View UniBet’s preview of Round 22 of the 2016 NRL home and away season below.
Gold Coast v New Zealand Warriors | Sunday, August 7, 2pm (AEDT), Cbus Stadium
The stunning announcement that Jarryd Hayne will call Robina home for the next couple of years marks the Gold Coast franchise’s biggest recruitment coup since Wally Lewis spent a couple of years with the club back in the early 90s.
Derided as cannon fodder at the start of the year, the Titans now have a pretty useful side.
Anchored by an impressive spine that will feature Hayne and Nathan Peats, the voyeuristic Wayne Bennett dryly noted that fans shouldn’t forget their halves pairing of Ashley Taylor and Tyrone Roberts, who have done some great things this year.
In an interview with Fox Sports on Wednesday night, Titans coach Neil Henry said Roberts, who is battling a knee injury, is unlikely to play in a match that could see Hayne debut.
Remarkably, the Warriors have now played in three consecutive games that have gone into extra time.
Found this a hard game to line up with the Kiwis having owned this fixture in recent seasons but the home side on a high.
Last time they met: Rd 15, 2015 – Gold Coast 14-36 NZ Warriors
Unibet Odds: Gold Coast $1.57 NZ Warriors $2.45
Tip: Gold Coast
Line tip: Gold Coast -4.5
St.George-Illawarra v Brisbane | Thursday, August 4, 7.50pm (AEDT), WIN Stadium
The Dragons will be smarting at the one-match suspension incurred by their gun backrower Tyson Frizell for making contact with an official, particularly in light of the fact that Josh Reynolds avoided any penalty for a far more sinister tripping action in the same game.
Paul McGregor’s side are still struggling to score points but looked livelier after half-time and were perhaps unlucky not to have jagged an upset.
Brisbane are in freefall at the moment and face the real possibility of missing the finals altogether having been second-best all night against the Roosters.
They do, however, get a boost from the return of three internationals into their forward pack which should stiffen their defence up the middle.
With both sides devoid of confidence it will be important to start well in what are likely to be heavy conditions.
In an ordinary season the Dragons are actually unbeaten in the ‘Gong in 2016.
Last time they met: Rd 6 – Brisbane 26-0 St George-Illawarra
Unibet Odds: St George-Illawarra $4.35 Brisbane $1.23
Line tip: St George-Illawarra +11.5 (Best Bet)
Parramatta v Manly | Friday, August 5, 7.5pm (AEDT), Pirtek Stadium
The Eels missed their man with Jarryd Hayne turning his back on the club to accept a massive offer from the Titans despite having once declared he would only return to the NRL to play for them.
However, the chance to derail hated rival Manly’s charge to the finals should provide enough motivation for the playing group and fan base to direct all their bitterness towards their opponents come Friday.
The Eagles eased to victory over a largely uncompetitive Newcastle to make it four wins in a row with Trent Barrett urging the Sydney media not to place too much pressure on rising star Tom Trbojevic after another eye-catching display.
With a succession of matches against top-four aspirants to follow this match they can’t afford to slip up here.
The Eels are unlikely to die lightly but they are struggling to generate much offence in the absence of bothCorey Norman and the departed Kieran Foran.
Last time they met: Rd 7 – Manly 10-22 Parramatta
Unibet Odds: Parramatta $2.95 Manly $1.41
Line tip: Parramatta +7.5
Newcastle v Bulldogs | Saturday, August 6, 3pm (AEDT), Hunter Stadium
Des Hasler would have been a pretty disappointed man after a lethargic performance by his troops last week and Newcastle might cop some backlash from that come Saturday afternoon with the Bulldogs looking to build some momentum leading into the finals.
Hard to come up with too many positives for the Knights at the moment, although they did improve after the break on Sunday.
Trent Hodkinson might be regretting his decision to move to the Hunter given that he has slipped well down the representative pecking order but professional pride should see him geared up for a strong showing this week.
The Morris brothers, Brett and Josh, have driven much of their club’s attack in recent weeks and will be looking to bag a few tries in a thumping win.
Last time they met: Rd 25 2015 – Newcastle 18-20 Bulldogs
Unibet Odds: Newcastle $6.25 Bulldogs $1.13
Line tip: Bulldogs -16.5
Cronulla v Canberra | Saturday, August 6, 5.30pm (AEDT), Southern Cross Stadium
Cronulla lost their shot at history after being held to a draw on the Gold Coast on Monday night and off a short week they appear somewhat vulnerable against the high-flying Raiders.
James Maloney is free to play after successfully fighting a high-tackle charge at the judiciary midweek.
Wade Graham earned the wrath of his opposition after some sneaky antics at the coin toss heading into extra-time.
Don’t expect the Sharks to get too many favours from the refereeing corps in September after that.
Canberra obliterated the hapless Bunnies and will be keen for revenge after suffering their biggest home loss of the season to the shire outfit.
Not inconceivable that these clubs will clash in the first week of the finals so this match may represent an early opportunity to obtain a mental advantage for two clubs with expectant supporter bases.
Last time they met: Rd 7 – Canberra 16-40 Cronulla
Unibet Odds: Cronulla $1.42 Canberra $2.90
Line tip: Canberra +4.5
Melbourne v Souths | Saturday, August 6, 7.30pm (AEDT), AAMI Park
Melbourne now have their eyes firmly fixed on the minor premiership after becoming the first visiting team to win in Townsville this season.
Craig Bellamy is experienced enough to know that each week presents a new challenge and Souths are likely to be hurting after the Michael Maguire-era reached its nadir last Sunday.
What’s gone wrong at Redfern? The equalisation of playing talent has made it difficult for clubs to stay on top for too long but their decline has been surprising in its rapidity.
While others have departed, the loss of Issac Luke was perhaps the most damaging to their structure which may explain why they were this week linked with a bid for Robbie Farah.
Souths should be more competitive with Greg Inglis in the line-up but Melbourne have won eight of the past nine fixtures between these clubs and should keep rollin’ on.
Last time they met: Rd 10, 2015 – Melbourne 16-12 Souths
Unibet Odds: Melbourne $1.11 Souths $7.00
Line tip: Melbourne -18.5
Wests Tigers v North Queensland | Sunday, July 31, 4pm (AEDT), Leichhardt Oval
Back at their spiritual home, the Tigers must rate themselves a real chance of knocking off the premiers here, although they suffered a blow with the news that half Luke Brooks will miss up to a month of football after a cruciate ligament tear.
Jack Littlejohn deputises at halfback in his first match since the opening round win over the Warriors.
Minus their ace in the pack, the Cowboys put in a gutsy shift against Melbourne but couldn’t generate enough points to get the result.
With Johnathan Thurston an absentee from their 17-man squad, Paul Green will be chasing a victory here to avoid the perception that his side are a “one-man team” heading into the finals.
The Tigers pushed Melbourne all of the way at this venue mid-season and have already been specked to cause an upset.
Last time they met: Rd 11, 2015 – Wests Tigers 0-8 North Qld
Unibet Odds: Wests Tigers $2.75 North Qld $1.47
Line tip: Tigers +6.5
Penrith v Roosters | Monday, August 8, 7pm (AEDT), Pepper Stadium
Penrith slid out of the eight after a tough loss in Auckland and face a real banana-skin here against a Roosters side looking to finish the season strongly.
Josh Mansour has been a revelation at the foot of the mountains and did his best to drag his side back into last week’s game with a super solo try.
Boyd Cordner’s strong form since returning from injury has seen respected pundit Phil Gould label him the ‘best second-rower in the competition”. Hefty praise indeed.
Trent Robinson’s side had an interesting contact session midweek with the Wallabies and derived plenty of benefit from the experience.
Penrith’s young forwards need to aim up against a Roosters pack that suddenly looks pretty strong.
Last time they met: Rd 7 – Roosters 16-20 Penrith
Unibet Odds: Penrith $1.57 Roosters $2.45
Line tip: Roosters +4.5