Sydney Roosters (15th) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (6th)
The Roosters had a week off last week to lament their 2-point loss at the hands of the Warriors. They were strong over 80 minutes and made their opponents find something else in order to beat them; a sign that the Roosters younger players are growing in confidence. Still, they sit at the bottom of the competition ladder and are motivated by pulling themselves off the bottom of the ladder now that their Finals aspirations have all but disappeared. The Bulldogs shocked most with their efforts last week against the Broncos, whereby they prevailed 40-14. Their second half display was impressive to say the least, as they headed into the break only narrowly ahead 10-4; in the opening 20-minutes of the second stanza, they were scoring almost a point-a-minute. They went directly at the Broncos, proving that their sheer strength in the forwards can be damaging when they relentless attack. Fatigue from their opponents didn’t help their cause, although the Bulldogs were up for the challenge that this match presented them. That win could be the turning point in their season as they ready themselves to rise up the competition ladder heading towards the business end of the competition.
Roosters = Blake Ferguson and Aidan Guerra (both Origin) return to their respective positions, forcing Sam Moa back to the bench. Mitchell Pearce (injury) returns at halfback, pushing Ryan Matterson back to the bench.
Bulldogs = Greg Eastwood (injury) returns at lock, pushing Asipeli Fine back to the bench.
Overall = Roosters 16 Bulldogs 20
Last 5 matches = Roosters 4 Bulldogs 1
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 63% Bulldogs 53%
Form = Roosters 2 losses – Bulldogs 2 wins
This season is not the year of the Roosters; they’ve been struggling from week to week and have just the 3 wins to their name this year. While their performances have been improving, it would be a major upset if they were to grab a win here. The Bulldogs took a step forward in the development of their season with their win over the Broncos last week and they’re expected to only improve from this point onwards. It was only back in Round 11 that the Bulldogs prevailed by 12-points over the Roosters, with a 77th minute try bringing the Roosters closer. There is no reason why this margin won’t again get out to a comfortable one for the Bulldogs, as the Roosters have lost their past 5 matches by an average margin of 16.4 points. When the Bulldogs win, they have tended to put on a show lately; their last 5 wins have been by an average of 17.8 points. When their big forwards get rolling, they’re very hard to stop. That being said, the fact that they’re coming off a short turnaround into this game and facing a younger Roosters pack need to be considered. Their forwards will be up for the challenge and with a week off prior to this match, they should be ready to fire. Expect the Bulldogs to still win, but it should not be by any more than 2 converted tries.
Bulldogs -5.5 @ $1.80
Barking mad = Bulldogs 1-12 @ $2.70 – The current statistics suggest that the Bulldogs should do it comfortably but circumstances surround this fixture means that it may if fact be more difficult than most are expecting.
Put two and two together = Bulldogs 7-12 @ $5 – There is more value on a riskier investment but if you combine the suggested be with the other selection, you come to this conclusion. Nevertheless, it is worth some heading into this game.
Brisbane Broncos (5th) v Melbourne Storm (2nd)
The Broncos headed home from Sydney last week following a disappointing and embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs. The 26-point thrashing was yet another sign that this team struggles following a representative match, now meaning that the Broncos have only won one match from their past 5 outings, a lucky win against the Tigers. Their poor form has coincided with a slide down the competition ladder and they face a tough test against a Storm team that is handling the representative period with ease currently. Nevertheless, they had a scare in their win over the Tigers, after being up 26-nil at HT. It was all one way traffic in the first half but the their opponents clicked into gear in the second half and despite eventually losing by 9-points, they were in with a chance of winning in the dying stages of that match. The Storm are functioning very well at the moment and it is no secret that aside from their usual stars, other players within this squad are playing above and beyond what has been seen from them in the past. With a high standard being set, the Storm are a formidable opponent for most. That aside, the Broncos will be desperate to turn around their form, providing a tough test for the visitors here.
Broncos = Andrew McCullough (injury) return at hooker, with Travis Waddell moving back to the bench and Herman Ese’ese out of the team altogether. Alex Glenn (suspension) returns in the second row, moving Jaydn Su’a to the bench. Kodi Nikorima moves to the centres for Tom Opacic (injured) and Lachlan Maranta comes onto the wing for Greg Eden (injured).
Storm = Matt White comes onto the bench for Nelson Asofa-Solomona (injured).
Overall = Broncos 12 Draw 1 Storm 25
Last 5 matches = Broncos 1 Storm 4
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 61% Storm 79%
Form = Broncos 1 loss – Storm 1 win
Surprisingly, the Broncos will head into this game as favorites. They’ve had a terrible run during the representative season continues and with only one win in their past five matches, serious questions are being raised about their current potential. They’re expected to lift again once this is completed but for the moment, they face a real challenge. Defence will be a key to victory here and the fact is that on average the Storm (20 misses per game) miss less tackles than the Broncos (26 misses per game). They also enjoy a superior record on this ground and with plenty of players enjoying success on this ground, running out onto Suncorp Stadium at kick off will hold no reservations for them. Furthermore, the Broncos have won just one of the past 10 meetings between these two sides. This means that an upset could be on the cards and a close one at that. The margin for victory between these two sides in the past 3 matches sits at 6.3 points, meaning that this game could be a close encounter. There are plenty of betting options that can be taken out of this match and a great match could be about to take place.
Storm @ $2.40
Tri your luck here = Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.65 – As mentioned above, the last few matches between these two sides have been close and with fatigue rising during the Origin period, the quality and ability of the performance may decline to limit the final winning margin of either side.
New Zealand Warriors (11th) v Gold Coast Titans (10th)
The Warriors proved that their midseason revival is still building but should be taken seriously, being defeated by the Sharks in Golden Point. The home team was battling fatigue from their representative players but the Warriors played a strong brand of play, having a high completion rate (82%) and troubling the Sharks with offloads. Now, they will have a chance to again prove a point against a Titans team that is coming off a loss at home to the Raiders. Things didn’t to plan for the home team going down by 8-points in the end, as two tries in the last 10 minutes made the score line more respectable than it appeared. A recent difficult schedule of matches away from home and a strong intensity in those games has built up for the Titans. They appeared tired in their last match and a short turnaround into this game, as well as a trip across to New Zealand, provides this week’s match as a difficult task ahead of them. With a spot in the Top 8 on the line with a win, both teams will be desperate to grab 2-competition points with a win.
Warriors = Tuimoala Lolohea comes onto the wing for Jonathan Wright (injured), while Nathaniel Roache comes onto the bench.
Titans = William Zillman (injury) returns at fullback, allowing Josh Hoffman to move back to the centre. Chris McQueen will shift to the other side of the field for Nathan Davis (injured). Leivaha Pulu is named to start in the second row, while Eddy Pettybourne will start from the bench.
Overall = Warriors 11 Titans 7
Last 5 matches = Warriors 4 Titans 1
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 58% Titans 38%
Form = Warriors 1 loss – Titans 1 loss
The Titans are a different side in 2016 but the Warriors are enjoying a mid-season revival to warrant more respect each week. The Titans are hardly a team that doesn’t warrant respect, although they will be struggling after a loss and a short turnaround. The trip across to New Zealand to a ground that hasn’t been kind to them warrants the Warriors heading into this game as favorites. That being said, the price being offered is way too short and these two sides may be closer than the odds are suggesting. The Warriors are still struggling for consistency, although their effort against the Sharks last week highlights what they’re capable of. If they play up to that level, there is no stopping what they can achieve in this match. The last 5 wins the Warriors have had over the Titans have been by an average of 15-points, while the last 3 wins the Warriors have had have been by 18.7 points (one was a blowout to the Knights though). The Titans are looking tired currently, with a busy travelling schedule taking its toll on some of their younger players. Injuries haven’t been kind to them either and once they get going, the Warriors could be too much to handle.
Warriors 13+ @ $2.30
The “new” beast? = Tuimoala Lolohea FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – With Vatuvei currently out, there is a chance for a youngster to step into the side and make a name for themselves. At the age of 21, Lolohea is hardly a rookie, having 40 NRL games to his name and scores a try once every 3 matches.
Wests Tigers (12th) v Penrith Panthers (8th)
The Tigers played two different games last week in the one contest last week in their loss to the Storm, with their effort in the second half far better than the one in the first whereby they conceded 26-points to none. Defence has continually been an issue for the Tigers and this effort was an example of how much improvement is still needed if they’re to be competitive. The talent they displayed in the second half was special and they were in with a chance of upsetting the Storm on the back of building momentum. The Panthers had no such issues in their win over the Rabbitohs, although their opponents were very close to snatching victory away from them. It was a shame that they finished the match in that manner, as the Panthers appeared to always be in control of the outcome. Still, that win made it gave them consecutive victories and heading into this game, they have a chance to make it 3-wins in a row. More importantly, they’ve been able to drag themselves into the Top 8 and with this young team growing in confidence, they are beginning to peak at the right stage of the competition.
Tigers = Robbie Farah (injury) is named to return after missing last week, albeit from the bench.
Panthers = Sam McKendry (suspension) is named to return from an extended bench.
Overall = Tigers 11 Panthers 16
Last 5 matches = Tigers 3 Panthers 2
At ANZ Stadium = Tigers 42% Panthers 42%
Form = Tigers 1 loss – Panthers 2 wins
If the Panthers want to be taken seriously, this is a game that they should win and do so with authority. The Tigers struggles continue and winning this game will be a task that will test them immensely, although they have won 6 of the past 8 meetings between these two teams. It seemed easy for them to lift against the Storm, they were down, their opponents had switched off and they had nothing to lose by chancing their arms. Fact is though; they always appeared out of the result. The Panthers have plenty of talent and strong defensive structure to combat what the Tigers will throw their way, although they too have been guilty of switching off, just like last week. The Panthers have enough to at least cover the line that is being offered and from there is anyone’s guess. Their record of close matches continued last week and it will not be surprising to see that carry over into this match. That suggests to the eventual margin of victory being less than two converted tries and them experiencing stages where they need to work have for their victory.
Panthers -3.5 @ $1.80
Not so comfortable = Panthers 1-12 @ $2.80 – As stated above, the Panthers have a history of close matches this season and this game is expected to offer more of the same. The Tigers hinted last week at how they can be competitive and if they’re not careful, the Tigers could be caught off guard.
Cronulla Sharks (1st) v Parramatta Eels (4th)
The Sharks continued along their amazing run with a Golden Point victory against the Warriors on home turf and at the same time, being the first team to qualify for the Finals in 2016. It was a dramatic match that they had to battle for dominance over a motivated and powerful Warriors pack, with this match appearing as though it could be the first they lost in a long time. However, in a sign of the improvement of this team, they grinded out a tough win, doing a great job of limiting their mistakes. The intensity will probably drop in this game though, as the Eels are struggling with a host of issues. Even with a week out of the game with a bye, the Eels still found a way to make headlines with news around Radradra, Foran and the salary cap saga. Impressive play and winning will make these problems momentarily disappear, although the task of winning against the quality of opponent will be far more difficult than their last win over the Rabbitohs. That was a motivating victory for the squad, with the final score line of 30-12 demonstrating their dominance. If the same could be reproduced here, they may be competitive, although the Sharks are in a rare run of form that has fans believing that this could be their year to capture the title.
Sharks = Sosaia Feki (injury) returns to the wing, with Ricky Leutele dropping back to the bench.
Eels = Michael Jennings (Origin) returns in the centres for Vai Toutai. Cody Nelson comes onto the bench for Kaysa Pritchard (injured), while many wait to see if Radradra will return to the country.
Overall = Sharks 13 Eels 15
Last 5 matches = Sharks 2 Eels 3
At Southern Cross Group Stadium = Sharks 55% Eels 58%
Form = Sharks 11 wins – Eels 3 wins
If the Eels were to win this game, the result would be surprising to say the least. The fact that the Eels are in such a bad way off the field hasn’t affected their on-field performances just yet; they’re on a 3-game winning streak but the class of teams they have been facing (Rabbitohs, Titans and Knights) are far worse than the Sharks. The home team is the leading the competition for a reason and they will not want to drop this game on home turf and end their dream run. Majority of the Eels record on this game has come when they had much more talent within their team. They were successful here (20-point victory) last year but there is more to play for now for the Sharks. That is why the home team will head into this game as strong favorites and be hard to beat. The hardest thing to decide on is the margin of victory and the Sharks have found it hard to pull away from teams recently as each opponent is prepared for the quality they will produce. They have an average just 3.5-points in their past 4 matches, with two of those teams being outside the Top 8. Nevertheless, they have beaten the Eels in their past 3 matches by an average of 10.3 points, suggesting that they will be slightly within two converted tries.
Sharks 1-12 @ $2.75
Canberra Raiders (7th) v Newcastle Knights (16th)
In a sign that the Raiders have matured as a team, they went up to the Gold Coast and delivered a victory that was expected of them. It was a controlled effort from a team that has struggled for consistency in the past, with that win pushing them into the Top 8. The final score line of 30-22 was flattering towards their opponents, who scored two tries in the last 10 minutes of the match. Now, they will be out to make amends for a draw they had against the Knights earlier this year, one of only two matches that the Knights have gained points from this year. As for the Knights, their losing streak continued with a loss at home to the Dragons. The 12-point victory in favor of the visitors could’ve been more as the Knights only score 3 tries to their opponents 6. Each week is a new challenge for them and despite their losing record; there have been spots of individual brilliance along the way. Rugby league is a team game though and with the Knights again desperate to break their recent run, the Raiders will need to approach this game as they would any other.
Raiders = Luke Bateman will start at lock, with Junior Paulo named at prop. These moves see Sia Soliola and Paul Vaughan relegated to the bench.
Knights = Unchanged.
Overall = Raiders 16 Draw 2 Knights 15
Last 5 matches = Raiders 3 Draw 1 Knights 1
At GIO Stadium = Raiders 39% Knights 50%
Form = Raiders 1 loss – Knights 9 losses
There is hope that the Knights will be able to replicate their last effort against the Raiders but fact is; the Raiders have improved remarkably since then while the Knights are going backwards. The road trip down to Canberra will only make the task more difficult, especially with the temperature expected to dip into single figures. That is why the Knights cannot find any takers in the market; the Raiders will be too strong for their opponents and should be able to dominate from start to finish. The fear for the visitors is that this game will get out to an ugly margin if the Knights are not careful, as much as 24.5 points is being offered for them in “line” markets and this is always dangerous territory. Problem is, the Knights concede and average of 34.7 PPG, while the Raiders have no trouble scoring them, averaging 25.1 PPG and winning their past 5 games at this ground by 17.4 points. The Raiders have more than enough motivation heading into this game and they have a unique ability to throw the ball around, yet pressure their opponents at the same time. As risky as it can be, the Raiders look set to blow their opponents away on the scoreboard and covering the line and much more.
Raiders 30+ @ $2.35
Remember me? = Joey Leilua FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – Leilua once wore the Knights jersey and left in controversial circumstances. Things between him and his old club are still pretty frosty and you can be sure that the lethal right edge for the Raiders will want to give Leilua every chance against inexperienced opponents.
South Sydney Rabbitohs (13th) v North Queensland Cowboys (3rd)
The Rabbitohs continue to slide down the ladder on the back of disappointing performances, most recently their loss to the Panthers. They were afforded the opportunity to decrease the score line between the two teams and in the closing minutes of match, they had a chance to steal victory. It was that last play when the match was on the line that was most disappointing, as they appeared to lack direction and a killer instinct. The Cowboys will want to use this to their advantage, as they were pushed more than expected by the Sea Eagles on Monday. They got home by 4-points in the end but their victory was not without worry, with some impressive individual performances separating the two sides. They are handling the representative period better than some other teams in the competition, with this game providing another challenge, as it will be played in Mackay. Fatigue is certain to build up at one stage or another but for the moment, Paul Green is doing a great job of managing his talented roster. The Rabbitohs will want to deliver their “adopted” home crowd a victory, while at the same time avoiding a certain end to the season that a loss could deliver.
Rabbitohs = Adam Reynolds (injury) returns at halfback, allowing Luke Keary to move to 5/8 and Cody Walker to fullback. Aaron Gray moves to the centres for Ed Murphy (dropped), while Jack Gosiewski returns on the bench.
Cowboys = Patrick Kaufusi (injured) is replaced at 5/8 by Ray Thompson, with Rory Kostjasyn coming onto the bench.
Overall = Rabbitohs 12 Draw 1 Cowboys 14
Last 5 matches = Rabbitohs 1 Cowboys 4
At Barlow Park = Rabbitohs 67% Cowboys (Never played here)
Form = Rabbitohs 4 losses – Cowboys 1 win
The Rabbitohs season is struggling and unfortunately, their pain looks set to continue here against one of the leading teams in the competition. Their only saving grace may be that the Cowboys are tiring and many of their representative stars will want to keep themselves fresh for the final Origin match. They’re not desperate for a win; they know that their position in the Top 8 is relatively safe for now. This does not mean that the Rabbitohs are a chance of winning the game, but it does bring the line into play. Quite simply, the Rabbitohs are not the same team they once were and if they cannot beat sides like the Eels, Tigers and Titans, they will hardly be able to get the better of the Cowboys. Expect an improved effort yet again though, especially at a place that they have chosen to move a game to. Sides head up to the town earlier and will want to put on a show for their “adopted” fans. Eventually though, the class of the Cowboys should be too much for the struggling Rabbitohs to handle.
Rabbitohs +8.5 @ $1.90
Riding home = Cowboys 1-12 @ $2.80 – If the line is an option, then investing in this market is definitely worth some thought. With the Cowboys fatigue growing and the Origin period looming, they may not apply the same level of pressure as they would against a fellow Top 8 team.
Winter’s man = Antonio Winterstein FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – He has scored in each of the past 3 matches of the Cowboys, two of which were the first in the game. The Cowboys like going to his edge of the field and this will not be impacted upon with the absence of Morgan. The Rabbitohs wingers have also been exposed plenty of times this year with no sign of it ending soon.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (14th) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (9th)
For the third consecutive week, the Sea Eagles feature on MNF, with this match being their second as hosts. They head into this game with a horrible losing streak; nevertheless they will be boosted by their improved performance last week against the Cowboys. Coming up against one of the best in the competition in Townsville, no one expected the Sea Eagles to push their opponents as far as they did. Quality players returning to their lineup aided their cause but perhaps the Cowboys were guilty of taking their opponents lightly. The Dragons come into this game with winning form, capturing a 12-point victory over the Knights in Newcastle. They thought that their margin of victory would’ve been more but poor goal kicking let them down in that respect. Still, winning form is better than anything at this stage as they battle to stay in touch with the Top 8. That win moved them momentarily into Finals contention, with other results across the weekend knocking them back down the ladder. With plenty to play for, they will face a tough test against an improving team. While they too are improving, their attack will continue to be questioned as they struggled to score points; although last week will give them plenty of confidence heading into this weeks fixture.
Sea Eagles = Unchanged.
Dragons = Tariq Sims (contract clause) returns to the bench. Jack de Belin will start at lock, forcing Jacob Host back to the bench.
Overall = Sea Eagles 8 Dragons 15
Last 5 matches = Sea Eagles 3 Dragons 2
At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 64% Dragons 45%
Form = Sea Eagles 7 losses – Dragons 2 wins
This game is expected to be very close, with the Sea Eagles proving last week that they are improving their performances with several key players returning to their team. The Dragons are outsiders for this game, surprising enough as they bring winning form into this game, while their opponents haven’t won since they beat the Knights by 16-points in Round 8. With just 4 wins to their name, half of the Dragons, many believe that the superior record of the sea Eagles will be enough to get them over the line. Unfortunately though, rugby league requires more than that and the point-scoring struggles of the Dragons may bring about their downfall. They only average 13.9 PPG in 2016, compared with the Sea Eagles 17.8 PPG, while both sides concede above an average of 20-points. The effort the Sea Eagles last week demonstrated a change within this squad and they are the way to go, as long as the Dragons are scoring as poorly as they are. In terms of an investment, this match looks headed for a close contest, with the eventual winner prevailing by no more than a converted try.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.75