Johnathan Thurston kicks a field-goal to seal victory for the Cowboys over the Broncos in 2017.
Johnathan Thurston kicks a field-goal to seal victory for the Cowboys over the Broncos in 2017. DAVE HUNT

Durko's dissections: NRL Round 22 previews

NEWS Regional rugby league columnist Tony Durkin previews the round ahead.





1300SMILES Stadium, 7.50pm, Thursday

Played: 49, Broncos 32, Cowboys 15, drawn 2. Last met: Broncos 24-20, round 2, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Cowboys $2.25; Broncos $1.67

I predicted last week the Broncos could drop their guard against the lowly Bulldogs. Tonight is an even-greater danger game. Not only are the Broncos without a host of key players and debuting their fourth youngster - Gehamat Shibasaki - the Cowboys have finally found some form. Worse still for the seventh-placed visitors, their form of late has been erratic and a couple of recent performances have been decidedly weak. Only the memory of those recent brilliant clashes between these two clubs stops me from tipping a big win for the Cowboys.

TIP - Cowboys



Mt Smart, Stadium, 6pm (AEST), Friday

Played: 38, Warriors 19, Knights 18, drawn 1. Last met: Knights 26-10, round 22, 2017. Ladbrokes odds: Warriors $1.40; Knights $3

The continuing yo-yo form of the Warriors is the only barrier to the Kiwi side hammering the Knights in Auckland tomorrow. Back to near full strength and set to play finals for the first time in seven years, the sometimes-brilliant Warriors should carve through the feeble defence of the possibly depleted Knights, who have conceded an incredible average of 25 points a game in 2018.

TIP - Warriors


There will be no lack of motivation this weekend. (Phil Hillyard)
There will be no lack of motivation this weekend. (Phil Hillyard)


ANZ Stadium, 7.50pm, Friday

Played: 217, Rabbitohs 113, Roosters 99, drawn 5. Last met: Rabbitohs 26-14, round 6, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Rabbitohs $1.92; Roosters $1.92

This looms as the clash of the season to date: the best attacking side (Rabbitohs) against the second-best defensive unit (Roosters) with the minor premiership very much on the line. Both teams are fortuitously peaking, although the Rabbitohs were the more impressive last weekend. The major query remains whether the Roosters have the pack to combat the size, power and finesse of the powerful Rabbitohs' six. Conversely, the Roosters have a decided edge in the backs, although the absence of Luke Keary creates an attacking vacuum. This is must-see Friday night viewing.

TIP - Rabbitohs



Cbus Super Stadium, 3pm, Saturday

Played: 17, Panthers 11, Titans 6. Last met: Panthers 35-12, round 6, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Titans $2.85; Panthers $1.44

Ex-Panthers coach Garth Brennan would have preferred his former boss, Gus Gould, had waited another week before sacking Anthony Griffin. What the struggling Titans did not need as they try to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon was facing a rejuvenated team the weekend following the controversial departure of their coach. But despite the ruckus the Panthers are deserved red-hot favourites, with the clash of young halves Ash Taylor and Nathan Cleary a major focal point.

TIP - Panthers


The Sea Eagles will be aiming to maintain their winning run. AAP Image/Brendan Esposito
The Sea Eagles will be aiming to maintain their winning run. AAP Image/Brendan Esposito


Lottoland, 5.30pm, Saturday

Played: 127, Sea Eagles 64, Bulldogs 58, drawn 5. Last met: Bulldogs 30-16, round 24, 2017. Ladbrokes odds: Sea Eagles $1.67; Bulldogs $2.25

With the race for the wooden spoon on in earnest and both sides coming off good wins, this unexpectedly holds some interest. There is a split hair between them on the ladder and in stats, but the good record of the Sea Eagles at home against the Dogs - 35 wins from 59 outings - might just be the difference.

TIP - Sea Eagles



ANZ Stadium, 7.30pm, Saturday

Played: 34, Eels 17, Dragons 15, drawn 2. Last met: Dragons 20-18, round 16, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Eels $2.85; Dragons $1.44

Absolutely desperate to jump back onto the winners' list, the Dragons will not relish this clash with their bogey side, who have struck some decent form of late. Not only do the Eels hold a 17-15 historical advantage over the Dragons, but they have won six of their past seven meetings. Having led the competition earlier in the season, the Dragons have lost four of their past five and need to win this for confidence, and to stay in top-four contention.

TIP - Dragons



GIO Stadium, 2pm, Sunday

Played: 34, Tigers 18, Raiders 16. Last met: Raiders 48-12, round 15, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Raiders $1.60; Tigers $2.40

Only pride is on the line in this and despite the Tigers having a good record in the national capital, ructions over the future of coach Ivan Cleary may be a determining psychological factor. Yet again last weekend the Raiders were overrun at the end, but their flair in attack might prove too much for the embattled and fading Tigers to handle.

TIP - Raiders


AAMI Park, 4.10pm, Sunday

Played: 35, Storm 22, Sharks 13. Last met: Sharks 14-4, round 4, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Storm $1.48; Sharks $2.70

Not often in recent years have these clubs met with both coming off losses, but the Sharks will be more devastated by their sinking feeling from last weekend's stunning defeat. Both need the win - Storm to stay in the race for yet another minor premiership and the Sharks to keep alive their top-four hopes. With the future of Billy Slater now decided, the Storm, with a 7-1 winning record at home against their 2016 grand final conquerors, now have another reason to inflict a third-straight loss on the Sharks.

TIP - Storm