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Round 7 Tips
Season: 29/48 (60%); last week: 5/8
At a glance: Eels, Cowboys, Titans, Bulldogs, Broncos, Raiders, Storm, Panthers
Sea-Eagles v Eels, Brookvale Oval
Thursday night footy offers up the most difficult tip of the round. On one hand we have arguably the competitionâ€™s most improved side in the Eels taking on the Silvertails at home, where they are generally a lock. But coming off a five-day turnaround , exacerbated by the travel from New Zealand, I lean slightly to the Eels. Iâ€™m also not overly sold on Manly; while theyâ€™ve chalked up three wins, theyâ€™ve come against the Warriors, Roosters and Sharks who, with the exception of Cronulla, are not much chop in 2016. The Eels by contrast have been super consistent in 2016, particularly in defence, and I think theyâ€™ll get the job done at Brookie.
Cowboys v Rabbitohs, 1300SMILES Stadium
I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s any way you can go past the Cowboys in this clash. The defending premiers have been outstanding at home this season, conceding just 14 points in three fixtures. I think theyâ€™ll have too much firepower for the Bunnies, but with Adam Reynolds and Alex Johnston back in Southsâ€™ side they will give a far greater account of themselves than they offered against the Roosters. Itâ€™s also important to note that the Bunnies actually knocked over the Cows in Townsville in round 23 last season, so they do have form for a road upset. I donâ€™t think it comes this week, though.
Titans v Dragons, Cbus Super Stadium
The Red V have endured a torrid few weeks with consecutive bagels raising massive questions about their offence. Itâ€™s a different story for the Titans, with coach Neil Henry writing his own â€œMoneyballâ€ script to have a motley crew of also-rans sitting just outside the top eight. The Titans are at their best when their backs are to the wall, so going into this clash as strong favourites does not suit their mentality, nor does it fill me with confidence about tipping them â€“ especially with Greg Bird out. The Dragons will aim up this week, so I expect this game will go right down to the wire. Iâ€™ll take the Titans but without much confidence.
Bulldogs v Warriors, Westpac Stadium
The Dogs head to Wellington fresh off an inspired performance against the Storm, and will fancy their chances against a fairly insipid Warriors outfit that were dealt an unexpected hiding by Manly last week. The clash is even money, but I am at a loss as to why; the Warriors have been deplorable in 2016, with their only wins coming against the Knights and the Roosters. They have all the grit and resolve of a lettuce leaf and I think the Doggies will bash them off the park, even with a short turn-around and flight across the ditch.
Broncos v Knights, Suncorp Stadium
Nothing to see here, folks.
Raiders v Sharks, GIO Stadium
The Raiders were always going to struggle backing up after their performance against the Bulldogs, and the Eels ran roughshod over them at Pirtek last weekend. Theyâ€™ll be primed for a massive game in front of their home fans, and even with a few players in doubt (Paul Vaughan, Josh Hodgson), I think they are a smart tip. There hasnâ€™t been much between these sides in recent years, so Iâ€™m expecting another thriller in the nationâ€™s capital, with the Raiders getting through by a whisker. Thereâ€™ll be plenty of fireworks, with Josh Papalli and Paul Gallen to resume hostilities â€“ whoever wins that battle will set the tone for the whole game.
Tigers v Storm, Leichhardt Oval
Sorry Tigers fans, but I do not hold out much hope of a Wests victory in this clash, especially with Aaron Woods out for an extended period. The Tigers simply are too loose, and while they can certainly score a flashy try, their discipline and ball handling gives opposing sides plenty of opportunities to win games. Against a side like Melbourne who are reasonably consistent and tradesmen-like, they will struggle. One thing in the Tigersâ€™ favour is that they did upset the Storm at this ground in round 21 last season, so they also have form for an upset â€“ but Iâ€™m not brave enough to tip it.
Roosters v Panthers, Allianz Stadium
The Chookies broke their duck last weekend thanks to a genuinely frightening performance from Dylan Napa who was dropping seasoned hard-heads like they were rookie wingers in their debut match. The Panthers on the other hand came agonisingly short of knocking off the Cowboys, and again find themselves toward the bottom of the ladder despite encouraging performances in all of their matches. This game is definitely a close call, but I really like the Panthers. Coming off a close loss theyâ€™ll be itching to notch another win and move closer to the top eight spot that a side of their calibre deserves.