Tonight will see two fascinating clashes in NRL round 12. First up, the Sea Eagles will travel to Canberra to take on the Raiders. In the second game the Cowboys welcome the Storm to Townsville. Each game has its own challenges, but in the end the visitors should be the winners.
Manly and Canberra are currently separated by only a five point differential on the NRL ladder. Their form over the last two weeks, however, couldn’t be more different. The Raiders had won four out of the last five until they ran into top four sides Cronulla and St George. This brought them crashing back to earth.
The Sea Eagles, on the other hand, seemed to be a club in turmoil two weeks ago, and looked like a prime wooden spoon contender. They have since flipped the switch and silenced their doubters, beating the Broncos in Brisbane and then thrashing the Storm in Melbourne – two of the most difficult fixtures on the NRL calendar. They will be high on confidence, and smell blood against the Raiders.
The Storm and Cowboys game is a rematch of last year’s NRL grand final, although both sides have slipped since then. The Cowboys have had an absolutely woeful season so far, sitting in 15th place and risking the wooden spoon. If they want to give themselves a shot at giving Jonathon Thurston a fitting farewell they will need to fire now. Last week they did improve against dark horse side the Rabbitohs, losing on a penalty after the siren.
The Storm welcome back Cameron Smith from suspension this week. This will do a lot to restore some calm and confidence to the side after their 20 point loss to Manly last week. A win this week will help Melbourne to regain some faith in their team. There’s no doubt that the Cows played better than the Storm last week, but this is unlikely to happen again in what will probably be the last time Smith and Thurston are on the same field.