Preview of NRL round 15 matches (all times NZT):
Friday, June 15
North Queensland Cowboys v Brisbane Broncos at Dairy Farmers
Head to Head: Broncos 24 Cowboys 6, Draw 2
Last clash: Round 2 2012 - Cowboys 28 bt Broncos 26 at Suncorp Stadium
TAB: Cowboys $1.80 Broncos $2.05
This clash is very tough to call with several players taking a heavy battering in Wednesday's brutal Origin clash. Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin will rest veterans Petero Civoniceva and Justin Hodges, while Corey Parker and Sam Thaiday are both sidelined with injury. Matt Gillett and Ben Hannant will back up in a side boosted by last weekend's shock win over the Sydney Roosters without their Origin stars. Cowboys co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, centre Brent Tate and NSW prop James Tamou will carry bumps and bruises into the clash with Thurston vowing to redeem himself after Queensland's loss.
Key: Brisbane still have nightmares about Matt Bowen's
scrum base try to snatch a win on the siren in round two and must
keep the little fullback quiet.
St George Illawarra Dragons v Canterbury Bulldogs at WIN Stadium 9.35pm
Head to Head: Bulldogs 13 Dragons 10
Last clash: Round 2 2012 - Bulldogs 30 bt Dragons 4 at ANZ Stadium
TAB: Dragons $2.25 Bulldogs $1.65
History may be on the side of the Dragons when it comes to beating the Bulldogs at Wollongong, but their recent performances have cast doubt on whether they can keep up with their in-form opponents. Ben Hornby's men have recorded just one win in their past five games, pushing them back to 10th on the ladder. Coach Steve Price will no doubt have spent the bye week working on his team's attack - which has seen them score just 190 points - the lowest in the NRL.
Key: Ben Barba will be out to prove he has what it takes to play at State of Origin level, with the fullback looking to replace the injured Billy Slater in game three for Queensland.
SATURDAY, June 16
Cronulla Sharks v New Zealand Warriors at Toyota Stadium
Head to Head: Warriors 14 Sharks 13
Last clash: Round 4 2011 - Warriors 26 bt Sharks 18 at Taupo (NZ)TAB: Sharks $2.25 Warriors $1.65
Both teams picked up crucial victories last round to end worrying two-game skids. The Sharks have been this season's biggest surprise packets, but had slipped to the edge of the eight before their gritty 22-12 win over Gold Coast. The Warriors have won the past three clashes between these teams, but Cronulla have quickly made Toyota Stadium their fortress this season - they're chasing six on the trot at home. The Sharks will be sweating on the fitness of NSW skipper Paul Gallen, who reinjured his knee in Wednesday's State of Origin clash.
Key: Fitness will be a big factor, with the Warriors
coming off a Monday night clash while the Sharks have Gallen and
Todd Carney backing up from Origin.
Parramatta Eels v South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium
Head to Head: Rabbitohs 61 Eels 50
Last clash: Round 22 2011 - Rabbitohs 56 bt Eels 6 at ANZ Stadium
TAB: Eels $2.50 Rabbitohs $1.55
Chris Sandow returns to face his old team who have moved effortlessly forward without the mercurial playmaker thanks largely to the performances of Adam Reynolds. Souths have won the last three encounters between the sides, but they will miss Sam Burgess, who's sidelined yet again with a knee injury. Parramatta sparkled against Cronulla in their last game, chalking up only their second win of the season. Once again Jarryd Hayne got them home and with the NSW star in good form at the moment, they will fancy their chances of another upset.
Key: If Hayne plays well, so do the Eels. But Souths are
littered with match-winners in Greg Inglis, Nathan Merritt and
David Taylor and should be too strong.
Sunday, June 17
Gold Coast Titans v Penrith Panthers at Skilled Park
Head to Head: Panthers 3 Titans 2
Last clash: Round 13 2011 - Panthers 23 bt Titans 10 at Skilled Park
TAB: Titans $1.55 Panthers $2.50
With Scott Prince expected to play after missing out last weekend and their State of Origin back-row trio Greg Bird, Ashley Harrison and Nate Myles tipped to back up, the Gold Coast will be confident of accounting for Penrith. The Panthers also have three players returning from Origin duty in Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and Tim Grant. The Titans commit more errors than any side in the NRL but the flip side of the coin is that Penrith convert less opportunities from inside the opposition's 10-metre zone. Prior to last week's loss to Cronulla the Titans had found some form to win three straight games.
Key: Penrith need big games from Lewis, Travis Burns,
Jennings and Grant to find some form away from home.
Wests Tigers v Sydney Roosters at Leichhardt Oval
Head to Head: Roosters 12 Tigers 8
Last clash: Round 20 2011 - Tigers 19 bt Roosters 12 at Leichhardt Oval
TAB: Tigers $1.35 Roosters $3.25
The Tigers are in rare touch at the moment and showing the form that made them pre-season favourites for the premiership. Seven straight wins have catapulted them into a top-four spot. Benji Marshall and NSW hero Robbie Farah are at the top of their games, something none of the Roosters players can say. Their home defeat to a Brisbane side missing seven regulars last week was a new low in a poor season. Brian Smith is wily enough to know his side must start winning before the vultures start to circle.
Key: Fresh from helping NSW beat Queensland, Mitchell
Pearce will need to be at his best to get the Roosters back to
Monday, June 18
Manly Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm at Brookvale Oval
Head to Head: Storm 11 Sea Eagles 10
Last clash: Round 25 2011 - Sea Eagles 18 bt Storm 4 at Brookvale Oval
TAB: Sea Eagles $1.70 Storm $2.15
Arguably the most highly anticipated club match of the year sees two of the game's fiercest modern-day rivals face off for the first time since last year's infamous Battle of Brookvale. One of the main protagonists that day, Adam Blair, is no longer with the Storm. But Manly's fiery brothers Brett and Glenn Stewart, who were both suspended for their involvement in the fight, are expected to back up from Wednesday's Origin match. The ladder-leading Storm have suffered a huge blow with gun fullback Billy Slater almost certainly sidelined with a knee injury.
Key: The loss of Slater is enormous. He lifts for games
against the Sea Eagles and is impossible to replace.