NRL Preview: Norman back for Dragons, Pangai Junior stood down & Saifiti provides Knights boost

Corey Norman

We take a brief look at each NRL game over the course of round 14.

Thursday, August 13

Sydney Roosters v Melbourne Storm (10:55am)

The 14th round of the 2020 NRL season kicks off with an absolute thriller as the Roosters take on the Storm in one of the competitions hottest match ups. The Roosters come into this one looking to avenge a thrilling golden point loss to Melbourne in round eight. It is no secret that even though Trent Robinson’s side have won their last three they certainly have not been at their best against the likes of the Warriors, the Titans and the Dragons due to some injury worries. However, they will certainly need to switch into an extra gear against a superior opposition here.

Meanwhile, the Storm have now won seven consecutive games after brushing aside last place Canterbury last week and once again keep pressure on first-placed Penrith. Despite both teams injury concerns, if the last game between these two is anything to go by then we could be in for an emphatic affair.

Team news: Josh Morris returns at centre for the Roosters, but Boyd Cordner, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Angus Crichton, Daniel Tupou and Brett Morris all remain out.

Ryley Jacks replaces the injured Cameron Munster at stand-off for Melbourne while both Ryan Papenhuyzen and Dale Finucane makes their retrospective returns after a week’s rest.

Friday, August 14

New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers (9am)

After the acquisition of Nathan Brown as head coach, the Warriors showed their new boss exactly what they have to offer with an inspiring win over Manly last week. It has not been the best of season’s for the Warriors thus far but with the win over the Sea Eagles they are now on the back of two straight wins and are now four points outside the top eight. An extreme test awaits them this week though as they face first-placed Penrith who with the likes of Nathan Cleary, Api Koroisau, Stephen Crichton and Viliame Kikau in their mix, they have gone on to become serious title contenders this year.

Team news: Lachlan Burr could move into the starting side for the Warriors after Jack Hetherington’s suspension.

The Panthers remain unchanged but Dylan Edwards could make his return from injury.

Parramatta Eels v St George Illawarra Dragons (10:55am)

In the trickiest of conditions Parramatta came away with a tough win against Cronulla last time out and are now looking well established as a top four side as they are now six points clear of fifth-placed Canberra in third. Meanwhile, St George Illawarra have a very slim top eight chance so must win here if they want to see any kind of push. The Dragons had the win there for the taking against Sydney last week but in the end fell short after succumbing to a 24-16 defeat. If Paul McGregor’s side want to take the victory here though then there is no doubt the attack will be running through the in-form Matt Dufty who has been incredibly integral to the Dragons throughout the year.

Team news: The Eels are given a boost in the back-row with Ryan Matterson returning to the starting side.

A re-shuffle for the Dragons sees Corey Norman come back in at stand-off while Ben Hunt moves to hooker and Cameron McInnes moves to lock. Tariq Sims (shoulder) is out so Tyrell Fuimaono starts in the second-row while Korbin Sims and Jackson Ford are the new faces on the bench.

Saturday, August 15

Cronulla Sharks v Gold Coast Titans (6am)

Despite losing out to Parramatta, Cronulla have been in some solid form as of late as they look to climb further into the top eight after winning six of their last eight games. They are now level with South Sydney in seventh place. Even though they sit in 13th, the Titans have been a much-improved outfit this year as coach Justin Holbrook looks to be finding his feet with his squad. They come into this one on the back of a thumping win over North Queensland.

Team news: Not many huge changes for Cronulla with Jack Williams moving to the bench and Toby Rudolf named to start again but he is usually dropped to the bench come game day. The Titans remain unchanged.

North Queensland Cowboys v South Sydney Rabbitohs (8:30am)

It has been a horror season for North Queensland so far this year and after being on the end of a disappointing loss to the Titans they now sit in 14th place – only two points ahead of Canterbury in bottom spot. It is going to be a very tough run for the Cowboys now as five of their last seven fixtures will be against sides within the top eight. The Rabbitohs, though, are stuck firmly in a race for the top eight and after two wins on the bounce they are now level with Cronulla in seventh and are just two points ahead of Manly in ninth.

Team news: The Cowboys are given a reprieve as Scott Drinkwater could make his return from injury at full-back and John Asiata is back on the bench. Both Tom Gilbert and Justin O’Neill drop out altogether.

Liam Knight switches to the bench with Jaydn Su’A back from suspension.

Canberra Raiders v Brisbane Broncos (10:35am)

The Raiders have not had the best of times in recent weeks after losing three of their last five but even still they are firmly placed inside the NRL finals positions. After losing out disappointingly to Penrith, they will no doubt fancy their chances to bounce back here though as Brisbane are in the midst of a torrid run that has seen them win only one game since the season’s resumption. It has been an even more dramatic build up to this one for the Broncos as star Tevita Pangai Junior has been fined and stood down indefinitely by the NRL for breaking rules set by Project Apollo while they have also had to deal with reports of other players breaking COVID-19 protocols too.

Team news: No changes for the Raiders as they name same squad as last week.

Ben Te’o is named to start in the second-row with Tevita Pangai Junior out. Jordan Riki looks set to make his debut off the bench for Brisbane.

Sunday, August 16

Newcastle Knights v Manly Sea Eagles (5am)

The Knights have been rather inconsistent this year as they sit in sixth and if they win here it will mean that it will be the first time since round two that Newcastle will have won back-to-back games. The Knights dismantled the Tigers 44-4 last week and showed exactly how good they can be with Kalyn Ponga proving to be the star of the game. They now face Manly who are short of luck and players as they are in the middle of an injury crisis with the likes Tom Trbojevic, Dylan Walker and Addin Fonua-Blake all on the sidelines.

Team news: The Knights are given a huge boost with Daniel Saifiti returning at prop.

Martin Taupau has been named despite a head knock last week but Taniela Paseka is selected at prop with Addin Fonua-Blake out. Brad Parker is back at centre while Joel Thompson and Curtis Sironen are expected to start.

Wests Tigers v Canterbury Bulldogs (7:05am)

The Tigers have lost five of their last six matches and cannot afford to lose here if they want to remain with the race for a NRL finals berth. The Bulldogs are now faced with the task of avoiding the wooden spoon with Brisbane and North Queensland two points above them.

Team news: Luke Garner is back in the starting side with Chris Lawrence reverting to the bench while Jacob Liddle marks his first game back at hooker since a serious knee injury suffered last year while Billy Walters is out after suffering a season-ending injury.

Jake Averillo (hip) is out for Canterbury with Kerrod Holland coming into the starting side plus Jack Cogger replaces Lachlan Lewis (suspended) at scrum-half.

Watch NRL and live stream every NRL game to keep up with how Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead, Luke Thompson and George Williams and all the others are getting on Down Under.

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