The NRL reaches round two this weekend, and despite all the games being played behind closed doors, we still have some rugby league to watch. Who will extend their winning run and who will grab their first wins of the season?
NRL Week 2 Tips: Canterbury Bulldogs vs North Queensland Cowboys (Thursday, 09:05 GMT)
The Doggies may not have won their opening game against Parramatta in round 1, but they showed a lot of heart and were unlucky not to have come away with the points. They went down 8-2 at Bankwest Stadium with Reed Mahoney scoring the only try for the Eels. Bulldogs coach Dean Pay is expected to keep with the same 17 that took to the field against Parra, with no fresh injury concerns. The Cowboys also come into this game on the back of an opening round defeat as they were outmuscled in their 28-21 defeat at the hands of local rivals Brisbane Broncos. The Cowboys will anxiously await the results of Justin O’Neill’s HIA test after taking a knock to the head against the Broncos. Josh McGuire returns following his ban at the end of last year and his presence will lift the Cowboys. Both teams don’t want to be 0-2 after the first two games, but the fact is one of them will be. It will be strange seeing an NRL game with no fans in the stadium, but I was impressed with the Doggies last week and I’m backing them to stun the Cowboys.
NRL Week 2 Tips: St George Illawarra Dragons vs Penrith Panthers (Friday, 07:00 GMT)
It’s safe to say that during the second half of Sunday’s game, the St George Illawarra Dragons were poor. They were starved of possession, and when they did have the ball they panicked and blew a whole host of chances. They led the Wests Tigers 12-8 at half-time, but Benji Marshall turned back the clock with an inspired performance to guide the Tigers to a 24-14 success at WIN Stadium. If the Dragons are going to make the eight this season, they need Ben Hunt to improve dramatically. He is so frustrating; he has all the talent but rarely shows it. He works hard, but that counts for nothing when he can’t get the basics right. Mikaele Ravalawa, who scored St George’s first try, is an injury doubt after limping out with a thigh muscle problem. Matt Dufty is expected to feature following a cheekbone injury sustained in the Nines, but Tariq Sims is out after landing a one-match ban for hitting Josh Reynolds late. The Panthers were the team of round 1 as they came from behind to beat defending champions Sydney Roosters 20-14 at Panthers Stadium. The Chooks led 14-8 at one stage, but tries from Stephen Crichton and Viliame Kikau saw the Panthers claim a famous victory. They will be without Zane Tetevano for the visit to the Netstrata Jubilee Stadium after picking up a knee injury, while Dylan Edwards and Kurt Capewell are still not 100% fit. I was impressed with the Panthers in round 1, and disappointed with the Dragons. This would normally mean the Dragons would bounce back and shock Penrith, but I can’t see that being the case. I’m going for the Panthers by 1-12 points.
NRL Week 2 Tips: Brisbane Broncos vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (Friday, 09:05 GMT)
The Broncos were first class in their derby win over North Queensland Cowboys, with David Fifita once again showing why he is one of the hottest prospects in the world of rugby at the moment. He scored an amazing solo try, that highlighted his strength, speed and agility in their 28-21 success away at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. I have a good feeling about the Broncos this season, for some reason, and I believe they will be 2-0 come the end of round two. Brisbane should have captain Alex Glenn back for this one after missing the win over the Cowboys with a hamstring problem, while Tevita Pangai Jnr will be a huge miss after accepting a four-match suspension for a dangerous contact charge. The Bunnies opened up their season with a 22-18 success over Cronulla Sharks at the ANZ Stadium, thanks to tries from Adam Reynolds, Campbell Graham and Ethan Lowe. Wayne Bennett once again has a full squad to choose from with no injuries reported, so Latrell Mitchell is expected to keep his place at full-back. Both teams enjoyed victories in round 1, but I was most impressed by the Broncos and I’m backing Brisbane to heap misery on former coach Bennett and his Bunnies side by winning this one by 11-15 points.
NRL Week 2 Tips: New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders (Saturday, 04:00 GMT)
New Zealand Warriors will be classed as the home team for this one, despite the game being played in the Gold Coast. The Warriors have remained in Australia following their round 1 match against Newcastle Knights after New Zealand imposed border restrictions because of the pandemic. The Warriors were outclassed by the Knights last Saturday as they were kept scoreless in a 20-0 defeat. Maybe being holed up together for a week is exactly what the Warriors need to bounce back. They will be without Patrick Herbet and Peta Hiku as they have already flown back to New Zealand for family reasons. The Green Machine – who were Grand Final runners up in 2019 – looked in good form in round 1 with Jack Wighton scoring two tries, while Emre Guler and Elliott Whitehead also crossed over as they ran out 24-6 winners over Gold Coast Titans in George Williams’ first game in the NRL. Both Jarrod Croker and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad were unable to complete the game because of head knocks, and they will be assessed by the medical team on whether they are fit to play on Saturday. Former Wigan forward Ryan Sutton is available following his recent ban. I cannot see the Warriors improving a great deal on last week, so I’m backing the Raiders to be too strong and they will win this one by 16-20 points.
NRL Week 2 Tips: Sydney Roosters vs Manly Sea Eagles (Saturday, 06:30 GMT)
I didn’t predict defeats for both Sydney Roosters and Manly Sea Eagles in round 1, but they both happened. The defending champions Roosters threw away a second-half 14-8 lead to go down at the hands of Penrith Panthers, while Manly went 18-4 at Lottoland in a war of attrition against Melbourne Storm. Manly looked strong in defence, but they were unable to breach Melbourne’s line of defence as their only points came from two penalties from the boot of Rueben Garrick. The Roosters should have Angus Crichton back following a chest infection, while Sitili Tupouniua and Boyd Cordner are both expected to miss out again. Manly coach Des Hasler has no fresh injuries worries to report, but Taniela Paseka is still not cleared to return from an ankle problem. This one is hard to call with both teams desperate to get off the mark. I’m going for the defending champions to respond better than Manly. So I’m backing them to win this one by 1-12 points.
NRL Week 2 Tips: Cronulla Sharks vs Melbourne Storm (Saturday, 08:35 GMT)
Melbourne Storm opened up the 2020 campaign with victory over Manly Sea Eagles at Lottoland on Sunday, extending their opening weekend win record to 18 consecutive seasons. They were pushed all the way in a tough encounter, with two tries from Suliasi Vunivalu and one from Tom Eisenhuth in the second half sealing the win. The Sharks were narrowly beaten on the road last weekend as they went down 22-18 against South Sydney Rabbitohs at the ANZ Stadium. Melbourne loose forward Dale Finucane is expected to be cleared to play in this game despite spilling blood from a head cut. Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo will have to pass HIA protocols in order to play, while Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan are still not cleared to play. The Storm had to be patient in their win against Manly, so I’m backing them to be too strong for the Sharks. I’m going for Melbourne to win this by 13+ points.
NRL Week 2 Tips: Wests Tigers vs Newcastle Knights (Sunday, 05:05 GMT)
Benji Marshall was in fine form for the Wests Tigers in their win over St George Illawarra as he rolled back the years to torment the Dragons. His kicking game was on point as they won 24-14 at WIN Stadium, he also crossed for a try with David Nofoaluma grabbing two tries with Luciano Leilua also going over. The Knights kept New Zealand Warriors score less with a 20-o win at the McDonald Jones Stadium with Daniel Saifiti, Edrick Lee and Kalyn Ponga all scoring in a relatively easy afternoon for the Knights. The Till be without Luke Brooks for the next three or four weeks after missing the Dragons victory with a calf problem, while Moses Mbye is hoping to be fit for this one. The Knights will again be without Sione Mata’utia with a knee problem, while Tautau Moga is hoping to earn a recall after playing in the Canterbury Cup at the weekend. I was very impressed with how the Tigers beat St George with Marshall and Josh Reynolds running the show. I’m backing for Marshall to continue his fine form and guide the Tigers to their second win of the campaign.
NRL Week 2 Tips: Gold Coast Titans vs Parramatta Eels (Sunday, 07:15 GMT)
There is a lot of excitement about the Parramatta Eels this season, with many thinking they have a real chance of winning the Grand Final. They were not at their brilliant best in their 8-2 success over Canterbury Bulldogs, but in previous years they would have lost that game. The Eels have some quality players in their squad with the likes of Blake Ferguson, Clint Gutherson, Mitchell Moses, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Reed Mahoney and I cannot see them having any real problems against the Titans. I have no doubt that in time, Justin Holbrook will improve the Titans. But at the moment, they still look lost and a lot of hard work is still needed. They kicked off their campaign with a 24-6 loss away at Canberra Raiders with Anthony Don scoring their only try of the game. Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has a full-strength squad to pick from after everyone came through the Bulldogs game unscathed. Tyrone Roberts and Kevin Proctor both picked up knocks against the Raiders, but they are both expected to play in round 2, while Moeaki Fotuaika, AJ Brimson and Shannon Boyd will be hoping to feature in Holbrook’s 17-man matchday squad. The Titans are still way off for me, so I’m backing the Eels to remain unbeaten by beating the Titans by 19 or more points.