Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (4th) v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (11th)
The Bulldogs did enough last week to overcome the Knights, eventually prevailing by 14-points. There wasn’t anything overly impressive about their display, only managing to score 14-points in the second half; at the end of the day, they also relied upon 2-penalty goals and scored just 4 tries to 2. Their opponents were gallant, but much more was expected from a team that sits so high on the ladder; perhaps suggesting that their current position isn’t a true reflection of how they’re performing. It wasn’t the same result for the Sea Eagles, who were beaten in a dour match by the Eels 10-9. That loss all but ended their Finals aspirations also, with now only a mathematical chance for them to still make it. In that match, they took several steps backwards from the momentum that they had built in previous weeks. Their forwards failed to gain much momentum through the middle, while the Eels defensive line conitually shut down their attacking opportunities. Have a 71% completion rate, committing 11 errors and having the lesser share of possession didn’t help, although they had numerous chances to regain control of the match and failed to capitalize. With their season hanging in the balance, they will also be out for revenge for the 22-point loss suffered at home in Round 1.
Bulldogs = Unchanged.
Sea Eagles = Jamie Lyon (injury) returns at 5/8, allowing Dylan Walker to shift back to the centres and forcing Lewis Brown back to the bench. Addin Fonua-Blake starts at prop, with Martin Taupau moving to the back row and Nathan Green back to the bench.
Overall = Bulldogs 18 Sea Eagles 11
Last 5 matches = Bulldogs 5 Sea Eagles 0
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 58% Sea Eagles 52%
Form = Bulldogs 2 wins – Sea Eagles 1 loss
Their standing on the ladder has overshadowed the Bulldogs form, although heading into this game; they appear the side more capable of winning. The Sea Eagles missed out last week and while they will want to make amends, they will also need to lift their quality. Their execution let them down last week and you get the sense that while the Bulldogs also struggled, they will be up for the challenge that the Sea Eagles will offer. On the other hand, they’ve struggled against the Bulldogs recently, the last time the Sea Eagles beat the Bulldogs was Round 13 2014 and the last time they beat them on home turf was Round 5 2013. With everything to play for, the Sea Eagles are expect to lift and take the challenge to the Bulldogs pack; much like they did against the Rabbitohs and Warriors in previous weeks. While they have been unconvincing, so too have the Bulldogs and this match should be tight. The ideal option appears to be the line, with just over a converted try being offered towards the visitors. Furthermore, the Bulldogs only score an average of 22.5 PPG compared with the Sea Eagles 19.2 PPG, a team that has 5 less wins than they do.
Sea Eagles +6.5 @ $1.90
Brisbane Broncos (6th) v Parramatta Eels (13th)
The Broncos managed to get their season back on track last week with an unconvincing 4-point win over the Dragons on the road. Conditions were poor, but so too was the Broncos execution over the 80 minutes, further suggesting that this team had lost a large part of their early season dominance. A lot has to do with the execution of the halves, although their forwards weren’t exactly dominating up front. The Eels were also narrow winners, yet far more impressive given their current circumstances. Even with a host of players missing and several issues throughout the match, they managed to wrestle dominance away from the Sea Eagles and make it harder for them to make the Finals. Their efforts for the rest of the season will be for pride and there was a sense that their effort last week was a reward for their loyal fans. With only one game left at home this year, that may be the last chance they have to offer that. Here, they travel up to Brisbane to continue to disrupt teams pushing to the Finals and will fancy their chances against a team that is underperforming.
Broncos = Unchanged.
Eels = Peni Terepo is named at lock for Beau Scott (injured), with David Gower coming onto the bench.
Overall = Broncos 17 Eels 18
Last 5 matches = Broncos 3 Eels 2
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 60% Eels 50%
Form = Broncos 1 win – Eels 1 win
Just when you think the Eels will lie down, they kick into gear and rise to another level. It will be a big task for them to do the same here and while last week was impressive, the challenge ahead of them to win at Suncorp is far greater than the one offered in Round 22. Despite the Broncos struggles in winning just 3 of their past 10 matches, they should still be too strong for the Eels based on quality alone. They are overwhelming favorites, although it will not be as one-sided as most think. The Eels have plenty of pride in their performance and will sense that the broncos are vulnerable with their shortcomings in the halves. Fact is, that is where majority of points are generated for teams and if anything, this match should have a low scoring total; in the past 3 matches the Broncos have averaged just 13.3 PPG compared with the Eels 10.7 PPG. As for the result, the Broncos are expected to win by more than 13 points ($1.90), although this needs some more thought. 2 of their past 3 wins have been by 8 points or less, with a 20-point win against a struggling Rabbitohs team taking the average out to 10.7 points. The Eels may lack the same quality but their average losing margin in their past 4 losses sits at 9.8 points and the Broncos may find it difficult to completely pull away from their opponents.
Broncos 1-12 @ $3
Point his out = Under 40.5 points @ $1.90 – As mentioned above, both teams have struggled for points recently. Those issues cannot be immediately solved and this suggests that the combined score line will be far less than expected.
Wests Tigers (9th) v Gold Coast Titans (10th)
The Tigers made an impressive statement last round with a 12-point win over the Cowboys at Leichhardt. It was a game that was always going to be a test given their recent run of form and they passed, even by-passing the return of Thurston. While the Cowboys were off their game, it was a testament to how the Tigers applied pressure to their opponents throughout the match. Finally for the Titans, they were able to take the field and put the Hayne-hysteria behind them; that is until he took the field. They were disappointing in their loss to the Warriors, a result which saw them drop out of the Top 8. They failed to match the intensity and speed that their opponents played with, allowing them to move away comfortably in the second half. The fact that they couldn’t match them even with a larger share of possession can be attributed to 11 errors and 33 missed tackles. As disappointing as that result was, the door isn’t closed for them yet and the impact that their new recruit had is sure to improve in coming weeks. Half of the issue was finding the right place to find him and this week he will line up in the halves and have the ball in his hand more than last week. The Tigers will be ready for him though and this is shaping as a crucial match in capturing a position in the Finals.
Tigers = Unchanged.
Titans = Jarryd Hayne comes off the bench to start at 5/8, moving Cameron Cullen back to an extended bench.
Overall = Tigers 7 Titans 9
Last 5 matches = Tigers 2 Titans 3
At Campbelltown Sport Stadium = Tigers 47% Titans 33%
Form = Tigers 3 wins – Titans 1 loss
There was plenty to like about the Tigers last week and they can attirubte a strong home field advantage to their victory. The same will be expected here, with the match out at Campbelltown proving a difficult hurdle for the Titans to overcome. They have only won once in three attempts at this ground, with their last visit back in 2011 being a 29-point win to the Tigers. This game also is on the back of a game on Sunday that was a short turnaround from the previous Monday. Since their brusing match against the Sharks, the Titans will have played 3 games in 12 days by the time this game has finished. That is difficult for any team to manage, let alone one that is attempting to make a charge for the Top 8. Bookies have found it difficult to split the two sides in betting markets and one cannot help but think that this could be the result of Hayne’s presence in the team. His game was solid last week, although moving to the halves will enhance their execution in the same way that it will disrupt it; combinations take time to build and instant success in this area cannot be expected. Compare this with the Tigers combinations across the park and they appear more capable of handling what is thrown their way. Not only that, they have the home ground advantage in their favor, in what should be a very close contest. Don’t be surprised if this match goes down to the last couple of plays before it is decided.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.80
Roaring success = Tigers 1-12 @ $3.10 – The Tigers are the tip to win this match and while they have enjoyed a strong scoring average of 21.3 PPG, so too have the Titans, averaging 21.7 PPG. Given this, it would be surprising to see the Tigers prevail by more than 2 converted tries.
New Zealand Warriors (8th) v South Sydney Rabbitohs (14th)
The Warriors return back home after a pleasing victory that saw them move back into the Top 8 and grab crucial competition points against an opponent attempting to do the same. They were close to clinical in some parts of their match especially defence, where they missed just 16 total tackles. They were strongly lead by their halves, who relished the extra room provided by damaging individual carries. It should be another victory for them here, although the Rabbitohs demonstrated signs of a resurgence and heart in their Golden Point loss to the Storm. That has been missing from their play completely in recent weeks and it was a refreshing performance for their fans. It was a move back to the Rabbitohs team that we have seen in previous years, only missing the killer instinct to close out the match that their opponents clearly had. There is no doubt that their players are counting down the days until they put this season behind them, nevertheless, they still have the remaining matches to build momentum into next year. This game shapes as a difficult task and perhaps the biggest in their few remaining matches.
Warriors = Unchanged.
Rabbitohs = Tom Burgess has been named to start at prop, swapping with brother George, who will come off the bench.
Overall = Warriors 16 Rabbitohs 11
Last 5 matches = Warriors 1 Rabbitohs 4
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 59% Rabbitohs 38%
Form = Warriors 2 wins – Rabbitohs 9 losses
This is the first time since 2013 that the Rabbitohs will venture across to New Zealand for a match against the Warriors, with the past 3 fixtures between the two sides being played in Perth; with the Warriors struggles on such a road trip highlighted earlier in the year. Despite having a superior record against their opponents, the last time the Warriors beat the Rabbitohs was back in Round 7, 2012. It’s almost worth forgetting this though, as the Warriors appear to have a better team now compared to the Rabbitohs, a team that improve last week but are still struggling overall. To expect a quick-fix to their problems is overstating the task that is ahead of them and the Storm were perhaps guilty of not taking their opponents as seriously as they should’ve. On the other hand, the Warriors have become a tough football team, appearing to have learnt from their previous series of Golden Point results. They demonstrated maturity last week and if they want to remain in the Top 8, will have to win this game and then focus on improving their “for and against” of -7. In other matches this year, the Warriors would’ve been guilty of simply winning this game and making things difficult for themselves, yet there were plenty of positive signs in their efforts last week. Expect them to get the job done comfortably here, as their opponents struggle with motivation and an unfamiliar trip to them.
Warriors -8.5 @ $1.90
Winning with Authority = Warriors 13+ @ $2.40 – The Warriors have what it takes to put plenty of points on their opponents here. The Rabbitohs are a shade of their resolute defensive line that worked so well for them in the past. If the Warriors gain early momentum, they will be very hard to stop.
Cutting up the field = Solomone Kata FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – Both centres are in great form for the Warriors but Kata will be full of confidence after grabbing two tries last week from various places on the field. His damaging ball-carrying abilities are evident for all to see and if he gets close to the line, he is almost impossible to stop.
St George-Illawarra Dragons (12th) v Cronulla Sharks (2nd)
The Dragons have had plenty of time to prepare for this match after going down to the Broncos last Thursday by 4-points. In a very dour match, the home team were yet again stuck for answers in attack and failed to trouble the Broncos defensive line and build pressure. They are only averaging 2 tries per match and even with representative players returning to their team, they are expected to find this challenge, although may be lifted by the “local derby” atmosphere. The Sharks suffered their first loss last week since Round 3, going down to the Raiders by 16-points. They appeared tired following a short turnaround from MNF and were not assisted by the late withdrawal of Michael Ennis from their team. His importance was demonstrated, as they looked a different team moving forward over the advantage line. That loss also dropped them out of the competition lead, although it is hardly panic stations for the Sharks and you can make a strong case that the previous result will refocus them moving forward. A clearer picture will be known after fulltime and the Sharks have a solid opportunity to get their season back on track.
Dragons = Josh Dugan (injury) returns at fullback, while Tyson Frizell (suspension) and Joel Thompson (suspension) named to start in the second row. Will Matthews is forced back to the bench.
Sharks = Michael Ennis (injury) returns at hooker, while Joseph Paulo and Ricky Leutele come onto the bench for Sam Tagataese (injured) and Fa’amanu Brown.
Overall = Dragons 18 Draw 1 Sharks 18
Last 5 matches = Dragons 3 Sharks 2
At WIN Jubilee Oval = Dragons 62% Sharks 33%
Form = Dragons 5 losses – Sharks 1 loss
At first glance, the poor attacking potential of the Dragons means that the Sharks should be able to handle what is thrown their way. The Sharks past 2 matches at Jubilee Oval have been defeats by 30-points; nevertheless, this is a remarkably different team that will be up for this contest. Not only is this a local derby, but a match that can get the Sharks back on track after their loss last week. They have superior quality compared with their opponents, although the Dragons will be hoping that the inclusion of 3 key players will lift their performance. It will to some extent, but they will find it hard to compete for the entire 80 minutes. Much like the Round 2 meeting between the two sides where the Sharks won by 28-points, the Sharks are expected to win this game comfortably. They average 25.65 PPG compared with the Dragons 12.9 PPG; more importantly, the Dragons haven’t managed to score more than 12 points in their past 5 matches and have average 7.6 PPG. This spells trouble for a team that has lost confidence and in the end, the result of this game could get ugly.
Newcastle Knights (16th) v Penrith Panthers (7th)
The Knights battled away yet again last week, this time going down to the Bulldogs by 14-points. A great start to the second half brought them back into the contest and forced their opponents to lift, in the end they did so accordingly. That loss ensured their losing streak continues and this squad of players is certainly hanging out for the end of the season. The Panthers will be out to improve upon their impressive display against the Roosters, dominating their opponents over 80 minutes to win 38-18. This was perhaps their best effort of the year; as several of their younger and inexperienced players appearing to relish the conditions that developed their confidence. Most importantly, their halves looked settled and played with maturity that has evaded them in recent efforts. That win brought them back into the Top 8 and with the Finals etching closer, the chances for them to solidify a spot in there is valuable. This match offer them the opportunity to do so but they must maintain the same intensity level or they may be caught out.
Knights = Tyler Randell (injury) returns at hooker, with Mitchell Barnett (suspension) named in the second row. Jacob Safiti is named at lock for Jeremy Smith (injured) and Pauli Pauli moves back to the bench.
Panthers = Unchanged.
Overall = Knights 18 Draw 1 Panthers 9
Last 5 matches = Knights 2 Panthers 3
At Hunter Stadium = Knights 58% Panthers 36%
Form = Knights 14 losses – Panthers 1 win
It is the same story week after week for the Knights and they will again be hoping to break their horrible losing streak. Yet again, the fact is that they do simply not have the quality to compete with any team in the competition. They are defining “rebuilding” in every way possible currently and their appears no end in sight. They may be hoping that the Panthers struggle as much as they have in the past playing in Newcastle, but given their recent form, most notably on Monday, that thought appears to rest on hope more than anything.
Sydney Roosters (15th) v North Queensland Cowboys (5th)
Hopes were high on Monday that the Roosters could cause the panthers a headache or two in their match, although that task proved difficult after the withdrawal of key players in the lead-up to KO. In the end, they didn’t have the quality to compete with their opponents and once they got behind on the scoreboard, their motivation was lost. They face another tough test here, matching up against the Cowboys who themselves, are coming off a loss. Things turned ugly last week for them, disrupted completely by the Tigers and eventually going down by 12-points. It seems they didn’t handle the conditions well despite being boosted by the return of Thurston into their side. That effort also meant that they missed out on a spot in the Top 4, perhaps showing signs that they need to refocus before peaking again in the run home. The Cowboys fragilities in certain areas of the field were also highlight and they will be working hard this week to ensure that those problems are solved moving forward. Furthermore, they will want to push themselves back into the Top 4 and even a chance of grabbing a home Final.
Roosters = Mitchell Pearce (injury) returns at halfback and will be support by Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (injury) at prop. This forces Isaac Liu and Ryan Matterson back to the bench.
Cowboys = Ray Thompson comes into the team at hooker for Jake Granville, while Kyle Feldt (suspension) returns on the wing. Coen Hess and Patrick Kaufusi come onto the bench as a replacement for Ben Hannant (injured).
Overall = Roosters 19 Cowboys 10
Last 5 matches = Roosters 3 Cowboys 2
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 62% Cowboys 35%
Form = Roosters 1 loss – Cowboys 2 losses
The Cowboys had a rare lapse last week in their match against the Tigers and it would be extremely surprising to see something similar happen here. There is a thought around that things will be difficult for them and make no mistake, the Roosters will be up for the match given they’re playing one of the best sides in the competition. However just like last week, they will lack motivation once they get behind on the scoreboard. Most teams in their predicament at the moment are struggling for a reason and the Cowboys are expected to bounce back like one of the premier teams in the league should. As for the margin, the false hope for the Roosters revolves around the return of several key players, although to expect them to return and deliver immediate results would be foolish. Fact is it won’t be as much as the Cowboys beat the Roosters last time, but it will be comfortably in the end. The Roosters have conceded the equal second most points on defence in 2016 (24.9 PPG) and in their past 5 losses have been by an average of 11.2 points. The two games above 13 points were against the Panthers and Storm, while the Sharks beat them by 12-points. This suggests that superior teams have it over the Roosters because of quality. In the same period, the Cowboys have won their past 5 matches by an average of 18.2 PPG, 3 of which were 20-points or above against weaker opponents (Bulldogs, Rabbitohs and Knights). It’s time for the Cowboys to click back into gear and get their campaign back on track.
Cowboys -6.5 @ $1.90
Comfort margin = Cowboys 13+ @ $2.85 – While things didn’t go to plan for them last week, the Cowboys will notice a difference in the quality of opponent. They are a smart enough team to break the Roosters down and you can expect the pressure coming their way to be relentless.
Winter(stein) is coming = Antonio Winterstein FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – He is the Cowboys leading try scorer in 2016 and does a great job of finishing their attacking movements on the left. He was kept quiet last week, but you can ensure that he will be back to his best here, especially against a Roosters team that struggles to defend both their edges.
Canberra Raiders (3rd) v Melbourne Storm (1st)
The Raiders made a statement last week that they could be a serious contender this season, with a dominant 16-point win. It was the performance that had always been hoped for by this talented team and they delivered from the opening stages. More importantly they showed maturity as a team; having a lesser share of possession but missing just 21 tackles and committing only 8 errors. It will be another tough test here for them as they face the competition leaders, but will be aided by the extra rest, as well as return home to Canberra. The Storm looked set to stumble on Saturday night and miss the opportunity to jump to the top of the ladder; that was until a dubious penalty sent their match against the Rabbitohs into Golden Point. They found a way to win in the end and while they avoided embarrassment, perhaps they will reflect upon taking that game too easy based upon their opponent’s current form. The same shouldn’t be expected here, with the Raiders holding hopes of upstaging one of the teams that are setting the benchmark. These two sides haven’t lost for quite some time and this game is expected to be the best of the round!
Raiders = Unchanged.
Storm = Unchanged.
Overall = Raiders 10 Storm 26
Last 5 matches = Raiders 2 Storm 3
At GIO Stadium = Raiders 54% Storm 50%
Form = Raiders 6 wins – Storm 6 wins
The Storm will head into this game as favorites but this game is a lot closer than the odds are suggesting. Just because they are leading the competition doesn’t mean that they will turn up here and automatically win. They looked tired last week against the Rabbitohs and if the same level was delivered here, they could find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard. The Raiders are lucky to some extent; they’ve faced the top two teams in the competition when they’ve gone into matches with fatigue building up. They will be out to make a statement here and while the Storm will lift to another level, the Raiders may have too much power in their forwards for the Storm to combat. They visitors have made a habit of peaking at the right times and a match here will hardly hold importance compared with what lies ahead in the Finals. Be wary though, this ground holds not limits for the Storm; they’ve won 4 out of the past 5 visits here, although this Raiders team is far improved on those whom have come before them. To combat that, they’ve won their past 6 matches at home and haven’t lost here since Round 7. The ideal option appears to be a close match between the two sides with the Finals approaching and the intensity lifting, with the Raiders a very strong chance of causing an upset.
Either team Under 6.5 points @ $2.60
Upset ahead = Raiders @ $2.10 – As mentioned above, this Raiders team is different to the ones that we have seen in the past. Furthermore, they are learning how to win games that they should and competing for the entire 80 minutes. They turned a corner last week with their win and will want that momentum to continue.
The right margin = Raiders 1-12 @ $3.10 – Give the “Suggested Bet” and the chance of an upset, this bet writes itself if you’re aiming to invest on the margin.