Durko's Dissections for round 23
BULLDOGS V SEA EAGLES
ANZ Stadium, 7.50pm
History: Played 124, Eagles 63, Dogs 56, drawn 5
Last met: Bulldogs 28-6, round 1, 2016
STILL to consistently play at a level their roster suggests they should, the Bulldogs continue to hang in and are now sitting in the vital top four, albeit by just two points. And although their form against the hapless Knights last week was average, one plus was the perfect goalkicking of Moses Mbye. The Sea Eagles, on the other hand, dropped their guard against the Eels and with remaining matches against teams above them on the ladder now need a miracle to play finals. Despite the return of Jamie Lyon, the Sea Eagles appear doomed.
BRONCOS V EELS
Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm
History: Played 50, Broncos 30, Eels 19, drawn 1
Last met: Broncos 17-4, round 1, 2016
ON THE identical points they were in 2006 before going on to win the premiership, the Broncos must win this and go on a run similar to a decade ago if they are to repeat those heroics. Last week's win was far from spectacular, but their completion rate and defence was greatly improved and at home, where they hold a 10-6 record over the Eels, no excuses will be accepted. Last week the Eels were again brave in pipping the Sea Eagles, but with Beau Scott added to their long list of absentees and their finals hopes dead and buried, resistance may have somewhat subsided.
TIP - Broncos
TIGERS V TITANS
Campbelltown Stadium, 3pm
History: Played 16, Titans 9, Wests Tigers 7
Last met: Titans 30-18, round 3, 2016
THREE weeks ago this was regarded a ho-hum clash, but with the arrival of Jarryd Hayne and the resurgence of both the Titans and the Tigers, it shapes as one of the matches of the round. Both sides sit on the edge of the top eight, so a win is an absolute must and with a point between them on the ladder and a split hair separating them in their previous 16 clashes, this looks an even-money bet. The aggressive Tigers were absolutely magnificent in beating the premiers last weekend and even allowing for the boost Hayne will give the Titans, at home Jason Taylor's men will be tough to beat.
TIP - Tigers
WARRIORS V RABBITOHS
Mt Smart Stadium, 5.30pm (AEST)
History: Played 29, Warriors 18, Rabbitohs 11
Last met: Rabbitohs 36-4, round 13, 2015
COACH Michael Maguire rated the performance of the Rabbitohs in round 22 as "how we want to be seen as a team”, but this weekend will tell us whether the premiers of two years ago have turned around their season of horror. And sitting equal 14th with no hope of playing finals, their poor record in Auckland does not bode well for a win against the improving Warriors. Clinging gingerly to eighth spot, plus a demanding road to the finals, this is a must-win for the Kiwis who are again without Issac Luke.
TIP - Sharks
DRAGONS V SHARKS
Jubilee Oval, 7.30pm
History: Played 37, Dragons 18, Sharks 18, drawn 1
Last met: Sharks 30-2, round 2, 2016
THE Dragons hold an imposing record over the Sharks at this ground, but that will be of scant importance as the Sharks respond to their first loss since round three. While unlikely to cost them a top-two spot at finals time, a draw and loss in successive weeks has reminded the Sharks the business end of the season is here and they don't need another slip. Conversely, while seemingly out of finals calculations, the Dragons face three teams below them on the ladder after this and a win would reignite their faint finals hopes.
TIP - Sharks
KNIGHTS V PANTHERS
Hunter Stadium, Sunday, 2pm
History: Played 42, Knights 23, Panthers 16, drawn 3
Last met: Panthers 30-12, round 26, 2015
IF COURAGE stands for anything the Knights would be leading the competition. But no points are awarded for gallantry and only a miracle will save them from the wooden spoon. And the Panthers, coming off an outstanding performance on Monday night but still with just a tenuous berth in the top eight, will show them no mercy when chasing two wins in succession for just the fourth time this season. The clash of young halves Nathan Cleary and Bryce Cartwright with Knights veterans Jarrod Mullen and Trent Hodkinson looms as a rare highlight.
TIP - Panthers
ROOSTERS V COWBOYS
Allianz Stadium, 4pm
History: Played 33, Roosters 23, Cowboys 10
Last met: Cowboys 40-nil, round 3, 2016
LAST Sunday night, after the rabble that was the Cowboys and on the back of the apparent return to form of the Roosters, this shaped as a possible titanic struggle. But then the Roosters of old returned, were well and truly plucked by the Panthers and now this becomes an apparent non-event. All interest will be on whether the Cowboys will bounce back from successive losses and if one of the best players in the game, Johnathan Thurston, can recover from a rare sub-standard outing. A possible lacklustre Roosters may just be his antidote.
TIP - Cowboys
RAIDERS V STORM
GIO Stadium, 7pm
History: Played 36, Storm 26, Raiders 10
Last met: Storm 14-10, round 6, 2015
SOME may think that after last weekend's slashing win to end the Sharks' 16-game unbeaten run, the Raiders deserve favouritism against the Storm in Canberra. But such is the resolve of this Melbourne machine, with a dominant record against the Raiders overall and in Canberra, rarely do they start as underdogs. Make no mistake, the Raiders will be confident, and the Storm will need to be better than they were last week. But no team rises better to a challenge than Craig Bellamy's men, particularly when he returns to where his coaching career started.
TIP - Storm