South Sydney Rabbitohs (10th) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (8th)
The Rabbitohs returned to the winner’s circle in dramatic fashion last week, overcoming their recent poor form and the emotional environment of Pirtek Stadium, to steal the lead with 3 minutes to go. That win uncovered a few positional changes that may work for them in the future, although there is still plenty of improvement left in this team if they’re to move up the ladder. They made the match a very physical encounter and both sides will need the time between matches to recover. The Dragons were also victorious, overcoming poor light and a gallant Raiders team that was coming home strongly. An intercept in the 5th minute of extra time sealed the win and despite the dramatic fashion of the victory, they will note that they are still capable of better. Their attacking flaws were still evident and this will be a relentless battle for them until their issues can be overcome. As to how they will amend them remains to be seen, but the responsibility will heavily fall upon the shoulders of their playmakers. The notable difference last week was that several of their forwards played strongly through the middle and it was only once they were fatigued, that the Raiders began to gather momentum. These two sides met back in Round 3, for a 2-point win for the Dragons; something that the Rabbitohs will want to avoid this time around.
Rabbitohs = Cody Walker comes onto the wing for Michael Oldfield (injured), with Greg Inglis remaining at 6 and Luke Keary on the bench.
Dragons = Jake Marketo comes into the second row for Joel Thompson (suspension), with Jacob Host coming onto the bench. Russell Packer is named to start at prop, Mike Cooper at lock and Will Matthews moving back to the bench. Benji Marshall (injured) has been replaced at halfback by Josh McCrone.
Overall = Rabbitohs 10 Dragons 16
Last 5 matches = Rabbitohs 4 Dragons 1
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 54% Dragons 51%
Form = Rabbitohs 1 win – Dragons 1 win
The Rabbitohs recent record over the Dragons is going to count for something by the time this match kicks off. On top of the added motivation that they have from their previous loss against them and increasing momentum from last week, the Rabbitohs appear to have the edge over their opponents. They will head into this game as strong favorites and the fear around the Dragons is, again, that they will not be able to score enough points. This has caused them plenty of problems this year and they were lucky to escape last week with a win. Until they address and fix this issue, they will struggle to compete in majority of their matches. The line offered suggest that the Rabbitohs will dominate this contest from start to finish but you cannot be so sure. They still have issues of their own to address and they are not going to immediately disappear after one victory. It is important for them to first establish momentum and build forward from there.
Rabbitohs 1-12 @ $2.75
Walk right in = Cody Walker FTS and/or LTS @ $11 – Good odds are offered about Walker crossing the line first or last, especially given how potent the Rabbitohs left edge was last week. Expect more of the same here considering the defensive lapses of Lafai last week.
North Queensland Cowboys (4th) v Brisbane Broncos (1st)
It is a rematch of their thrilling match in Round 4, where the Broncos scraped home by 1-point in Golden Point. It was arguably one of the best matches of the season and on the back of their 2015 Grand Final, the hype around this game is at its peak. Both teams played at Suncorp Stadium last week in a unique double header (as the away teams) and have the same time to prepare for this match; although this time it will be on Cowboys turf. The Cowboys were beaten for only the second time in 2016 last week, another 1-point loss to the Storm. The finish the Cowboys had to the match was a little disappointing and if they had their time over, a more effective option perhaps would’ve been taken. It will do little to destabilize their team though and if anything, they will be more focused heading into this match. The Broncos had a far easier encounter, as they dismantled the Sea Eagles from start to finish. They were firing from the opening whistle and they never appeared to strain themselves in getting towards a comfortable margin of victory. They challenge for them in this match is going to be overcoming the Cowboys on their home turf and quickly lifting the intensity from last week. There is plenty to be excited about with this match!
Cowboys = Unchanged.
Broncos = Andrew McCullough (injury) is named to return at hooker, Adam Blair (suspension) at prop and Alex Glenn (injury) in the second row. This pushes Sam Thaiday and Jarrod Wallace back to the bench, with others dropping out of the team altogether.
Overall = Cowboys 12 Draw 1 Broncos 27
Last 5 matches = Cowboys 2 Broncos 3
At 1300Smile Stadium = Cowboys 84% Broncos 40%
Form = Cowboys 1 loss – Broncos 1 win
Given how tight the recent matches have been between these two sides, the obvious bet is for either team to win this game by less than a converted try. As for the overall winner, the Cowboys appear to have the edge over the Broncos based on the fact that they’re playing at home. The Cowboys record on their home turf is tremendous and the last time the Broncos won here was in Round 20 of 2013. The loss last week for the Cowboys will do little to deter them, they will still be ready to fire and questions around their ability to deal with missed opportunities will only motivate them more. The Broncos class is there for all to see and it is essential that the Cowboys get off to a strong start. If the Broncos were to have their returning stars playing off a few games, the outcome of this contest could be different but stepping into this match for a “return” match will make it very difficult. This match could very well go down to Golden Point yet again!
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.40
Wests Tigers (14th) v Newcastle Knights (16th)
The Tigers came crashing back to earth last week at the hands of the Bulldogs, who handed their opponents a 36-4 loss. High hopes were held for the home team, after a promising win over the Rabbitohs and several players returning to their team. It wasn’t to be though, with the Bulldogs dominating in the middle of the field and halting the Tigers momentum; as has been the problem in the matches they have lost this season. It was far worse for the Knights though, who suffered their worst defeat at home in their history. It was a complete embarrassment for the club and one that serves as a reminder about the gap between young players and the experienced ones. There is obviously a long-term plan set for the Knights but at this stage, there is going to be plenty of pain before they are able to achieve success. If there is any hope, it will be that the Knights can repeat their performance against the Tigers in Round 6; where they came out victorious 18-16. That was their only win so far this year but given their current form, their next one appears to be a long way off at this point.
Tigers = Curtis Sironen and Robbie Farah (both injured) are out, replaced by Josh Aloiai (second row) and Dene Halatau (hooker). JJ Felise and Matt Ballin come onto the bench, along with Tim Grant.
Knights = Trent Hodkinson (injury) is named to return at halfback, as have Sam Mataora (injury) and Nathan Ross (injury) at prop and wing respectively. Jack Stockwell is the new face on the bench.
Overall = Tigers 10 Knights 12
Last 5 matches = Tigers 1 Knights 4
At Campbelltown Stadium = Tigers 46% Knights 50%
Form = Tigers 1 loss – Knights 4 losses
You have to be wary of the Knights given their current circumstances; everyone has written them off and the comments Gallen made in last weeks press conference were truthful, yet would’ve been confronting for most. It is interesting to note that the Knights have a strong recent record over the Tigers, with their opponents winning 1 of their past 6 meetings. The only win the Knights have had this season was against the Tigers in Round 6, a match where they demonstrate grit and determination that hadn’t been seen before this year. The Tigers also suffered a disappointing loss last week and have further issues with Farah out of their playmaking ranks. This builds pressure on other players, especially in the halves and someone will need to take control of this team. If last week is a guide, then the Knights forwards should take the game to their opponents in the middle of the field. Even before their match last week, the Tigers were unconvincing against a disappointing Rabbitohs team. The Tigers are way too short in betting markets and this game is going to be a lot closer than most people think. The odds on offer for the Knights with the start is strong too because both teams leak points on the field, possibly indicating that the total match points will also be high.
Knights +8.5 @ $1.90
Double it up! = Newcastle +8.5/Over 46.5 @ $3.80 – It is stated above, this match should be high scoring and when you combine it with the line, there is a nice return you can get on your investment.
New Zealand Warriors (13th) v Canberra Raiders (9th)
The Warriors were back to their normal performance last week, unable to build on a strong victory in Round 9 over the Dragons. This time, the Panthers piled the pressure on their opponents; things were looking up at HT too, with the Warriors leading their opponents. However, being unable to score a point in the second half meant that they were beaten by 12-points in the end. Hopefully, they can take the positive away from their last two matches and be well prepared for what lies ahead of them in this match. The Raiders crumbled under the pressure of Golden Point in their match against the Dragons. A “crazy” play in the 85th minute lead to their opponents intercepting a wayward pass. While it came down to that play, just prior, the Raiders were fighting hard to get back into the match. Despite eventually drawing level, they bombed a number of chances that would ensured they avoided extra-time with a victory. Several of their players are having moments of excitement and promise, although their problem is that this young team is yet to put it together just yet. If they do, there is no limit to what they can achieve; although that could be further away than their fans hope given their inconsistent play.
Warriors = Simon Mannering (injury) returns at lock for the Warriors, pushing John Palavi back to the bench. Matthew Allwood is named in the centres for Solomone Kata (suspended) and Sam Lisone comes onto the bench. Issac Luke will start, along with Jacob Lillyman, while Jazz tevaga and James Gavet shift back to the bench.
Raiders = Luke Bateman is named at lock for Shaun Fensom (injured), with Jeff Lima (injury) coming back onto the bench.
Overall = Warriors 16 Raiders 14
Last 5 matches = Warriors 5 Raiders 0
At Yarrow Stadium = Never played at this ground
Form = Warriors 1 loss – Raiders 2 losses
Neither team will carry momentum into this match but if both were to play to their potential, we could be in for a fantastic contest. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen given the way each team has executed this season. The Raiders have perhaps been better than the Warriors, but they have a horrible record over the Warriors, as their last win was back in Round 6, 2013. Having moved the game away from Mt Smart Stadium assists the travelling team, as the Warriors will be unaccustomed to their new surroundings. If the first 10 Rounds of the competition are anything to go by, this match is destined to be a high scoring encounter. The Raiders were able to stay in a match last week despite a horror (63%) completion rate and if they improve upon that, they should be too good for the Warriors. Consistency is still a major issue for both teams, but the fact that the Raiders were able to push the Panthers in their previous encounter, whereas the Warriors struggled, is an indication as to how this match is expected to play out. Don’t be surprised if the Warriors come out and are up for a fight; there is plenty on the line for both teams and while they’re slight favorites, it appears as though winning this match might be beyond the Warriors at this stage of the season.
Raiders @ $2.10
Tight contest = Raiders 1-12 @ $3.25 – Given the Raiders inability to play the entire 80 minutes in matches, the Warriors will be close enough throughout this match. A win to either team by any more than two converted tries and given the Raiders are the way to go, them to win by that margin appears appealing.
Cronulla Sharks (2nd) v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (12th)
Back in Round 3, the Sea Eagles grabbed their first win of the season with a very promising and impressive performance against the Sharks. Many were left wondering if the Sharks were capable given their limitations in attack and perhaps this was the beginning of a Sea Eagles run. My, how things have changed! The Sharks have played exciting, consistent and impressive football that leaves them standing 2nd on the competition ladder. They were also responsible for the destruction of the Knights last week, cruising to a 62-nil victory. While their situation isn’t as dire, the Sea Eagles have several issue that they need to address. Their attack isn’t firing at present and they’re conceding too many tries to allow them a chance at competiting with their opponents. The Broncos handed them another loss last week, leading from start to finish and never appearing to get out of “2nd gear”. They’re still managing to maintain contact with the Top 8, but a few more poor performances like that one will leave many questioning their true potential; something that they’re yet to live up too.
Sharks = Matt Prior (injured) is out and is replaced on the bench by Jayson Bukuya.
Sea Eagles = Steve Matai (injury) returns in the centres, joined by Jamie Buhrer (injury) in the second row. Josh Starling is named on the bench, along with Blake Leary, with Martin Taupau (dropped) vacating the team.
Overall = Sharks 8 Sea Eagles 18
Last 5 matches = Sharks 0 Sea Eagles 5
At Southern Cross Group Stadium = Sharks 55% Sea Eagles 54%
Form = Sharks 6 wins – Sea Eagles 2 losses
The Sharks have already conceded a loss to Manly this season and it is surprising to say the least given the potential within the two sides. For some reason, the Sea Eagles pose as a “bogey team” for the Sharks and they have not beaten them since Round 3 in 2012. That will play into the minds of the home team in some way, although if they produce the same level of class that they have in recent weeks, a recent record between the two sides will matter little. Fact is, the Sharks have too much power and class across their team to let a side like the Sea Eagles worry them. Recent weeks have highlighted their flaws and a demoralizing loss over the Broncos last week isn’t the best preparation to cause an upset here. As for the margin of this match, the Sharks dominating win over the Knights last week showed what they’re capable of in attack and scoring points has been an advantage of the Sharks this year. Expect more of the same, that is, after they break the Sea Eagles intensity in the opening stages. This has been a feature of their play in recent weeks and more of the same can be expected here. However, the Sharks will control this part of the match and allow their forwards to control the middle of the field and provide
Sharks -10.5 @ $2
Circling Sharks = Sharks 13+ @ $2.20 – As stated above, the Sea Eagles defence isn’t up to standard. The Sharks will continually pressure them and once they crack, expect the points to flow.
Sosaia F*** = Sosaia Feki FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – Valentine Holmes saluted last week on the other side but Feki wasn’t far behind him with a haul of his own. Looking at how the Sea Eagles concede tries, Feki is a strong chance of crossing first, with the right-edge of their opponents struggling, despite the class of Lyon in defence.
Penrith Panthers (7th) v Gold Coast Titans (11th)
The Panthers were down at HT last week against the Warriors and there was every chance that another tight loss was on the horizon. Thankfully, they produced a dynamic second half to overcome their opponents; perhaps the most impressive was the fact that they were able to keep them scoreless in the second half. Furthermore, they broke their tradition of close matches and got home by 12-points. It was most impressive and they will need the same level of motivation, against a side that were also victorious in Round 10. The Titans have a short turnaround to contend with but that will matter little with a win behind them. Their game was also tight, but they were able to kick clear of the Roosters during the second half. With a decision working in their favor, they piled the pressure on their opponents and the Roosters defence crumbled. Most impressive for the Titans was the way their halves worked together, proving that while they’re taking time to gel together, they are finding their groove and providing more stability with each match. The Panthers defence will offer another challenge altogether and the halves will again need a dominate pack to play behind.
Panthers = Unchanged.
Titans = Nathan Peats (club change) is named to come off the bench. David Mead (injured) with Nene McDonald (injury) returning on the wing.
Overall = Panthers 8 Titans 5
Last 5 matches = Panthers 4 Titans 1
At Peppers Stadium = Panthers 53% Titans 40%
Form = Panthers 2 wins – Titans 1 win
The Panthers are attempting to make it 3-consecutive victories for the first time this season and this is a real possibility. They were able to fight back against the Warriors last week and keeping them scoreless in the second half was an indication of how this team is improving. The Titans were also strong, but in perspective it was a lower class of opponent compared to what they’ll face here. That doesn’t mean that they’re out of this contest, it is an indication that they’ll struggle to match the intensity of their opponents. This is a tricky match to invest on too; the Panthers haven’t won a match this year by more than two converted tries, but the Titans have lost plenty by that margin. The home ground advantage would work strongly towards the Panthers, as would the short turnaround from MNF for the Titans. Considering there is also several Origin positions on the line, we could be about to see the best football the Panthers have to offer. With this is mind, as well as fatigue kicking in towards the end, the Panthers have what it takes to grab a win and do so in commanding fashion.
Panthers 13+ @ $2.10
Sealing selection = Josh Mansour FTS and/or LTS @ $7 – 3 tries in 10 matches this season isn’t exactly great form but there is talk that Mansour could sneak into the Blues team.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (5th) v Sydney Roosters (15th)
The Bulldogs piled on the points last Sunday against the Tigers, proving that they’re not a team to forget just yet. The 36-4 victory was capped off by a dominant pack of forwards that lead from the opening minutes. It is a centerpiece of their play, yet it has evaded them for majority of the season. When they perform, they are difficult to beat and it made the halves appear exciting and capable at this level. The Roosters were not as fortunate, traveling to the Gold Coast with hopes high but leaving empty handed. Following a strong performance in Round 9, a different Roosters team was expected than the one that featured in the opening rounds of the competition. That wasn’t the case and the visitors returned to the same side that we saw for the prior to their wins over the Rabbitohs and Knights. It was an indication that those players that returned will need a few more weeks yet to regain match fitness and begin to play a consistent brand of football. Even with a decision going against them, coach Trent Robinson in his assessment, suggesting that his team wasn’t good enough. If the Bulldogs play like they did last week, the Roosters are going to have to dramatically improve to overturn the expected result in this match. Although with representative selection looming, players will be out to prove a point against those they could be up against.
Bulldogs = Unchanged.
Roosters = Unchanged.
Overall = Bulldogs 19 Roosters 16
Last 5 matches = Bulldogs 1 Roosters 4
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 57% Roosters 46%
Form = Bulldogs 1 win – Roosters 1 loss
The Bulldogs appear to have the right level of momentum heading into this match after a dominating display last week. Just when things were looking up for the Roosters, they took a backward step and perhaps their win over the Knights was a sign of their opponent’s flaws rather than their own strength. In saying that, there is enough talent within this team to be competitive and one would think that they have a high level of motivation after their match against the Titans. Still, they would have to improve remarkably to overcome the Bulldogs, whose focus should be on generating power again through their forwards. That appears to be their only chance of winning matches because elsewhere, they’re form is still questionable; including their defence. As for the margin, this game should be tighter than expected; with the Roosters demonstrating an improved defensive effort compared with last week. This game could even go down to the final few minutes before a winner prevails.
Bulldogs 1-12 @ $2.85
Purring Perrett = Sam Perrett FTS and/or LTS @ $13 – He is the Bulldogs leading try scorer this season with 7 tries from 10 games. He bagged another one last week and appears to have relished the opportunity to move to fullback for Hopoate. Look for Perrett to be popping up anywhere on the field.
Parramatta Eels (6th) v Melbourne Storm (3rd)
In an emotion-driven match, things didn’t go to plan for the Eels and they were unable to grab a win against the Rabbitohs. The stage was set for them to reward their fans for their loyalty, yet an Adam Reynolds conversion following a try with 3-minutes to go sunk the home team. Amongst everything else that is going on, it was a deflating loss but will need to again be ready for this challenge, regardless of their circumstances. The Storm head down to Parramatta following an exciting 1-point victory over the Cowboys in Brisbane, in the dying stages of their game. The match confirmed that they are team that belongs at the top of the competition ladder and it confirmed what there are capable of. Their efforts were something that haven’t been seen from the Storm so far this year, mainly because they haven’t been pushed to that level yet. Their class prevailed though and the pressure they created towards the end of the match took its toll on their opponents. Having gone through a similar situation themselves, the Storm will be wary of what the Eels have to offer given how something like this can galvanise a playing roster.
Eels = Unchanged.
Storm = Tohu Harris shifts to the centre for Ben Hampton (injured), with Kenny Bromwich coming into the starting side in the second row. Christian Welch comes onto the bench, joined by Tim Glasby, who switched starting roles with Jordan McLean.
Overall = Eels 12 Storm 18
Last 5 matches = Eels 2 Storm 3
At Pirtek Stadium = Eels 60% Storm 50%
Form = Eels 1 loss – Storm 4 wins
With Origin teams named either side of this match, you cannot be blamed for thinking that some players have other things on their mind. Really, the Storm trio want to get through this game with minimal issues and move onto Game 1. There is also the emotional factor that the Eels will be feeling since their salary cap issues. Combine this with the return of Foran to the team and for some strange reason, the Eels have moved into favorites. Puzzling to say the least as they have lost dominance through the middle without Peats and someone needs to stand up in his absence. The extra time for both teams heading into this game will ensure that they’re fresh and fatigue shouldn’t be a factor. Given their efforts last week, the Storm are too good to look past and should have what it takes to overcome the Eels and the emotion off it. As for the margin, if the Storm get out to strong lead, they may switch off and choose to rest several players within their team. Their record at Pirtek Stadium suggests that playing away from home shouldn’t be an issue and they should cover the line and get home by less than two converted tries.
Storm -1.5 @ $2
Stormy Night = Storm 1-12 @ $3 –
The “other” guy = Suliasi Vunivalu FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – Attention will be on Radradra and Koroibete, but after that comes Vunivalu. He has already scored 4 tries in 4 matches and the Storm know his talent on the ground and in the air. Expect plenty of traffic to come his way both in attack and defence.