This is when the NRL Finals series get really good!
If you win this week, you are one week away from playing for a place in the Grand Final. If you lose, you leave the country.
There are a lot of story lines to follow for this weekends two games.
Can the West Tigers keep their winning streak alive? Can the New Zealand Warriors turn their form around? Can anyone stop the Brisbane Broncos? Is this the last stand of the reigning Premiers, the St George/Illawarra Dragons?
While all of this is playing out, the Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles watch and wait. The week off for them, at this time of the year, its invaluable.
So lets take a look at the two games this weekend.
West Tigers vs New Zealand Warriors
I have said all year that I don’t rate the Tigers forwards. This game should be the ultimate test for them.
I really do believe that if the Warriors concentrate on playing the game in the middle third of the field, if they works the Tigers pack around the ruck, if they get their halves and Locke from fullback getting in close as running options and throw a lot of dummy half running at them, I think they will break them.
As always, Benji Marshall has the ability to win this game for the Tigers all on his own. That is an X Factor you can not predict and I honestly feel you can not combat it.
If Manu Vatuvei plays in this game it could be a catastrophe for the Warriors. Last week he was bloody terrible, well below even park football standards. You can be sure that the Tigers will target him with the high ball and in defense.
Ironically I think if the Warriors brought him off the bench he would be a game breaker. Get him in the pack with fresh legs and tell him to just ran as hard as he can at the Tigers forwards. If the Warriors work the Tigers pack over enough, big Manu could be the straw that breaks the camels back.
I’m really torn on this game. I keep waiting for the Tigers pack to let them down, and the Warriors really should be just about the ideal team to make that happen. The problem is, the Warriors were just so terrible last week while the Tigers were so good.
Still, why turn things around now. I think the Warriors will win 28-22.
Brisbane Broncos vs St George/Illawarra Dragons
Forget Wayne Bennett or it being Darren Lockyers last game at Suncorp Stadium, this game is about much more than that.
The Dragons are the defending premiers and after a poor end to their season and with a loss in week one of the finals, if we saw the Dragons smashed out of this game their reign as Premiers would have a very short term look about it.
The Broncos looked fantastic last week. They are a young side but they play years beyond their experience. That probably comes from the leadership of Darren Lockyer, the young players would get so much confidence just by having him on the field.
I think the Dragons are going to get destroyed in this game. It will be a sellout crowd and the Broncos will be riding a wave of emotion. They are possibly the form team in the competition while the Dragons look like shot ducks.
It is impossible to look past the Broncos in this game. I think they will win 36-14 and Wayne Bennett, Darius Boyd and Mark Gasnier can finally ditch the Dragons and their fans.
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