the Broncos play poorly, the Sharks will win.  The Broncos did smash the Sharks in round 6 and they’ll be bolstered by that win, but a lot can happen in 6 weeks .  Lockyer will have an off day and Smith and Barrett will finally click.  The Sharks will win in a nail biter.  I can’t imagine that Sticky quit on his own accord, surely he was given a tap on the shoulder.  In any event, he’ll be lucky to get a coaching gig in the NRL next season.

Sharks by 4.

Cowboys v Sea Eagles – 7:30pm Saturday May 29, Dairy Farmers Stadium

The Cowboys won the last time these two teams played in round 7 last year, but the Sea Eagles are looking like a better team this season.  The Cowboys not only won the last game against Manly, but they’ve won seven of the last ten between these two.  History and home ground advantage are definitely on the side of the Cowboys, but the Cowboys have been less than disappointing this season.  Big Willie Mason has seen his side win only three times from ten attempts, and they’ve got the second worst defence in the completion.  To make matters worse, they also struggle to score tries.  Thurston will have his head in the clouds after the Origin victory, while Manly’s Origin stars (other than Ballin) will be full of angst and fury.  The perfect recipe for a Cowboy bashing.  Manly were unimpressive against the Eels two weekends ago, but the bye would have sorted that out.  The Cowboys need more than a bye to get their season back on track.

Sea Eagles by 8.

Storm v Bulldogs – 2:00pm Sunday May 30, AAMI Park

Even though the Storm can’t gain any points this season, they won’t have a problem taking two off the Doggies.  The Bulldogs actually beat the EX-premiers last season in round 11, but the Storm won the five games before that. The Storm are more vulnerable this week with the lack of Cameron Smith, and the reduced motivation, but the Bulldogs aren’t a good enough team to make up the difference.  The Storm’s backs will terrorise the Doggies and give Kimmorley a sense déjà vu.  The Bulldogs were competitive in the first half against both the Panthers and the Dragons, but they lost their way when they fell behind on the scoreboard.  They are missing the mental toughness they need.  The non-representative Storm players enjoyed the bye last week, and while they may not have premiership points to play for, they have the added incentive to play for their contracts at different clubs next season.  The under-achieving Doggies won’t have found the answer to their woes.  Idris has much to improve on his Origin performance – He didn’t live up to my expectations.

Storm by 6.

Rabbitohs v Panthers – 3:00pm Sunday May 30, ANZ Stadium

I hate picking the Rabbitohs, and after they couldn’t finish the job against the Warriors last week, I can go back to tipping against them.  Not a difficult task when it is the Panthers they’re up against.  The Panthers convincingly thumped the Bulldogs last week to join the Dragons and the Titans at the top of the table with 16 competition points.  Luke Lewis was one of the few Blues’ forwards who can hold his head high after Wednesday night, and Jennings, Gordon and Coote in the backs for the Panthers are a tough bunch to handle.  The Bunnies are too inconsistent for me to give them any hope of knocking the Panthers off.  South Sydney have alternated between winning and losing for the last six weeks as they struggle to cement a winning platform.  Until they build a structure that they can execute week in week out, they will fall into the category of “also rans”.  Panthers are hot property.

Panthers by 2.

Titans v Roosters – 7:00pm Monday May 31, Skilled Park

The Titans have beaten the Roosters by 4 points each time in the last three games they’ve faced.  The only victory for the Roosters over the Titans came all the way back in the 2007 season in round 9.  I’m picking the Titans by a tight margin this week becasue Mitchell Pearce is back for the Roosters, but the Titans have a stronger pack of forwards, and are playing up on the Gold Coast.  Pearce has been sorely missed by the tri colours in the last few weeks and Carney hasn’t quite shifted into the playmaking role as well as they had hoped.  With Pearce, Anasta and Carney setting up the Roosters’ attack this week, they should post enough points to stay in touch with the Titans, but it won’t be enough to win the game.  John Cartwright would have been spewing after his boys lost to the Broncos two weeks ago, and he will accept nothing less than a return to form.  Prince, Bird and Campbell are the Titans’ attacking trio who, when they click, are the best in the business.  Gold Coast will be too strong.

Titans by 4.

Progress Score Round 11 – 49/81  60.5%

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

  • Dragons v Eels – Dragons 13+
  • Tigers v Warriors – Warriors to win
  • Sharks v Broncos – Sharks 1-12
  • Cowboys v Sea Eagles – Sea Eagles 1-12
  • Storm v Bulldogs – Storm 1-12
  • Rabbitohs v Panthers – Panthers 1-12
  • Titans v Roosters – Titans 1-12

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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