Sydney Roosters (15th) v Brisbane Broncos (6th)
Both teams head into this game out to put a poor performance in Round 20 behind them. For the Roosters, it was the second time this year that they were comprehensively beaten by the Storm. Hopes were high for the visitors after they opened the scoring in the match with the first try, but that would be their only points until SKD crossed for their final try in the 79th minute. With possession against them, the Roosters crumbled under the pressure that the Storm delivered, while also committing 12 errors. It was a much more disappointing effort from the Broncos, as they were dismantled and outplayed by the Panthers. Similar statistics were against them throughout the contest, although they only had a 67% completion rate and made 11 errors; a surprising statistics to say the least for a team that was hoping to push into the Top 4. The uncharacteristic performance from the Broncos has many wondering what has gone wrong, with only 2 wins from their past 11 matches causing plenty of concern. They may get the ideal opportunity to regain some confidence against a struggling team, however greater improvement is needed if they’re to contend with the leading teams in the competition.
Roosters = Isaac Liu moves to prop to covre for Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (injured), with Mitch Aubusson shifting from the centres to the back row. Dale Copley comes back into the side to fill the vacated spot.
Broncos = Matt Gillett (injury) was initially named but will not play, with a replacement for Sam Thaiday’s (suspended) position yet to be named. Alex Glenn moves to the back row, with Adam Blair moving to prop for Josh McGuire (suspended). Tom Opacic has been promoted to start in the centres.
Overall = Roosters 14 Broncos 17
Last 5 Matches = Roosters 3 Broncos 2
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 62% Broncos 67%
Form = Roosters 6 losses – Broncos 1 loss
The players missing for the Broncos have lead many to think that the Roosters may be capable of competing in this match, if not winning it. The thought that they could cause an upset it well founded; the Broncos have lost their form in recent weeks and the power in the forwards that once put them in winning positions appears to be absent. Nevertheless, the Roosters are without JWH and it has been a while since they were competitive in a match. If the Broncos manage to regain some form, they could cope with what their opponents throw at them. The difference between the two sides is close and the suggestion that the Roosters can win is more founded on hope than anything substantial. In terms of investing on both teams, the lack of confidence makes it extremely hard to find a position angle to run with. The ideal selection appears to be selecting this game to be a close contest and won by less than 2 converted tries. The support is there for this option, with the past 5 matches between these two sides during the regular season having an average winning margin of 5.2 points; of those games, the Roosters have won 3 and the Broncos 2. For the sake of picking a winner, it is hard to like the Roosters based upon their poor form for the duration of the season, as well as the short turnaround heading into this match. Sure, the Broncos haven’t been much better recently, but there is more potential within their side to turn their form around and charge towards the Finals.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.75
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (5th) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (11th)
Hopes were high for the Bulldogs heading into their match against the Cowboys last Thursday, after spending several days in Townsville acclimatizing to the conditions and preparing for that match. Based on the 36-nil result, that could be the last time they attempt such a preparation, as they were meticulously beaten by a superior team. That loss also saw them slip out of the Top 4, but with an easier run home, many believe that they can reaffirm their standing. Things went from bad to worse for the Dragons, who suffered defeat against the Tigers, in a match where they never appeared to be in the contest. It was again painful to watch this team attempt to build attacking momentum, with a lack of cohension and talent proving to be their limitations. Regardless, they are still a chance of making the Top 8 and should be using this as motivation; although they are under a false pretense based upon their current execution in recent weeks.
Bulldogs = Unchanged.
Dragons = Jacob Host and Will Matthews added to an extended bench in the absence of Leeson Ah Mau (suspended).
Overall = Bulldogs 20 Dragons 11
Last 5 Matches = Bulldogs 4 Dragons 1
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 58% Dragons 48%
Form = Bulldogs 1 loss – Dragons 3 losses
The Bulldogs were poor last week but the Dragons were worse; with the potential at the Bulldogs suggesting that they’re more capable of bouncing back. The quality that they faced last week is one of the highest in the league and the Dragons would be performing miracles if they were able to match that. The Bulldogs are strong favorites, almost to the point where there is little value in investing on them, with many suggesting that this game will be won by more than 2 converted tries. The Dragons are being given a 16-point start and rightly so given they only average 13.2 points in attack compared with the Bulldogs 22.7 PPG. In fact, the past 5 times the Bulldogs have beaten the Dragons, it has been by an average of 16.6 points, and this Dragons team is producing far less than they have in the past. The different defensive structure may allow the Bulldogs forwards to produce enough momentum throughout the duration of the contest. There is no question that the Dragons intensity early on will keep the contest tight but eventually, the Bulldogs should pull away and win comfortably.
Bulldogs -16.5 @ $1.90
Dog Bite = Bulldogs 19+ @ $2.15 – The last time these two sides met in Round 14, the Bulldogs won by 18-points. Sure, they were travelling better at that stage however the decline in the Dragons is evident. Once their opponent’s power through the middle, they may not be able to hold them for long.
New Zealand Warriors (9th) v Penrith Panthers (8th)
The Warriors went agonisingly close to stealing victory from the Raiders last week, converting a try from the corner on the bell to send the game into Golden Point. After scoring 18-points in the final 10 minutes, the Raiders scored to put them away and in doing so, ensured that the Warriors past 3 losses have all been in Golden Point. If those matches went the other way they would be firmly entrenched in the Top 8; however they’re not and are left to make up for the 39 missed tackles and only 76% completion rate. The Panthers will have plenty of confidence heading into this match, based on their Round 10 12-point victory over the Warriors as well as a pleasing win over the Broncos last week. The final margin was 19-points, setting a strong standard from the opening minute to pile the pressure upon their opponents. They never let the Broncos into the match and the control demonstrated by the halves, in particular Nathan Cleary, is perhaps what has been missing from their team in recent weeks. Their quest for victory was also aided by the fact that the forwards dominated the middle of the field and that they had the weight of possession in their favor. That win brought them into the Top 8 and the task remains for them to remain there with a win, against a team that could also find themselves higher on the ladder with their desired result.
Warriors = Tuimoala Lolohea will start at fullback, with David Fusitu’a shifting to the centres and Blake Ayshford relegated to the bench.
Panthers = Unchanged.
Overall = Warriors 13 Draw 1 Panthers 18
Last 5 Matches = Warriors 1 Panthers 4
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 58% Panthers 50%
Form = Warriors 2 losses – Panthers 2 wins
Form suggests that the Panthers should head into this match as favorites but that is not the case. The Warriors have the edge over their opponents, despite losing their last 2 matches to two teams sitting inside the Top 8. If the Panthers play to the level that was witnessed from them last week, there is no question that they will be capable of overcoming the Warriors on the road. The fact that they are being given the start is enticing enough. They have the potential to combat what the Warriors throw at them in attack and the way the two side compare, this game looks like it will be decided in the closing minutes of the contest. The Warriors have forgotten how to win the close matches and they are still experiencing periods within a match whereby they switch off and allow their opponents to dominate. That is why the Panthers should prevail, nevertheless a Warriors win wouldn’t shock; so be wary of investing too much on this match that is balanced on a knifes edge.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.75
Extra help = Panthers +2.5 @ $1.85 – With this game expected to be tight, the Panthers may need the extra help that the line is offering. If this game does go to Golden Point, this will ensure that you receive a return on your investment.
Parramatta Eels (14th) v Wests Tigers (10th)
The Eels finally cracked under the pressure of 2016 last week, going down by 20-points against the Titans. The spirit within their performance was still evident, however they were unable to compete for the entire match based upon the sheer difference in quality between the two sides. While it wasn’t ideal, you can be assured that they will aim to fight until the end of a match, although the longer the season goes, the more their motivation will struggle. This may be the case against the Tigers, a team who will be egger to keep their momentum going after a strong display against the Dragons. Even with their team in the headlines for the wrong reason, the remainder of the squad was able to deliver a performance that suggested they were withdrawn from the matter. Most importantly, the development of their young halves increased, with Moses and Brooks either scoring or contributing to points being scored. Without them in the game, the result may have been different and now the challenge for them, along with the rest of their team is to continue moving forward and chase a spot in the Top 8.
Eels = Vai Toutai comes onto the wing for Bureta Faraimo (injured), while Beau Scott (injury) returns at lock, forcing Peni Terepo back to the bench. Manu Ma’u (suspended) was initially named but will not take part.
Tigers = Unchanged.
Overall = Eels 18 Draw 1 Tigers 13
Last 5 Matches = Eels 3 Tigers 2
At ANZ Stadium = Eels 42% Tigers 43%
Form = Eels 2 losses – Tigers 1 win
During the Eels match last week, the first signs were evident that this team was about to crack. Without Norman in the team, the attack looked flat, although they persisted until the end. This will be expected of the Eels, however with the confidence within the Tigers growing rapidly, they will be hard to overcome. Their young halves controlled the match in a positive manner last week and persisted with their style and structure. That will be crucial for them here, as the Eels are sure to upset their momentum at numerous stages during this match. Their attack has been a strength for them so far and that trend is set to continue. For the season, the Tigers only average 20.9 PPG although in their past 3 wins they’ve scored an average of 29.7 points and won by an average of 12.3 points. This suggests that the Tigers will look to pile the pressure on the Eels as much as possible. On the other hand, is the Eels past 3 losses, they’ve scored an average of 18.6 points, with the margin of victory sitting at 11.3 points. All signs point towards the Tigers covering the line with their renewed confidence and continuing their scoring ways.
Tigers -8.5 @ $1.95
Hear them roar = Tigers 13+ @ $2.40 –
North Queensland Cowboys (3rd) v Melbourne Storm (2nd)
The Cowboys flexed their muscles in their dominating 36-nil win over the Bulldogs last Thursday. It sounded a warning that they will be contenders for the title by dismantling a powerful forward back with brutality of their own. On the back of this, their outside backs were provided with extra room, while their spine dominated in all areas. Their chances hit a hurdle though, as JT went off the field with a hamstring injury; also meaning that he will be absent for this contest. Thankfully, they were well ahead at the time and despite scoring more points in his absence, they may find it difficult to perform the same without him present. It was business as usual for the Storm, who captured a 16-point win over the Roosters. Yet again, the Storm controlled every area of a match and allowed minimal opportunities for their opponents to gain momentum. When they did, the resolute Melbourne defensive line tightened up. As well as the Cowboys, they’re chasing the Sharks down and the result of this game could decide who gains home field advantage in the Finals.
Cowboys = Ray Thompson has been named at halfback for Johnathan Thurston (injured).
Storm = Unchanged.
Overall = Cowboys 10 Storm 21
Last 5 Matches = Cowboys 3 Storm 2
At 1300Smile Stadium = Cowboys 86% Storm 55%
Form = Cowboys 1 win – Storm 4 wins
If JT was present in the match, the Cowboys would be favorites; unfortunately for fans he isn’t and this increases the difficulty of winning for the home team. They have the advantage of playing at home and still have plenty of positives to draw upon; hence why the Storm are not irresistible as favorites. Fact is, the Storm have proven several points so far this season and their squad hasn’t shown anything to suggest that they are going to head to Townsville and lack motivation. They sit second on the competition ladder for a reason and with the Cowboys chasing them for home ground advantage; a win would establish a gap between the two sides. The margin of victory in this match is expected to be small, the Round 10 victory to the Storm was decided by 1-point (with JT in the team), with 2 of the past 5 matches have been decided by this margin. The Storm demonstrated in that match how they were able to combat what the Cowboys threw at them and the same can be expected here over the duration of the contest.
Storm 1-12 @ $2.75
Back to form! = Suliasi Vunivalu FTS and/or LTS @ $7 – He is 2 tries clear in the top try scoring race and unusually, went without crossing the line. Expect a big game form this man who will be involved in almost every attacking movement or kick his way.
South Sydney Rabbitohs (13th) v Canberra Raiders (4th)
The Rabbitohs woes continued last week, this time at the hands of the Sea Eagles in MNF to stretch their losing streak to 7-matches. Pressure grows within this team as each loss is accumulated, although their was a notable difference in the application and effort compared to previous weeks. Still, it wasn’t enough to win the match and they’re left playing for pride now that their Finals hopes have diminished. Normally, the roles have been reversed in recent years, but this time the Raiders sit inside the Top 4 and are playing with confidence. That same level of confidence allowed them to prevail against the Warriors last week in Golden Point. Nevertheless, they were lucky in the end and have plenty of areas to improve upon, most notably how they allowed the Warriors to score 18-points in the closing 10 minutes to send the game further. Other areas were much more pleasing, completing 83% of their sets and missing just 20 tackles. If the Raiders continue to improve, there is no limit to what this talented team can achieve. While the Rabbitohs may not have much quality, the challenge in this game will be for the Raiders to deliver a comprehensive win when they’re expected to.
Rabbitohs = Zane Musgrove has been named at prop for Dave Tyrrell, who is relegated to the bench, although he could come back into the side for Tom Burgess (suspended). Michael Oldfield comes onto the wing for Joe Burgess.
Raiders = Unchanged.
Overall = Rabbitohs 11 Raiders 11
Last 5 Matches = Rabbitohs 3 Raiders 2
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 53% Raiders 58%
Form = Rabbitohs 7 losses – Raiders 4 wins
The Rabbitohs lifted to level last week that has not been seen from them in quite a long time; whether or not that suggests that they are going to win this match is another thing. Winning against a team like the Raiders appears to be a task that is beyond them, with their limited power and currently mistake/execution flaws. They are looking to improve their execution and this opportunity that lies ahead of the Raiders is a good one; especially as they aim to make up from an effort that almost lost them the game last week. In terms of a margin of vicotyr, the past 5 wins for the Raiders have been by an average of 8.2 points, while on their current streak the Rabbitohs losing average has been 18.8 points. They have failed to limit their opponents attacking points and for the season, the Raiders manage 25.4 points. With little to play for and motivation low, there is no telling what this score can get out to; then again you can never be certain with the Raiders, so stick with the line and watch to see how it unfolds.
Raiders -8.5 @ $2
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (12th) v Newcastle Knights (16th)
The Sea Eagles captured 3-consectutive victories for the first time this season with their 20-12 win over the Rabbitohs on Monday. They dominated majority of the first half, combating their opponents force with brutality of their own. While the result was pleasing, they were less convincing in the second half, whereby they conceded 12 points while only scoring from a solitary penalty goal. It keeps alive their Finals chances and they have a great chance to extend their winning steak against a struggling Knights outfit. As for the Knights, they’re still trying to get their second win of the season and it didn’t look possible against the Sharks last week. Once their opponents gained momentum, the Knights had no answers in defence and were unable to play at the same level. It’s a sad story for their fans but at least their application and effort is improving; nevertheless, they’ll continue to struggle while their quality is below that of the rest of the competition.
Sea Eagles = Unchanged.
Knights = Jake Mamo (suspension) returns at fullback, allowing Dane Gagai to move to the centres. David Bhana is named in the second row for Mitchell Barnett (suspended), with Daniel Saifiti returning to the bench. Jack Cogger comes into the halves for Jarrod Mullen (injured).
Overall = Sea Eagles 14 Knights 12
Last 5 Matches = Sea Eagles 5 Knights 0
At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 64% Knights 22%
Form = Sea Eagles 3 wins – Knights 12 losses
Yet again, victory appears to be beyond the Knights given the quality they possess and that of their opponents. They will get anther win this season but it won’t happen this week. The Sea Eagles have had a late season revival and this is the type of game that they should aim to win strongly to further press their credentials. They’re yet to completely prove themselves either, each of their wins has consisted of lapses in defence and attack. That could very well happen here, although the Knights will need more than that to get them over the line at Brookvale Oval, a ground they have struggled dearly at in the past. As for the margin, the fact that the Knights have only scored 12.5 PPG in their matches this year suggest that the Sea Eagles will score enough to win by more than 2 converted tries.
Sea Eagles 19+ @ $1.90
Terrific Tom = Tom Trbojevic FTS and/or LTS @ $5 – He has saluted in two of their past three wins, with his try against the Warriors being the first in the match. Trbojevic showed last week how he is a superior attacking weapon and he will be just about everywhere in this game, increasing his chances of scoring first.
Gold Coast Titans (7th) v Cronulla Sharks (1st)
The Titans powered their way into the Top 8 last week with a convincing victory over the Eels. While their opponents were limited and failed to perform with so many players missing from their team, the fact that the Titans handled them with authority demonstrated the maturity that this team possesses. Now they face a very tough challenge, the competition leaders who are on a club-record 15-game winning streak and a team that beat them 25-20 back in Round 6. The Sharks also took care of business in their win against the Knights, prevailing by 32-points in the end after heading into HT just 10-nil up. It was as if they clicked into another level in the second half and their opponents were unable to match it. With each win they have also comes a little complacency, evident in their effort last week, although that can be attribute to the quality of opponent they were facing. This will be solid test for them here, as the Titans desperately want to remain in the Top 8 and will be out to prove a point that they belong as a contender in the competition in 2016.
Titans = Greg Bird (suspension) returns at lock, forcing Agnatius Paasi back to the bench.
Sharks = Unchanged.
Overall = Titans 6 Sharks 8
Last 5 Matches = Titans 2 Sharks 3
At Cbus Super Stadium = Titans 51% Sharks 50%
Form = Titans 2 wins – Sharks 15 wins
According to the odds being offered, this will not be the match where the Sharks dream-run ends, although the Titans are not without their chances of surprising their opponents. Complacency can be an issue with each win, although the Sharks were aware of what needed to be done last week and executed accordingly. That suggests that they will have what it takes here, a side they’ve already beaten earlier this year and the Sharks have improved remarkably since that effort. The competitiveness of the Titans depends upon whether or not Nathan Peats will play; with word around that he is in plenty of doubt and the 2 back ups unavailable through injury. That limits their effectiveness and the Sharks will exploit them as much as possible through the middle. If Peats does play, Titans +7.5 is worth some though but you have to remember, he is still not 100% to lead his pack around. The Titans have improved and they will be out to prove a point. The fact that they’re up against the leading team in the competition should tighten up their defence and keep themselves within striking distance of the Sharks. The home field advantage won’t mean too much either, the Titans have lost 4 games there this year. As for the difference between the two sides, the Sharks score an average of 26.7 PPG compared with the Titans 22.3 PPG.
Sharks -7.5 @ $2