Penrith Panthers (9th) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (13th)
The Panthers would’ve enjoyed their week off a lot more after their fantastic, come-from-behind victory, over the Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval. Being down 24-4 at one stage, they looked out of the contest but built relentless pressure to wear their opponents down in the end. While that win was impressive, they would be frustrated that they let themselves get into that situation in the first place. Now, they return home for the first time since Round 11, when the Titans upset them. Hoping to avoid a similar outcome, they face a Rabbitohs team that is struggling. Their last outing against the Eels delivered a 30-12 loss and their standing on the ladder, combined with that performance, only highlights the extensive issues that are occurring at this club. With their next bye not until Round 18, time is almost up for them to salvage their season. They do not appear as a happy club currently and the level of effort from players, as well as their execution appears to be letting them down. Even when they were firing, it was short-lived as the Eels defence shut down their attacking raids.
Panthers = Unchanged.
Rabbitohs = Adam Reynolds (Origin) was initially named but will miss out after failing to finish on Wednesday, while Greg Inglis (Origin) moves to the centres. Luke Keary will start at 5/8, pushing Cody Walker back to fullback and Alex Johnston to the wing. Aaron Gray shifts into the centres, while Tautalatasi Tasi makes his NRL debut on the wing. Paul Carter (suspended) has been replaced by Jack Gosiewski, Patrice Siolo and Ed Murphy on the bench, with 2 players to be left out.
Overall = Panthers 13 Rabbitohs 12
Last 5 matches = Panthers 1 Rabbitohs 4
At Pepper Stadium = Panthers 53% Rabbitohs 33%
Form = Panthers 1 win – Rabbitohs 3 losses
Looking at the markets, the Rabbitohs are outsiders in this match and rightly so given their recent form. The Panthers firmed as favorites following the news that Adam Reynolds will be out of this game, although there is some concern around just how short the Panthers are heading into this match. Their last win over Manly didn’t go to plan, as they let their opponents dominate majority of the match. The positive for them is that once they did get going, they were able to finish the match strongly and they will be hoping that their momentum can carry through into their encounter. The Rabbitohs have a host of issues that they need to address before they’ll be closer to victory and despite the Panthers being too short in head-to-head markets, they are the ideal selection. The fact that they can leave competent players out of their team and have strong, powerful players coming off the bench, is a sign of their depth. They will aim to negate the Rabbitohs forwards and leave it up to their young halves to lead them to victory. In terms of an investment, the Panthers rarely win matches by more than 2-converted tries and that appears as the way to go in this contest.
Panthers 1-12 @ $2.80
A peach-patch of form! = Tyrone Peachy FTS and/or LTS @ $10 – He found his way to the line first for his team in their last match and Peachy is growing in confidence with each match. Isolating a defending one-on-one works into his favor, although he is dangerous in a variety of situations. Also consider investing him to score a try at any stage ($2.10).
Newcastle Knights (16th) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (11th)
The Knights were thankful to have a week away from the spotlight last week, following their 50-14 drubbing by the Warriors. Things at this club are not working for them currently, with a lack of experience and talent continually hampering their play. They have just the one win for the season and despite improving their enthusiasm, still appear to be a long way from grabbing their second. The Dragons will take winning form into this match after overcoming a depleted Storm outfit. Their 20-10 win makes it 2 out of their past 3 matches, although that form is overshadowed by the fact that both games they have won have been during the Origin period when significant players were missing for their opponents. Still, they have captured 2-competition points at the end of the day and it has gone a long way to them keeping touch with the Top 8 in the competition. Now, the challenge for them is to improve upon that effort and win a game that they’re expected to against a team that is struggling. These games can often be difficult, as sides struggle to maintain motivation against weaker opponents. The Knights grow more desperate with each loss and if the Dragons are not careful, they could drop a game they should win.
Knights = Brendan Elliot shifts to the wing for Jake Mano (injured), allowing for Peter Mata’utia (injury) to return to the centres and Nathan Ross (injury) to the other wing. Robbie Rochow (injury) returns to the bench, with 3 players to be left out closer to KO.
Dragons = Tariq Sims (contract clause) is replaced on the bench by Dunamis Lui. Neither Tyson Frizell (Origin) or Josh Dugan (injury) have been named but could be late inclusions.
Overall = Knights 10 Dragons 21
Last 5 matches = Knights 1 Dragons 4
At Hunter Stadium = Knights 59% Dragons 89%
Form = Knights 8 losses – Dragons 1 win
The Knights will be hoping that their losing streak comes to an end very soon, however they will have their work cutout for them against a rejuvenated Dragons team. If they are to get close to victory, they need to ensure that they make the task of winning this game very difficult for their opponents. They simply do not have the quality within their team to compete with the better teams in the competition and while the Dragons are not sitting inside the Top 8, they will have enough to combat what the Knights throw at them. It is a tricky game though, if they’re not careful, the Knights could surprise them. Another win for them will eventually come and as a team, they may sense that this is their opportunity. In terms of an investment, the line is the ideal betting option, considering the average scoring levels of both teams; the Dragons average 12.7 points per game compared with the Knights 11.5ppg. This also leaves the option open for the Knights to surprise punters, with the match there for the Dragons to lose.
Cronulla Sharks (1st) v New Zealand Warriors (10th)
The Sharks had a week off to sit at the top of the competition ladder and be proud of what they have achieved to date. Their most recent outing proved their worth; as they delivered their home fans a 3-point win over the Cowboys. They displayed determination to overcome an early try and force mistakes from their opponents. The Sharks winning streak sits at 10 wins now and they’re growing in confidence. The same can be said for the Warriors, who are in the midst of a mid-season revival that has them on a 3-game winning streak. They have hardly set the world alight with their play, but their form is improving and they too are growing in confidence. Still, the class of opponents they’ve beaten is well below what they would face here, although players returning from Origin may limit their quality. This will be the toughest test they have faced since they overcame the Broncos on home soil, with the task made more difficult as they have to travel across to Southern Cross Group Stadium, where they have a horrible record.
Sharks = Unchanged.
Warriors = Jacob Lillyman (Origin) returns and will start at prop. This forces Ben Matulino back to the bench, along with Toafofoa Sipley and Ata Hingano (NRL Debut), with 2 players to be left out.
Overall = Sharks 17 Warriors 14
Last 5 matches = Sharks 3 Warriors 2
At Southern Cross Group Stadium = Sharks 55% Warriors 29%
Form = Sharks 10 wins – Warriors 3 wins
This game will truly test both teams; the Sharks because they have several players backing up from Wednesday and the Warriors given their recent resurgence. Unfortunately, the Warriors have multiple factors working against them, most notably their record at this ground. Combine this with Shaun Johnson playing injured and a forward pack that struggles against powerful packs and the outcome of this game is favoring the home side. The Sharks have the second best defensive record in the league, giving up an average of 15.2 points per game, compared with the Warriors 24.4ppg. At the same time, the Sharks are leathal in attack and are only improving; they score an average of 25.7ppg and will aim to pile the pressure on the Warriors from the opening minutes. If they can and their opponents crack, the Sharks will enjoy a comfortable victory in this match. If this doesn’t happen as expected, the Sharks should still be too strong for their opponents and get home by more than 2-converted tries.
Sharks 13+ @ $2.30
Bird is the word = Jack Bird FTS and/or LTS @ $10 – Bird hasn’t crossed the tryline since Round 7 of the competition but is looking as dangerous as every with the ball in hand. Despite only scoring 2-tries all year, he will benefit from his performance on Wednesday. He is look as dangerous as ever and will again be pushing close to the line.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (6th) v Brisbane Broncos (4th)
The Bulldogs were last-start winners against the Dragons in Round 14, enjoying a much-needed win on the back of a 2-game losing streak. They had a week out of the spotlight to recover and yield two points from the bye; still sitting in the bottom half of the Top 8. Even with their understrength play, the Bulldogs are performing better than most, giving the indication that towards the end of the season they could be dangerous. A remarkable amount of improve will be needed from them if that is to happen, especially in their halves. The Broncos are sliding closer to them on the ladder, although their form has been impacted upon by, amongst other things, player fatigue. Still, they have been able to field a quality team and they will not tolerate losing streaks for much longer. That aside, they head into this game as winners, grabbing an 8-point victory over a lackluster Raiders team in Round 14. The last time they had players return from Origin, they suffered an upset at the hands of the Warriors. Wayne Bennett will be ensuring that his side is better prepared for this encounter.
Bulldogs = Danny Fualalo and Lloyd Perrett come onto the extended bench.
Broncos = The Broncos have named all of their Origin players to back-up from Wednesday. Jordan Kahu (injured) is replaced by Tom Opacic (NRL Debut) in the centres. Sam Thaiday (suspended in Origin) is out, with Jaydn Su’a coming onto the bench to fill the vacant spot.
Overall = Bulldogs 14 Draw 1 Broncos 19
Last 5 matches = Bulldogs 1 Broncos 4
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 57% Broncos 52%
Form = Bulldogs 1 win – Broncos 1 win
The Broncos have struggled recently, winning just one of their past 4 matches. Despite this, they will offer more than their opponents in this contest, with the challenge lying ahead of them being to manage the fatigue of their key players following Origin. The rest of the squad will be primed for this match, especially after enjoying a week off last week. The Bulldogs will also be ready for this contest, although their form suggests that they may struggle. In saying that, you have to always be wary of a Des Halser-coached team, as they have a unique ability to rise to the level of their opponents or the occasion of the match. They have made a habit of starting matches very strongly, only to be run down late by their opponents. If they can get the jump on the Broncos, they may just have enough in a grinding-type of match to overcome them, considering the level of fatigue in their opponents. The preferred option in this game appears to be investing around a tight contest and watching this game play out. The Broncos lost in their last match following Origin and that match still lingers in the back of punters mind. Nevertheless, the game is very tight on numerous betting markets, adding greater support that two teams that sit closely on the ladder are more evenly match than most would think.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.60
Gold Coast Titans (8th) v Canberra Raiders (7th)
The Titans prevailed in MNF against the Sea Eagles; displaying the superior class and talent that is expected of them in that situation. Their opponents were struggling and despite it taking a while for them to get the better of their opponents, they did it nonetheless. Now, the challenge for them is to continue on with their form and solidify their spot in the Top 8. They will have confidence heading into this game, as they face the Raiders, a team they beat by 4-points back in Round 4 away from home. The Raiders will be out for revenge for that result, as well as their 8-point loss to the Broncos in Round 14. That was their last outing and the final score line flattered somewhat, with many of their squad underperforming on the big stage of Suncorp Stadium. It was a change to prove their 2016 credentials and hopefully, they’ve learnt from that performance and will be better for it moving into this match.
Titans = Greg Bird (Origin) is named at lock, forcing Agnatius Paasi back to the bench.
Raiders = Jack Wighton (suspension) returns at fullback, while Shannon Boyd (suspension) will start at prop, forcing Paul Vaughan back to the bench.
Overall = Titans 11 Raiders 7
Last 5 matches = Titans 3 Raiders 2
At Cbus Super Stadium = Titans 51% Raiders 25%
Form = Titans 1 win – Raiders 1 loss
This game features two teams that are evenly matched, with the Raiders having the slight edge in betting markets. That would be because the Titans are coming off MNF, which followed on from two tough road trips that increased fatigue. The Raiders are also boosted by the return of key players to their team, all of which boost their competitiveness over 80 minutes. Ultimately, fatigue or lack there of, may go a long way to deciding the outcome of this game. The Titans have been impressive with some of their recent play but may find this task beyond them. Unfortunately for the Raiders, they’ve always found the trip to the Gold Coast a tough one and this should be no different, with this game destined to go down to the wire. The Raiders should have the edge though, with greater power in the forwards allowing their exciting halves and outside backs to pressure their opponents. A Titans loss wouldn’t shock either, as they’re a capable team in a variety of situations. However, in the end the Raiders should be too strong, scoring an average of 24.8 PPG, compared with their opponents 20.1 PPG. This leads to thinking that they should be able to cover the line, but winning by no more than 2-converted tries.
Raiders -1.5 @ $1.90
Melbourne Storm (2nd) v Wests Tigers (12th)
The last time these two sides met, the Storm scraped home by a 1-point margin in dramatic circumstances. It was a thrilling contest that left fans thinking the Storm were going to continue to struggle, while improvement appeared on the horizon for the Tigers. Now, long after that result, both teams have traveled in the opposite direction. Despite coming of a loss, the Storm still sit second, only to be hampered by Origin against the Dragons. The remaining players still did them proud and they appear to be heading in the right direction with a strong, core group of players. The Tigers are the opposite, coming off a win following a disappointing loss the Roosters. They still sit at the wrong end of the competition ladder, as off-field issues continue to plague this team moving forward. This will be their toughest test to date, as the Storm grow in stature on their home field. Combine this with their improving effort after a loss and the Tigers will certainly make a statement if they’re able to win this game.
Storm = Cameron Munster (injury) returns at fullback, while Blake Green (injury) will start at 5/8, allowing Tohu Harris to move to the back row. Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith (both Origin) are named to start at halfback and hooker respectively. This pushes Kenny Bromwich back to the bench.
Tigers = Jordan Rankin (injury) returns on the wing. Robbie Farah (injured in Origin) has been ruled out on medical advice, with a reshuffle within the forwards expected.
Overall = Storm 17 Tigers 10
Last 5 matches = Storm 3 Tigers 2
At AAMI Park = Storm 73% Tigers 50%
Form = Storm 1 loss – Tigers 1 win
The Tigers will take plenty of confidence from their last meeting against the Storm and will need it on their trip south to Melbourne. There is a reason the Storm sit as high as they do on the competition ladder and it revolves strongly around the quality within their team. Losing Farah hampers the Tigers further, although Jason Taylor will believe that it will enhance his young halves performance. They may struggle for confidence as the more experienced Storm players pressure them relentlessly. The home team’s forwards have been improving each week and they have a great ability to set a strong platform for the rest of the team to build from. This match should play out in this manner and allow the Storm to dictate what happens over the 80 minutes. In terms of a final score line, the Tigers concede too many point to be competitive (average 25.1 per game) and if the Storm get rolling early, they should be able to run up a tally on the Tigers. Even if things do not go their way early, the Storms defence will keep the Tigers held for majority of this match, while also scoring enough points themselves to get home comfortably.
Storm 13+ @ $1.90
Storming home = Storm 19+ @ $2.70 – There is plenty of risk with this bet, considering that if the Storm get out to a comfortable lead, they could take their playmakers off the field. Still, there is value that is there for the taking.
NRL’s leading man = Suliasi Vunivalu FTS and/or LTS @ $6 – His double last week rocketed him to the top of the leading try scorers list and there is little sign that he is going to slow down. He will again be a danger from anywhere on the field and only increases his chances with Cronk and Smith coming back into the team.
North Queensland Cowboys (3rd) v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (14th)
The Cowboys enjoyed a week-off last week, after going down narrowly to the Sharks in Round 14. Last time during Origin they were beaten by the Dragons, making their recent run of form appear lackluster, although to those who have watched them play, they would be aware of how well this team is functioning. It is often a major challenge for the current Premiers to maintain intensity and thus far, Paul Green has done a terrific job of managing his team. Here, they face a struggling team in the Sea Eagles, who have back-to-back MNF matches and are desperate to break their losing streak. Injuries have not been kind to them and player availability is limiting what they’re able to produce over 80 minutes. The Titans simply had too much strength, power and speed for them last week and that alone is enough to make fans of the Sea Eagles very worried running into this game. A few players return this week, however this team is struggling at a time when they were meant to be rebuilding towards the future and developing the club.
Cowboys = Unchanged, with all of the Cowboys Origin players named to play.
Sea Eagles = DCE (injury) returns at halfback, allowing Apisai Koroisau to move to hooker for Matt Parcell (injured). Dylan Walker (Origin) has been named at 5/8, while Nathan Green will start in the back row and Addin Fonua-Blake on the bench for Liam Knight (injured).
Overall = Cowboys 11 Sea Eagles 13
Last 5 matches = Cowboys 4 Sea Eagles 1
At 1300Smile Stadium = Cowboys 85% Sea Eagles 20%
Form = Cowboys 1 loss – Sea Eagles 6 losses
The Sea Eagles form is terrible, they struggle in Townsville and the Cowboys are egger to return to winning form. This match should be nothing but one-way traffic for the home team, to the point where the Sea Eagles should not have a chance of winning. Something the Cowboys have always done well is win matches they should, similar to this one, with class. Examples of that this season has been their performances over the Roosters (40-nil) and Knights (46-16), both of which were in Townsville. The Knights win also came on the back of Origin, with these combing factors suggesting that this game should be a foregone conclusion. In terms of an investment, the Sea Eagles defensive record of conceding an average of 24.1 PPG, while only scoring 17.2 PPG means that the Cowboys will have things their own way. Once they get rolling, things could get very ugly for their opponents by the end of 80 minutes.
Cowboys -16.5 @ $1.90
Go for more = Cowboys 19+ @ $2.10 – If the Cowboys gather early momentum, there is no limit to what they can achieve in this match. The Sea Eagles struggle to hold their opponents at the best of times and in Townsville, the Cowboys are even more dangerous.