Brisbane Broncos (4th) v Canberra Raiders (6th)
Given their respective standings on the competition ladder, it is surprising the form that each team will take into this match. The Broncos generally struggle during the Origin period, but not many expected them to be upset by the Warriors last week. Their slide has seen the performance of the halves decline as well, causing plenty of concern that they may have lost their great early-season form. There are others reason for this and the Broncos will have their work cut out for them trying to turn this around against a team that is full of confidence. The Raiders made it 3-consecutive victories last week against the Sea Eagles at home, ensuring that they moved inside the Top 8. Consistency has always alluded them and it is no coincidence that their improved form has also increase their confidence levels. Now, the Raiders face their toughest test of the season and this will be a true measure of where they are at in their 2016 campaign. A trip up to Suncorp Stadium will only make the job more difficult, although we will all have a better understanding of where this team is at, as well as whether or not the Broncos are able to recover from their form slump.
Broncos = Corey Oates (rested) and Matt Gillett (rested) return on the wing and in the second row respectively. Josh McGuire will start at prop, forcing Adam Blair back to the bench. Travis Waddell is named to start at hooker for Joe Ofahengaue.
Raiders = Zac Santo is named to play fullback for Jack Wighton (suspended). Shannon Boyd (suspended) is replaced at prop by Paul Vaughan (injury), who returns for this match.
Overall = Broncos 16 Draw 1 Raiders 12
Last 5 matches = Broncos 3 Raiders 2
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 61% Raiders 22%
Form = Broncos 3 losses – Raiders 3 wins
Given the form of the two teams, it is very surprising to see the Broncos begin this game so short. The Raiders record at Suncorp Stadium isn’t doing them any favours, nor is the fact that they’ve lost two key players to suspension. The Broncos are also returning to full-strength, although the fitness of this squad has to be questioned after recent tough matches, Origin and a trip to New Zealand. Combine that with the struggling form of the halves and the Raiders come into contention; perhaps not enough to power their way to victory, rather to cause plenty of headaches for the Broncos over 80 minutes. They have the attacking ability to create a try anywhere on the field and will be out to test the rigid Broncos defensive line. This brings the line into play in this game and while I would recommend siding with the Broncos to win this match, this option is too good to look past.
Raiders +11.5 @ $1.90
Bucking Broncos = Broncos 1-12 @ $2.85 – Take this option only if you believe the Broncos will win the match. Considering the form that they’re in, perhaps it will not be as easy as many think. However if they are to prevail, this would be the way to go.
Wests Tigers (14th) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (10th)
The Tigers again missed another positive opportunity to cause and upset last week, but failed to do so, going down to the Roosters in horrible conditions. Their opponents in that match were ranked below them on the table and had two major withdrawals prior to KO; regardless, the Tigers slipped back into old habits of conceding too many points and allowing their opponents to build momentum quickly. Mistakes are also an issue and a question around Robbie Farah’s absence only compounds the pressure building. The Rabbitohs will be hoping that their opponents problems continue to grow, as they contend with a short turnaround after a “home” match in Perth. Usually successful, the Rabbitohs head home empty handed after their opponents caused a Golden Point upset. Despite some calls going against them, the Rabbitohs will only have themselves to blame as they failed to capitalise on numerous opportunities. The Rabbitohs still appear to be well away from their best currently and they’re desperate to overturn their form. They are still experiencing periods of positive play, although that has to become an 80-minute effort if their standing on the competition ladder is to improve.
Tigers = Robbie Farah returns at hooker, allowing Elijah Taylor to move back to lock and Kyle Lovett back to the bench. Tim Grant (injury) is named to return from the bench.
Rabbitohs = Unchanged.
Overall = Tigers 12 Rabbitohs 15
Last 5 matches = Tigers 3 Rabbitohs 2
At ANZ Stadium = Tigers 41% Rabbitohs 54%
Form = Tigers 1 loss – Rabbitohs 1 loss
The Rabbitohs will head into this game as strong favorites, no surprise considering the problems at the Tigers. It is hard to overlook the fact that this team is heading into this game on the back of a short turnaround though; as well as another loss in a match that they would’ve won this time last year. Neither club is travelling strongly at the moment, however the Rabbitohs appear to have a great chance of winning this game given the players within their team. The Tigers caused an upset in Round 9 and there is no reason why they cannot do it here again; although their loss to the Roosters would’ve dented their confidence somewhat. For what it is worth, the Tigers concede too many points in games, whereas while they’re not at their best, the Rabbitohs have improved credentials to hold their opponents out when needed. The visitors are the way to go, although this game is going to be closer than many people think. The Rabbitohs should still win by more than a converted try, but the Tigers will make them work very hard for the win right up until the end of this match.
Rabbitohs -5.5 @ $1.90
Over the top! = Rabbitohs -5.5/Over 42.5 @ $3.10 – Scoring is sure to be high in this match, meaning that the points total should be above what is offered. Combine this with the line and greater value is on offer when you invest on the double.
Newcastle Knights (16th) v New Zealand Warriors (12th)
As expected, the Knights headed to Townsville last week and left with nothing other than fatigue. The efforts of the struggling team from Newcastle are improving, although there it is evident that there is a major divide between the quality within this side and the rest of the competition. The only pleasing factor for coach Nathan Brown is that his team’s effort is improving each week and they’re attempting to fight until the end. The Warriors away from home hoping that they can continue their successful run, which began last week with a strong win over the Broncos. No one expected the eventual result, with the Warriors handing their opponents an 18-point loss. The form of key players, including Shaun Johnson, was much-improved and he finally showed what fans had been waiting to see for the opening rounds of the competition. The Origin-period is generally a time when the Warriors improve their standing on the competition ladder, whereby few of their players are unavailable and fatigue is limited. Still, it will take several more similar efforts, especially away from Mt Smart Stadium, before the Warriors overturn the opinion that has surrounding them so far this season.
Knights = Unchanged, with Korbin Sims and Jacob Saifiti added to an extended bench.
Warriors = Unchanged.
Overall = Knights 15 Draw 1 Warriors 17
Last 5 matches = Knights 2 Warriors 3
At Hunter Stadium = Knights 59% Warriors 43%
Form = Knights 7 losses – Warriors 1 win
The Knights are getting extremely close to another victory and this could be their opportunity. One win for the Warriors is hardly going to turnaround their fortunes and the Knights will be positive about their chances. In reality though, the Warriors should be too strong for the Knights considering he divide in quality. However things will be closer than most people think; fact is the Warriors do not travel well in general and the Knights will lift in front of their home fans. Be wary of them on this occasion, not to cause an upset but to have several periods of the match whereby momentum is in their favor. Whether or not they can make the most of that is another thing altogether, yet a 10-point start is too good to overlook at this stage.
Knights +10.5 @ $2
Parramatta Eels (5th) v Gold Coast Titans (8th)
The Eels players would’ve enjoyed a week out of the spotlight with the bye, giving the players extra time to relax before they hit the road for this match, in Darwin. Player availabilities have impacted upon them further and the Eels have taken plenty of hits so far this year. Growing concerns about the focus of this squad will only be determined after they take the field here, without several team leaders. They almost suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Knights in Round 12, but were able to have their class get them over the line. The Titans have spent this week on the road after their last win over the Rabbitohs in Perth. Choosing to stay on the road will galvanise this team further on the back of a strong victory and they will be ready to face what the Eels throw at them. Their halves lead the way strongly, appearing to have experience well beyond the years that their age suggests. That win also brought them back into the Top 8 and now they’re there, they will not want to let their standing slip. They certainly have an improved level of execution within their team and they have surprised many with their efforts. Now, it that a win is expected, they need to dominate this game just as a team that sits in the Top 8 should, in order to prove that they’re a team that has genuine Finals aspirations.
Eels = Kenny Edwards has been named at 5/8 for Kieran Foran (injured), with Rory O’Brien coming onto the bench. Michael Jennings (Origin) returns in the centres for Brad Takairangi (injured).
Titans = Unchanged.
Overall = Eels 4 Titans 9
Last 5 matches = Eels 1 Titans 4
At TIO Stadium = Eels 100% Titans 0%
Form = Eels 1 win – Titans 1 win
This match is a game that the Titans should win and win well given the Eels recent issues. They are aiming to stamp their authority on the competition and while the Eels are not a premier team currently, winning games that they should win goes a long way to building on what they have already established. The Titans created plenty of momentum with their win last week and their halves are growing in stature each week. The Eels issues are only enhanced with one regular half taking the field and while Edwards is a quality player, he offers a lot less than others in that position, ultimately meaning that responsibility will fall upon the shoulders of Corey Norman. The Titans should be wise to this and be ready to shut down each attacking opportunity that the Eels are aiming to create. As for the margin, the Titans should win by enough points to cover the line and from there, neither team gives a real guide as to how this match will finish up. The Titans could run away with this result but the Eels may surprise; given the visitors history with close matches this year and failing to run away by a large margin, less than 2-converted tries seems ideal, although investing on the line is a more suitable option.
Titans -2.5 @ $2
Sydney Roosters (15th) v Melbourne Storm (2nd)
The Roosters prevailed last week in trying conditions against the Tigers, a match that could’ve easily gone the way of their opponents. It was a confidence-building victory, especially considering the players that were missing and the injuries suffered during the match. The Roosters are in dangerous territory currently, a few more loses could mean the end of their 2016 campaign. There are no such issues for the Storm though, registering another strong victory last week against the Panthers to make it 6-wins in a row. Despite not playing to a level that is expected of them, they sit 2nd on the competition ladder and appear to be heading in the right direction in order to feature heavily at the end of the season. Their forwards are functioning very well and the inclusion of Cronk and Smith following Origin last week only enhances the quality within this team. If this can be maintained in coming weeks, the Storm will position themselves strong for the closing rounds of the competition. First, they must overcome a very poor record at Allianz Stadium, against a team that is, almost, player for their season.
Roosters = Kane Evans comes into the starting team at lock for Isaac Lui (injured), with Mitchell Frei coming onto the bench.
Storm = Unchanged.
Overall = Roosters 14 Storm 16
Last 5 matches = Roosters 3 Storm 2
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 63% Storm 39%
Form = Roosters 1 win – Storm 6 wins
The Roosters have a very strong record over the Storm and there is a strong sense that they could very well cause an upset. Momentum is definitely with the Storm though and even in the middle of an Origin period, they appear to be playing at their best. The Roosters win last week against the Tigers was ugly and the Storm will offer a host of new challenges altogether. They are a different class of opponent and one that the Roosters will struggle to compete with over 80 minutes. The Storm will have a well-crafted game plan that targets the weaknesses of their opponents and continually pressures them, namely a weaker halves pairing. The battle in the middle of the field will be exciting, as a host of powerful players go head-to-head in order to gain momentum for their respective teams. The Roosters have some strength in this area, although the Storms power outweighs their opponents by sheer numbers. With this in mind, as well as the form of their stars, the Storm should get home comfortably in this match.
Storm 13+ @ $2.50
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (13th) v Penrith Panthers (11th)
The Sea Eagles continues to dwindle, now with news that more key players are out with injury, they can just about wave goodbye to their 2016 chances. It has been a tough year for the Sea Eagles to say the least and they haven’t lived up to their preseason hype. They headed down to Canberra last week and left with their confidence dented following a 12-point loss. The final score line flattered the visitors too, they were never in control and failed to build genuine pressure. The Panthers would be considered to be having a better season, although they only sit 2-poins and one win above the Sea Eagles. Inconsistency has plagued their season also but when they have played well, they have looked strong. The trouble for them is maintaining that performance and finding the right balance within their team. Coach Anthony Griffin has taken a gamble on young halves this week as they search for a spark but time is quickly running out for them too. The Sea Eagles will be willing to target this area with their attack and ultimately, try to wear the youngsters down. They are very capable players though and an intriguing contest awaits.
Sea Eagles = Dylan Walker moves to 5/8 for Jamie Lyon (injured), while Apisai Koroisau is named at halfback for DCE (injured) in a new halves pairing. Jorge Taufua is the new face in the backline for Walker, with Tom Trbojevic shifting to the centres. Blake Leary comes onto the bench.
Panthers = Bryce Cartwright has been named at 5/8 for Jamie Soward (dropped), while Suaia Matagi comes into the second row. Leilani Latu starts at prop for Sam McKendry (suspended), with Moses Leota and Sitaleki Akauola coming onto the bench.
Overall = Sea Eagles 13 Panthers 12
Last 5 matches = Sea Eagles 1 Panthers 4
At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 64% Panthers 31%
Form = Sea Eagles 4 losses – Panthers 2 losses
The Panthers are more vulnerable than most think, especially considering the boost in performance Brookvale Oval is expected to give their opponents. Their best efforts are yet to come this season, although given the weaknesses of the Sea Eagles, they should leave here with a win. Expect a bold showing from the home team, players like Koroisau moving to another position will be desperate to prove a point. Still, more will be needed in this match for them to win, which does mean that the overall margin of victory should be closer than expected. That has been the theme for the Panthers throughout this season although the new, unexpected combination in the halves could generate plenty of points for them over 80 minutes. Still, they will need to prove more before you can take them to win by that margin with confidence.
Panthers 1-12 @ $2.80
St George-Illawarra Dragons (9th) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (7th)
The Dragons enjoyed a week away with the bye following their strong win the previous week against the Cowboys. They faced a depleted opponent due to Origin selection and had a few things gone the way of their opponents, they could’ve suffered a loss. Regardless, they captured a much-needed win that will go a long way to boosting their confidence moving forward. They face the Bulldogs here, a team that knocked them out of the Finals series last year. Neither side has dominated the competition to date, however are on the cusp of Finals contention at this stage. For the Bulldogs, their season has been plagued with injury and inconsistent efforts. Only at some stages this year have they been able to perform like the forward-dominated team that has returned success for them in the past. They faced a great challenge last week, but ultimately went down with a James Maloney conversion separating the two sides in the dying minutes. It was s sign that the Bulldogs have worked hard on improving their play, although greater steps will have to be taken in coming weeks. They should be able to come out and hand one of their rivals a defeat, but the Dragons will be out to make things very difficult for them.
Dragons = Siliva Havili comes onto the bench for Josh McCrone.
Bulldogs = Unchanged.
Overall = Dragons 11 Bulldogs 19
Last 5 matches = Dragons 1 Bulldogs 4
At ANZ Stadium = Dragons 50% Bulldogs 57%
Form = Dragons 1 win – Bulldogs 2 losses
The Bulldogs deserve favoritism in this game given their improvement last week against the Sharks. Sure, it wasn’t the ideal result but there was a notable improvement in their execution and play. The Dragons may sit at a decent place on the stable for this stage of the season, but there is a notable gap between the top teams in the competition and the rest that are chasing them. That isn’t to suggest the Bulldogs are a premier team, but they’re ahead of the Dragons in terms of quality and class. They should perform well enough in this game in good to conditions to run up a comfortable margin of victory over their opponents. First, they will cover the line and the rest is anyone’s guess. The Dragons defence will aim to keep them in the contest for as long as possible but ultimately, they will not be able to score enough points to stick with their opponents.
Bulldogs -7.5 @ $1.90
Comfortably home = Bulldogs 13+ @ $2.60 – Conditions will be conducive to attacking football and the Bulldogs have plenty of weapons when they’re full of confidence. The Dragons may even struggle to score enough points to stick with their opponents and pressure them over 80 minutes.
Roar for Rona = Curtis Rona FTS and/or LTS @ $7 – Rona is playing well and is a regular attacking threat for the Bulldogs on the left edge. Expect an attacking raid or two to head that side early on in this contest, especially considering how vulnerable the Dragons can be on that side of the field.
Cronulla Sharks (1st) v North Queensland Cowboys (3rd)
This match is clearly the one that everyone is looking forward to this weekend as two of the premier teams in the competition face off for the second time in 2016. Back in Round 1, it was the Cowboys who came out and in an impressive display of class, overcame the Sharks in the end. Momentum is reversed now and the Sharks are flying high on the back of a 9-game winning streak, with their most recent win on Monday against the Bulldogs demonstrating the maturity that has come through this team in recent years. The Cowboys were equally impressive, albeit in far easier circumstances with a dominating display against the Knights. It was a game that was needed for them at this stage of the year, as it gave coach Paul Green a chance to limit the involvement of some of his representative players. More importantly, the Cowboys displayed class over their opponents that you would expect from a top team in the competition. Now, the stage is set for a thrilling contest as both teams aim to stay at the top of the competition. A loss would hardly dent either teams confidence or 2016 aspirations, but the intensity in this game will be a great guide toward what is expected at the business end of the competition.
Sharks = Unchanged.
Cowboys = Michael Morgan (injury) returns at 5/8 at the expense of Ray Thompson.
Overall = Sharks 20 Cowboys 15
Last 5 matches = Sharks 2 Cowboys 3
At Southern Cross Group Stadium = Sharks 55% Cowboys 36%
Form = Sharks 9 wins – Cowboys 1 win
All good things come to an end and unfortunately for the Sharks, this is the game that will end their current winning streak. Both teams have several players that have featured in representative matches this season and the best thing that could’ve happened for the Cowboys heading into this game was playing the Knights last week. It gave the leaders of this team a chance to have reduced minutes and freshen them up following a tough match on Wednesday. The Sharks had a tough match against the Bulldogs and while they have a full 7-days to prepare for this game, they will find themselves up against a “fresher” team. The home ground advantage in favor of the Sharks has to be considered also, but that will only count for so much. The Cowboys have put their travelling woes behind them and a trip to Sydney no longer holds the fear that it once did for this team. Expect this game to be very tight and rather than invest on either team to win outright, stick with the game to be decided by less than a converted try. If there is to be a winner, the Cowboys present value in margin markets.
Either team Under 6.5 Points @ $2.60
Breaking the streak = Cowboys 1-12 @ $2.85 – This game is going to be tight and with the Cowboys likely to finish as winners, consideration should be given to them winning by less than 2-converted tries. Unlike the suggested bet though, this game could be impacted by a draw or worse still, a narrow Sharks victory.