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Origin affects NRL; big games in the AFL; Super Rugby finals loom

NRL – Round 18

Once again, State of Origin will have an important bearing on the fortunes of all eight teams this weekend.

The Broncos may have copped a hammering at the hands of the Storm last weekend, but there were numerous occasions they came close to scoring.

How will they peform against the Sharks with a host of key players on deck for Queensland?

The Sharks are missing Lewis, Gallen and Fifita, but on paper they appear a lot stronger than the Broncos and will enhance their top eight hopes with a win.

The Broncos will aim up, but surely they will only get the cash if the Sharks produce a shocker.

The Eels have posted a number of special wins at Parramatta Stadium this season, but after a big loss at the hands of the Sea Eagles, no Hayne, the dumping of Sandow, and players clearly out of form it’s hard to see them winning.

The Panthers are flying and a loss would come as a surprise, although the big question is how they will recover from their trip to Darwin.

The Storm are missing Smith, Cronk, Slater and Hoffman for the grand final replay against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.

The Bulldogs have the depth to cover the loss of Morris and Reynolds, and if they can’t win this then they don’t deesrve a spot in the finals.

The Cowboys are shot ducks and it’s impossible to see them qualifying for the finals after yet another disappointing road performance in Canberra last weekend.

Not only are the Cowboys missing their Origin stars, but a host of veterans have been dumped from the starting 13.

The Sea Eagles are missing Watmough and Cherry-Evans, but are good enough to win in Townsville and thus keep their top four hopes alive.

AFL – Round 16

From the start, it’s hard to see the Magpies, Cats, Swans and Bombers succumbing to respective opponents the Crows, Demons, Giants and Bombers.

The Crows will lift on the big stage at the MCG, but the Magpies are eyeing the top four and it’s hard to see them letting this match slip.

The Cats have posted some big wins against the Demons at Simmonds Stadium in recent years, and it could be a similar case on this occasion.

The Swans will get the Giants, it’s as simple as that – and you can be rest assured it will be by more than 39 points.

Even without Watson, the Bombers should get the Bulldogs, who were pushed to the limit by the Giants last weekend before escaping with a four point win.

The Power have claimed a number of high profile scalps at AAMI Stadium this season, but overcoming the Hawks is a huge ask.

Writing the Power off at home is a gamble, however you would expect the first-placed Hawks to strike back after a stinging loss at the hands of the Cats last weekend.

The Suns are 2-0 against the Tigers and both teams meet once again in Cairns.

The Tigers were poor against the Kangaroos last weekend after stringing a number of wins together, while the Suns – minus Ablett – were no match for the Lions at the Gabba.

It’s hard to see the Suns making the finals as they sit three games outside the top eight.

The Tigers should never have lost the corresponding match last year, but they are lot better side these days and based on 2013 form they should prevail.

However, it’s a danger game for the Tigers and there place in the top eight will come under the spotlight should the Suns win.

Splitting the Blues and Saints isn’t all that easy.

The Blues were terrible against the Magpies last weekend, while a depleted Saints outfit were far from disgraced in an honourable loss against the Dockers in Perth.

The Saints, who boast a good recent record against the Blues, welcome back Riewoldt and Milne.

Scotland returns for the Blues, while Waite is out with injury, yet the Blues are a surprisingly warm favourite.

Clearly the bookies know something we don’t, but history suggests that a Saints won’t exactly come as a surprise.

The Kangaroos were fantastic last weekend when they put the Tigers to the sword, however they face a danger game as the Lions have been solid at the Gabba for most of the season.

The Lions sit just one game behind the Kanagroos, but a loss will surely end their hopes once and for all.

It’s hard to know which Kangaroos team will turn up this weekend, however if they continue from where they left off last weekend they will win.

Like the Tigers, it’s a danger game for the Kangaroos.

So we leave the best for last.

How do you split the Eagles and Dockers in arguably the match of the round.

The Eagles sit outside the top eight in ninth place, so they have plenty of incentive to perform and will be buoyant after a courageous win against the Crows in Adelaide.

The Dockers sit outside the top four on percentage and would be feeling confident after rolling the Saints in Perth last weekend.

The Dockers rolled the Eagles by 28 points in Round 1, but the Eagles have been mighty impressive in recent weeks and are more than a decent chance this weekend.

The Dockers have dominated the “Derby” in recent times and although McPharlin is a big loss they would be full of beans with Pavlich and Sandilands back on deck.

The loss of Waters is a blow for the Eagles, who are also suffering from a long injury toll – and that might prove the difference when it comes to settling on a winner.

Super Rugby – Round 20

Last round before the finals.

The finalists for 2013 have been decided and they are the Bulls, Chiefs, Brumbies, Crusaders, Reds and Cheetahs.

Yes, the Cheetahs.

Games this weekend will determine where teams will finish up from 1-6.

The Cheetahs have the bye this weekend, so they will more than likely finish sixth.

The Crusaders are peaking at the right time and it’s hard to see them falling to the unpredictable Hurricanes in Christchurch.

The Hurricanes won the Round 4 clash against the Crusaders 29-28 in Wellington.

The Rebels have had a tumultuous week and although they play their final game of the season in Melbourne they may find it hard to match the enthusiasm of the Highlanders.

The Blues were genuine finals hope after an excellent start to the season, but they have fallen by the wayside.

They host the second-placed Chiefs, who could end up in top spot if they win in Auckland and the Bulls fall to the Stormers in Cape Town.

In a prelude to Wednesday’s State of Origin clash, the injury-ravaged Waratahs and Reds meet at ANZ Stadium.

The Waratahs would like to end the year on a high note, but the for the Reds they could claim a home qualifying final is they win and the Crusaders slip up against the Hurricanes.

Bit of a lottery, but the Reds in a tight one.

The third-placed Brumbies can end the premiership rounds in either first, second or third spot.

The Brumbies have had a wonderful campaign and many argue they are the team to beat for the 2013 title.

If they’re good enough to beat the British and irish Lions, then the Brumbies are good enough to sink the Force in Perth.

Amazing to think that if the Bulls and reigning champions Chiefs lose this weekend the Brumbies will claim the minor premiership.

The Sharks, last year’s beaten finalists, are among a host of teams who have had a disappointing season, however they will exit with a home win over the Kings, who have been a worthy replacement for the Lions in Super Rugby.

Like the Waratahs against the Reds, can the Stormers, the 2012 minor premiers, play the role of party poopers when they host the Bulls?

A loss could see the Bulls slip to third-place, so you would expect them to lift against the Stormers who look like ending their campaign in seventh spot.

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