Laurie Daley's NRL preview
Fox Sports commentator Laurie Daley offers his thoughts and predictions for round three of the NRL this weekend.
Friday, March 26
Wests Tigers v Parramatta Eels, Sydney Football Stadium, 7.35pm (EDT)
This is a difficult one to predict given that both teams played in extremely hot conditions on the weekend. It could come down to which team has recovered the best. The Tigers defensively, when pressure is applied, certainly concede plenty of points and that’s been their big problem over the past four years. We all know what they are capable of doing with the football when they’ve got Benji Marshall and Robbie Farrah in the team, but their attitude to defence needs to change. If it does, then they are a chance of winning the competition, let alone this game. It’s a big game for them to bounce back. The Eels, on the other hand, haven’t been consistent in their performance over the first two weeks – and even last week, particularly in the first 40 minutes, they were off the pace. In the second half, they relied on Jarryd Hayne to spark them. You don’t want to be relying on him to do that every week! I think the Tigers can win this as I think they will be highly motivated, but they will need to limit Hayne’s impact.
St George Illawarra Dragons v North Queensland Cowboys, WIN Stadium, 8.35pm (EDT)
The Dragons have just been playing some really good football over the first couple of weeks. Their completion rates have been high and they control the ball so well. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have been inconsistent over the first two weeks as well. You look at both of their games and their starts have been very ordinary, so they need to be motivated to begin well, especially away from home. If they don’t, it could be a long night for them. The Dragons can frustrate teams defensively and I think they will look to put as much pressure on Johnathan Thurston. But the Cowboys don’t travel well so I think the Dragons can pick up their third straight win here.
Saturday, March 27
Penrith Panthers v Melbourne Storm, CUA Stadium, 5.30pm (EDT)
Melbourne have been outstanding over the first two weeks away from home and this is another tough road trip. Penrith have showed us what they are capable of doing in patches but they will need a strong 80-minute performance to prevail here. It’s very hard to break down Melbourne defensively, so the Panthers’ attack has to be spot on. They not only have to have a high completion rate but they also need to use the ball wisely and test Melbourne. They must ask plenty of questions and challenge the Storm. Melbourne’s left edge leaked a couple of tries early last week against Newcastle and I’m sure Penrith will be looking to give the ball to Michael Jennings. I hate tipping against Melbourne but I favour Penrith at home.
Manly Sea Eagles v Newcastle Knights, Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford, 7.30pm (EDT)
Manly have been one of the better performed teams in the competition but, unfortunately, they have come away with nothing. For 65 minutes against the Tigers, I thought they were outstanding while for 40 minutes against Parramatta last weekend they looked as good as anyone in the competition. How much that has hurt them mentally could be the key to this match! The Knights play some really attractive football and they gave Melbourne a real run for their money. They could win this game if they continue to play to their strengths and continue to move the football around. But, at the moment, I’m probably leaning towards Manly given that they have performed well and are desperate to get their first win of the season.
Gold Coast Titans v Canberra Raiders, Skilled Park, 9.30pm (EDT)
The Titans haven’t played particularly well in the first two rounds, yet they are sitting on the top of the table. The Raiders' form has been patchy but if they can play the way they did in the first 15 minutes against the Broncos last Monday night, then they are a team that can really trouble the Titans. They have a big forward pack, and if the Titans have a weakness it’s their inability to deal with size up front. The Titans have plenty of points in them with players like Scott Prince, Greg Bird and Preston Campbell, so the Raiders completion rate must be high. They need to show the same attitude, desire and commitment they had in defence against the Broncos last week, but until they start to win away from home, I find it difficult to tip them.
Sunday, March 28
Brisbane Broncos v Warriors, Suncorp Stadium, 2pm (EDT)
You will always get some inconsistent performances with a young side, but a return to familiar surrounds in front of family, friends and home crowd should see the Broncos rise to the occasion here. It will be a tough game as the Warriors have started the season well and had their moments against the Titans before going back home and getting the victory against the Sharks. One thing they need to watch out for is that they fell asleep at times in both games. The Broncos will be disappointed with the way they executed in the second half last Monday night but if Peter Wallace and Darren Lockyer can give the ball a bit more to Israel Folau, and Corey Norman gets involved, then I can see the Broncos winning this.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Sydney Roosters, ANZ Stadium, 3pm (EDT)
I don’t think too many people would have been thinking that the Bulldogs could start the season with a possible 0-3 record. The Roosters have impressed in the two games so far with their ability to score points and to get all their ball-players involved. Brian Smith has done a fantastic job with the team and they certainly have a new attitude after taking the wooden spoon last season. Todd Carney, Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce have been sensational. I think they will have a bit too much spark for the Bulldogs here. I hate tipping against Canterbury, especially when their backs are against the wall because that’s the time they really fight and tough it out. They will be looking to rip into the Roosters and smoother them defensively, but the Roosters are very confident at the moment and I’m expecting them to get the points.
Monday, March 29
Cronulla Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Toyota Stadium, 7pm (EDT)
This is a very tough game to call! I don’t know whether the Sharks have got the points in them to compete with the Rabbitohs. Souths were a little better against the Gold Coast than they were against the Roosters and it was always going to take a little time for everyone to gel. I think at three rounds in they are primed and ready to give their best. The Sharks are a gritty team but they really need to start winning these close games. They’ve had two games so far this season that they probably could have won, but, unfortunatel;y, they are continuing the trend of last season when they blew close games. In 2008, when they reached the finals, they were winning those types of games. Shark Park is always a difficult place to win but I’m expecting Souths to win and leave the Sharks at 0-3