NRL Round 15 Preview

Now well and truly into the second half of the NRL season, there is still plenty that we don’t know with regards to likely ladder positions at the end of the year. The Panthers seem all but certain to finish on top while the Storm and probably the Cowboys are well-placed to finish top four, but outside of that there is plenty of uncertainty. A number of the teams likely to be vying for similar spots in the finals will clash in Round 15, and this weekend could easily be looked back on in the months to come as one which shaped the season. Check out our previews of every game below. 


St. George Illawarra Dragons vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

Round 15 of the NRL season begins with a big game between two sides separated by just a solitary win and both theoretically vying for similar spots on the ladder, but in all likelihood their paths will diverge over the final couple of months of the season. Grand Finalists last year, the Rabbitohs aren’t likely to be repeating their achievements of 2021 this season, but having won three of their past four they are beginning to hit their straps after a slow start to the year. Those wins haven’t exactly been against the cream of the crop of the NRL, but wins are wins, and with a friendly fixture over the next month they are a good chance to accumulate plenty more of them and potentially make a move on the top four.

The Dragons, in contrast, have a very difficult fixture coming up and will likely find themselves tumbling out of finals contention over the next few weeks. They’ve done well to be competitive in most games this year and a 6-7 record is better than what many would have expected of them, but over the next seven weeks they play just two sides not currently in the top eight – one of those sides is the Raiders, who are playing as though they deserve to be of late, and the other is the Sea Eagles, who currently sit in ninth. Ostensibly this Thursday night matchup is a tight one, but the Rabbitohs are clearly the better side.


Manly Sea Eagles vs North Queensland Cowboys

Friday night will play host to a couple of massive games in Round 15, the first of which will see the Sea Eagles host the Cowboys. Manly’s season hasn’t gone exactly to plan and the loss of Tom Trbojevic for an extended period certainly doesn’t help, but a couple of easy scalps over the past fortnight – who they have defeated with aplomb – has seen them move to within a dog’s hair of the top eight. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have continued to demonstrate that they are the real deal this season, having now won eight of their last nine – and that solitary loss coming against the Panthers. 

Both of these sides have finals aspirations and the Cowboys’ best case scenario extends far beyond that, so there is plenty on the line in this game. For the Sea Eagles, a loss will see them lose a bit of touch with the eight while a win might see them jump inside it; for the Cowboys, a win will firmly entrench them in the four while a loss will see them vulnerable. The offence of both of these sides have been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks, so don’t be surprised to see a high-scoring and tightly contested affair.


Melbourne Storm vs Brisbane Broncos

Following the Sea Eagles/Cowboys clash is yet another blockbuster matchup, this one between two teams currently sitting in the top four. The Storm have been there all year and are likely to earn themselves a double chance come finals time, but the longevity of the Broncos’ stay remains to be seen. A couple of months ago it wasn’t even a consideration, but seven consecutive wins have seen them fly up the table into fourth position. With games against the Storm and the Cowboys over the next fortnight, however, they will likely be hard-pressed staying there.

 The trip to AAMI Park has been one of the toughest in the league for many years, and this year is no different. The home side has won six of their eight games there, four of which have been by 36 points or more, so the Broncos won’t exactly be licking their lips at the prospect of the visit. If ever they were going to mount a challenge to Victoria’s solitary side, however, with the form they are in, now might be the time.


Cronulla Sharks vs Gold Coast Titans

Saturday’s first game might not have repercussions for both teams in the same vein as the two games the night prior, but there is certainly plenty on the line for the Sharks in this one. They’ve been just going since their hot start to the season, alternating wins and losses over the past couple of months to gradually fall out of the top four, but they’re still just a game behind the Broncos and well and truly capable of earning the double chance.

In fact, they can jump back into the top four with a win this weekend, something they shouldn’t have too many problems achieving. The Titans have lost four in a row and are now sitting dead last on the NRL ladder, and their inability to put the break on opposing offences has been a major issue throughout the course of the season. The Titans have slumped into irrelevance this season, but the Sharks have done the exact opposite and will see this match as a great chance to win their second consecutive game for the first time since April, and potentially work their way back into the top four.  


New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers

The potentially lopsided affairs continue into Saturday evening when the Warriors welcome a Panthers team destroying everyone in their wake this season. The competitive nature which the Warriors brought to the early parts of the season has gradually deserted them; after four consecutive losses, three of which were close, they’ve been beaten by first 32 points and then 22 points over the past two weeks, and if they bring a similar effort against the Panthers this could get ugly.

Penrith’s score differential of 264 is far and away the best in the league, and last weekend they showed, again, what they are capable of against mediocre teams when they beat the Knights to the tune of 36 points. It would be no great surprise to see a similar result at Moreton Daily Stadium this weekend.


Parramatta Eels vs Sydney Roosters

If Saturday afternoon’s lineup of matches doesn’t exactly inspire a great deal of enthusiasm, Saturday night should go some way to compensating. The Eels and the Roosters are both talented teams with similar ambitions this season; a rung behind the Panthers and the Storm, they are part of the extensive chasing pack looking to upset the apple cart later in the year, and a top four finish would be a great way to do it.

The Eels are currently a game out of the top four while the Roosters are a game further back, so both are within striking distance – particularly whoever wins this weekend. The result of it may hinge largely on which Parramatta team turns up; while the Roosters have been fairly consistent in recent weeks, the Eels have had a habit of turning in stinkers, something they certainly did against the Bulldogs last Monday. Do that again and the Roosters will tear them to shreds, but at their best they are deserved favourites. 


Canberra Raiders vs Newcastle Knights

In a similar vein to Thursday night’s game between the Dragons and Rabbitohs, while there is little separating the Raiders and Knights in terms of ladder position, this game is unlikely to be as close as that might suggest. The Raiders have been in terrific form of late and have catapulted themselves into finals contention, and while their loss last week at the hands of the Broncos was disappointing, they hardly put themselves to shame. 

 The Knights, in contrast, went down by 36 points to Penrith. Their goal differential of -176 is the worst in the league, suggesting they could easily be lower than the 12th position on the ladder in which they currently find themselves. It’s tough to imagine them getting close to the in-form Raiders this Sunday.


Canterbury Bulldogs vs Wests Tigers

A bottom-of-the-table clash between the Bulldogs and Tigers to finish the round might not generate a great deal of enthusiasm, but for Bulldogs fans at least there must be some intrigue surrounding whether or not they can continue the form they displayed when beating the Eels by 30 points last Monday. That was their best performance of the year, and another win here could see them jump up to 12th spot on the NRL ladder after sitting in last just last week.

 The Tigers beat them just a few short weeks ago, but their form has been very poor in the couple of weeks since. Don’t expect this to be the highest quality game of the week, but it should at the very least be a close one to round out what looms as a highly consequential week of NRL action. 

At this point in the season, with so many teams vying for the same spots on the NRL ladder, it’s almost inevitable that every round will have a number of big games. Round 15 in particular, though, seems like one of consequence. Friday night’s two games both have huge implications for the top eight and top four, as does Saturday night’s, while the performances of teams like the Sharks, Raiders and Rabbitohs will also be intriguing to watch. Come Monday morning, the landscape of the NRL might look very different to what it does now.