View UniBet’s preview of Round 15 of the 2016 NRL home and away season below.
Penrith v Souths | Friday, June 24, 7.50pm (AEDT), Pepper Stadium
Penrith probably could have done without the break having powered over the top of Manly at Brookvale with a stunning second half fightback.
Former skipper Peter Wallace has handled the transition from halfback to hooker in his stride and lines up for his 200th NRL match.
Trent Merrin has spoken of his disappointment at missing out on Origin thus far and will want to put his name in front of selectors ahead of the dead rubber.
Souths are in a real rut and appear certain to miss finals for the first time since 2012.
Luke Keary confirmed that will be suiting up for bitter rivals the Roosters next season but with Adam Reynolds unavailable he will be charged with the task of leading the Bunnies around.
John Sutton made a welcome return in the loss to Parramatta and should be better for the run with the Rabbits desperately needing his ball-playing abilities to create more scoring opportunities.
Last time they met: Rd 21, 2015 – Souths 20-16 Penrith
Unibet Odds: Penrith 1.35 Souths 3.25
Line tip: Penrith -7.5
Newcastle v St George-Illawarra | Saturday, June 25, 3pm (AEDT), Hunter Stadium
Dane Gagai’s hat-trick in a winning cause for the Maroons was a rare bright spot in an otherwise bleak season for Newcastle and they will be hoping some of his exuberance rubs off at club level this week.
NRL management are in the process of looking for a new buyer for the hunter club but there haven’t been too many highlights of late that they could use in a sales presentation!
The Knights have conceded 96 points in their past two matches and will be somewhat relieved by the visit of the Dragons, who don’t really scare anyone with their lifeless attack.
Paul McGregor will be thankful for the return of his main strike weapon, Josh Dugan, having watched his bunch of toilers labour to victory against a severely weakened Melbourne.
Tariq Sims will sit out this match due to a contractual agreement having switched between these clubs mid-season.
Tyson Frizell (pictured above) scored a try and did enough to suggest he has a future at Origin level. Hard to get too excited about this one.
Last time they met: Rd 21, 2015 –St George-Illawarra 46-24 Newcastle
Unibet Odds: Newcastle 3.10 St George/Illawarra 1.38
Tip: St George-Illawarra
Line tip: St George-Illawarra -6.5
Cronulla v Warriors | Saturday, June 25, Southern Cross Group Stadium
The Sharks continue to set the pace and despite riding their luck at times can this week equal a club record 11 consecutive wins.
Their match against the Cowboys was played with a real finals intensity and that experience should stand them in good stead come September.
Wade Graham has had a bit of time to digest his Origin disappointment and can play his way into a jersey for Game 3.
The Warriors took a long time to get over the Roosters and will be sweating on the fitness of Thomas Leuluai, who provides a good foil for Shaun Johnson.
Should be a good match-up between two of the better back-rows in the competition.
Hard to tip against the shire outfit who are unbeaten on their own patch this season.
Last time they met: Rd 21, 2015 – Warriors 14-18 Cronulla
Unibet Odds: Cronulla 1.33 Warriors 3.40
Line tip: Warriors +8.5
Bulldogs v Brisbane | Saturday, June 25, 7.30pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium
Difficult to get a gauge on how the Dogs are travelling this year.
They haven’t really hit their straps as yet but still sit inside the eight and have a very soft draw over the next couple of months.
Forget Diego Maradona, Tony Williams had his own ‘Hand of God’ moment that led to a bizarre try against the Dragons in their last outing.
Brisbane got back into the winner’s circle after holding off Canberra, Wayne Bennett using the Origin break to cast his eye over some English talent ahead of taking the mantle for the Poms at the end-of-season Four Nations tournament.
Corey Parker surprised many with his decision not to play on next year and one wonders whether salary cap pressures may have contributed to that given his enormous value to the side.
Rookie Tom Opacic gets a crack at first grade and will line up against another first-year player in Kerrod Holland.
Last time they met: Rd 22, 2015 – Brisbane 16-18 Bulldogs
Unibet Odds: Bulldogs 1.91 Brisbane 1.91
Line tip: Brisbane -1.5
Gold Coast v Canberra | Sunday, June 26, 2pm (AEDT), Cbus Stadium
This contest pits together two sides who have been the competition’s big improvers in 2016.
The Titans edged back into the eight with a comprehensive win over Manly, prop Luke Douglas crossing the whitewash for the first time in two years to ensure he won’t have to run a naked lap of the oval on Mad Monday!
The Raiders copped a reality check in Brisbane but will be boosted by the return of fullback Jack Wighton and hulking prop Shannon Boyd.
Aidan Sezer matured as a footballer during his four years on the Gold Coast and returns a more assured player having settled in well in the capital.
Canberra won’t lack any motivation having butchered a 14-point lead when these two sides met earlier in the year and should have the better of a high scoring encounter.
Last time they met: Rd 4 – Canberra 20-24 Gold Coast
Unibet Odds: Gold Coast 2.00 Canberra 1.83
Line tip: Canberra +1.5 (Best Bet)
Melbourne v Wests Tigers | Sunday, June 26, 4pm (AEDT), AAMI Park
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy took the ‘big picture’ approach having withdrawn both Cameron Munsterand Blake Green at the last minute in Wollongong.
He would have been proud of the effort raised by his depleted side who matched the Dragons for more than an hour.
Whisper it quietly but the Tigers are one of the form sides in the league at present and may fancy their chances of catching the hosts off-guard here.
Elijah Taylor has proven to be a revelation since his move from Penrith and his experience helps to guide one of the competition’s younger outfits.
Jason Taylor appears set to continue his policy of starting Robbie Farah off the bench with Dene Halatauonce again named as starting hooker.
Expecting the Tigers to prove very competitive here.
Last time they met: Rd 7 – Wests Tigers 18-19 Melbourne
Unibet Odds: Melbourne 1.21 Wests Tigers 4.50
Line tip: Wests Tigers +12.5
North Queensland v Manly | Monday, June 27, 7pm (AEDT), 1300 Smiles Stadium
The Cowboys would have enjoyed the opportunity to freshen up and with a 9-5 record and all their key players healthy they are well-placed to defend their crown.
James Tamou cited family reasons as they key reason for his decision to accept an offer from Penrith having made a name for himself over six seasons in Townsville.
Manly can’t take a trick at present and are headed for their lowest finish in many a year but club legendSteve Menzies has called for patience on the northern beaches, likening their considerable turnover of players in the last 18 months to the teething problems encountered in the early stages of the Northern Eagles joint venture.
Some might call it karma after his contract backflip but Daly Cherry-Evans’ stocks have nosedived of late. There’s only one winner here.
Last time they met: Round 9 – Manly 18-34 North Qld
Unibet Odds: North Qld 1.14 Manly 6.00
Tip: North Qld
Line tip: Manly +16.5