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Dragons v Cowboys

A clash that should have promised plenty instead will be lacking some of its oomph given it falls in the midst of the representative season. Both sides find themselves entrenched in the top four with North Queensland sitting in clear second while the Dragons are fourth on points differential and one of three sides locked on 20 competition points. With three losses in a row, including a surprise 16-12 defeat at Parramatta last start, this clash is a particularly crucial one for St George Illawarra but they’ll have to perform without Origin duo Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin if they are to improve on their 16-10 record against the Cowboys in Wollongong.

The visitors are even more affected by Origin with Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan, James Tamou and Matt Scott all missing. Rep stars or not, the Dragons have proven themselves to be a low-scoring and low-conceding team this season with the best defence in the NRL (just 17 points conceded per game) and the worst attack. We’re not expecting North Queensland to pile on the points either. Their one other match in 2015 in the days before Origin resulted in a scrappy 8-0 win over Wests Tigers. This looks like another low scoring affair.

Our say – Dragons v Cowboys game total -38.5 points

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Manly v Cronulla

If recent history is any indication, this should be a walkover for the Sea Eagles – 10 wins from their past 11 meetings against old rivals Cronulla and a dominant record of 31 wins from 37 games at Brookvale doesn’t make pretty reading for Sharks coach Shane Flanagan. But those stats are somewhat misleading given Manly’s long period off success over the past decade. This season the tables have been well and truly turned, with the Sea Eagles stuck to the foot of the NRL ladder with just four wins from 14 outings in 2015.

Not surprisingly, they are one of the few sides unaffected by State of Origin this week with Daly Cherry-Evans omitted from the Queensland side now that Cooper Cronk has recovered from injury. But while the Sharks will be without Paul Gallen to Origin and hooker Michael Ennis to suspension, they must see this as a huge opportunity to grab their first win at Brookvale since 2008. Only twice this year have the Sea Eagles won by more than two points – against lowly Newcastle and Wests Tigers – while only once in the last two months has Cronulla been defeated by more than this six-point line.

Our say – Sea Eagles v Sharks +6

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