South Sydney Rabbitohs (11th) v Wests Tigers (14th)
Both sides head into this match sensing a strong opportunity to break their losing streaks or risk having their season over before it has begun. The Rabbitohs were handed their second straight loss in Queensland and their third since their last victory, as the Broncos class outmuscled the Rabbitohs 30-8. There was hope of an improved effort from the Rabbitohs after a disappointing performance against the Cowboys, however their appears to be something missing from them this season. The Tigers season reached its lowest point, handed a 60-6 defeat by the Raiders in Canberra. That result left many wondering how long coach Jason Taylor would last given the combination of issues at the club. He survives another week, but with the Tigers not winning a match since Round 2, pressuring is mounting fast. Each team will know the benefits of a victory and will need to turn around their recent performances. For the Rabbitohs, it is uncharacteristic errors in defence, while the Tigers need to limit their mistakes and provide greater support for two rookies that are obviously feeling the pressure in matches.
Rabbitohs = Kyle Turner (injury) returns from injury to replace Paul Carter (suspended) in the second row. Kirisome Auva’a will start in the centres in place of Hymel Hunt (injured), allowing George Burgess to come onto the bench.
Tigers = Tim Simona (suspension) returns in the centres.
Overall = Rabbitohs 15 Tigers 11
Last 5 matches = Rabbitohs 3 Tigers 2
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 54% Tigers 40%
Form = Rabbitohs 3 losses – Tigers 6 losses
With two sides so desperate and on horrible losing streaks, you have to look at the quality of opponents and how they’ve been competing. For the Rabbitohs, their loss to the Broncos showed more promise than the previous week against the Cowboys and if anything, they have been able to score points against two defensively strong outfits. The Tigers performance against the Raiders was by far one of their worse and you can expect the team to bounce back strongly here. They offered a lot the previous week against the Storm, but they even let that game slip away. The Rabbitohs appear as though they will be too strong for the Tigers, given the extra power they have in the forwards. The fact that the Tigers are backing up from a horrible loss brings them into the contest, but only by so much as they also have to contend with a short turnaround into this match. With fatigue limiting how effective the Tigers can be, the Rabbitohs appear to be the favored selection. As for the margin of this match, things should be tight courtesy of the desperation between the two sides, thus bringing the line into calculations as well.
Rabbitohs 1-12 @ $2.80
Play it safe = Tigers +8.5 @ $1.90 – If you believe that the Tigers will bounce back, than avoid the suggested be and invest on this market. This option also accounts for a close Rabbitohs win too.
Parramatta Eels (5th) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (6th)
The Eels were unable to make it two victories over the Cowboys this season, going down 32-16 in Townsville. There was plenty of hype around this match, given the Eels had upset them in Round 2, but this time the Cowboys were ready for an improved Eels team and they clicked into gear early. A fightback from the visitors showed promise, however the Cowboys were ultimately too strong with the pressure they’d built. The Bulldogs experienced a much closer encounter, grabbing a 1-point extra time victory over the Titans on the Gold Coast. This game was a lot closer than most expected and the final result could be put down to luck more than anything else. The Bulldogs were in control of the contest for majority of the 80 minutes but let that slip in the last 20 minutes. Switching off at numerous points has become a problem for the Bulldogs but while they’re able to win in these circumstances, the issue will remain minor for them. These two sides have already met once this season, with a 14-point victory to the Eels in Round 3 surely going to motivate the Bulldogs towards revenge. In that contest, the Bulldogs forwards were comprehensively outplayed and a patient Eels team built pressure on their opponents. Knowing what to expect this time, Des Hasler is likely to have his team ready for this challenge, however the task ahead of them is still a difficult one; especially given the rivalry between these two sides.
Eels = Unchanged.
Bulldogs = Unchanged.
Overall = Eels 15 Draw 1 Bulldogs 20
Last 5 matches = Eels 2 Bulldogs 3
At ANZ Stadium = Eels 40% Bulldogs 57%
Form = Eels 1 loss – Bulldogs 1 win
Despite their loss last week, there was a lot to like about the Eels performance. This has been a regular theme for them in 2016 and there is a distinct difference in their execution in both attack and defence. Beating the Cowboys on their home turf is proving difficult to do and now they are fortunate to return back to Sydney to face a team they have already beaten once this year. While the Bulldogs were victorious, there are still many questions lingering about their overall quality and potential. The fact that they gave up a lead to the Titans reiterates that points and they need to show that they can play for the entire 80minutes. The Eels have more to like about them in this contest and appear to have what it takes to pressure the Bulldogs halves; something that sides have done when beating them this year. As big as the Bulldogs pack is, the Eels have a strong defensive structure to combat it and will be ready for what comes their way. As for the margin, this game will be really tight and almost go down to the final play of the game. With this in mind, the more appealing (and perhaps smarter) option would be selecting this game to finish by less than a converted try, but remember, only 3 out of the last 10 games between these two sides have been decided by 6 points or less.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.60
Slippery Eels = Eels 1-12 @ $2.90 – If you are going to select a winner, then stick with the Eels. They have an array of talent across the field that the Bulldogs will be aiming to achieve at some stage. They will fight, meaning that the margin should also stay relatively close.
Semi-Aussie = Semi Radradra FTS and/or LTS @ $6 – He was named in the Australian team earlier in the week, despite his Fijian heritage. Expect the bustling winger to celebrate this announcement with an influential performance here.
Penrith Panthers (12th) v Canberra Raiders (7th)
The Panthers have taken a match out to Bathurst again and smartly so against the Raiders, who now have extra travel time added to their journey. The home side will be out to make amends for a narrow loss to the Sharks last Sunday, with the outcome impacted by a missed conversion late in the match. Regardless, there were still stages of that match they would’ve liked to have changed, especially considering that they clawed their way back into the lead and had a chance to put the Sharks away. Nevertheless, it continued the trend of close matches for the Panthers and they will be out to make amends for the Round 1 loss to the Raiders. The visitors will be full of confidence though, following an impressive and dominating display against the Tigers. It was all oneway traffic for the home team in that match, with the final score of 60-6 doing wonders for their points difference. They now sit inside the Top 8 and will be hoping that they can stay there with a win here. Both teams have developed and changed since their first meeting, a game where the Panthers struggled to find momentum. Expect a different showing from both sides here, as they will be aware of where to target their opponents in attack and defence.
Panthers = Dean Whare (injury) comes into the centres in place of Waqa Blake (injured), while James Segeyaro (injury) is welcomed back at hooker. His inclusion means that Peter Wallace can move back to the halves for Te Maire Martin (injured). Sam McKendry (suspended) is also named on the bench.
Raiders = Unchanged.
Overall = Panthers 17 Raiders 19
Last 5 matches = Panthers 2 Raiders 3
At Carrington Park = Panthers 50% Raiders 0%
Form = Panthers 1 loss – Raiders 1 win
Given the performances of both teams last week, it is very surprising to see the odds heavily favor the Panthers. Sure, the match has been taken to Bathurst, meaning further travel for the Raiders but it isn’t exactly ideal conditions for the “home” team either. They were strong against the Sharks and continued to show the fight that has been a feature of their play this season, but a physical encounter last Sunday is bound to take its toll here. To maintain such intensity is a tough ask, especially when their games are continually decided by less than 2 converted tries. The Raiders are also full of confidence following their dominating display and that positions them well for this contest. They are aware of what is needed, given that they overcame the Panthers in their Round 1 encounter. Their halves appear to be working together positively and building pressure on their opponents when it counts. Look for another strong showing from these two players, who will hopefully aim to utilize the platform created by the forwards. It will be tight though (surprise, surprise!), but the Raiders should just get home in the end.
Raiders @ $2.40
Line them up = Raiders +4.5 @ $1.85 – If, as expected, things are going to be tight and the Raiders may not get across the line, take them with the very juicy “start”. It is more than a try and ensures that they will remain either closer to or just ahead of their opponents.
Sydney Roosters (16th) v Newcastle Knights (15th)
Both teams only featured last Monday on ANZAC Day, so playing here will test their fitness levels. Following the comments of Trent Robinson after their loss to the Dragons, much has been made about the Roosters performance. As bad as it was at times, they had other decisions go their way and can perhaps reflect on their performance at crucial stages rather than the impact of the officials. They gave away too much of a lead to their opponents and cannot afford to do the same here. Errors have plagued their season and that is why they remain at the bottom of the competition ladder, 1-point behind the Knights. The Knights season has been far worse than the Roosters, so it is surprising that they sit ahead of them. Their loss to Manly at home last week was again a sign of how far behind the rest of the competition they are. Unlike the Roosters, they cannot look forward to players coming back into their side to boost their stocks; which is why 14 errors, 32 missed tackles and a 69% completion rate was the reason behind their performance. Nathan Brown has his work ahead of him and now that people are not expecting much from his side, there is no pressure to perform. This is a work in progress and the goal for them in this match must be to avoid a loss that would send them to the bottom of the competition.
Roosters = Mitchell Pearce (NRL ban) returns at halfback, shifting Jackson Hastings back to 5/8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (injury) is named to make his return from the bench, alongside Ryan Matterson, who shifts back to the bench to accommodate Pearce. Mitchell Aubusson shifts to the centres, in place of Brendan Elliot.
Knights = Jarrod Mullen (injured) has been replaced by rookie, Will Pearsall. Pat Mata’utia comes into the centres in place of brother, Peter Mata’utia (injured). Pauli Pauli (suspension) returns to the bench, as does Micky Paea.
Overall = Roosters 22 Knights 12
Last 5 matches = Roosters 4 Knights 1
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 63% Knights 36%
Form = Roosters 2 losses – Knights 2 losses
The players returning for the Roosters have drastically increased their chances of winning this match, as well as improving their overall performance. To expect an instant shift in performance would be over ambitious and it will take time for them to come together with new combinations. This isn’t to suggest that they will not win the match; they are the favorites for a reason and the Knights have been poor in their past 2 matches since their last victory. Travelling doesn’t work to their advantage either, as they possess a poor record at Allianz Stadium recently. As for the margin, the above-mentioned points will make this game closer than most are expecting. If the Roosters are able to gather momentum quickly, they may just run away with this match so invest carefully and perhaps hedge your bets in a live market.
Roosters 1-12 @ $3.10
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (8th) v North Queensland Cowboys (2nd)
The Sea Eagles have a short turnaround to contend with here following their strong win against the Knights on Monday. Their task of winning this match is made even more difficult with the players that are expected to miss this game due to injury. Their casualty ward appears to be growing each week and coming up against a side with the quality of the Cowboys will only pose further issues. The visitors were again dominant at home against the Eels, able to make amends for their Round 2 loss in Sydney. Along with the Broncos, they have clearly established themselves as one of the “teams to beat” in 2016 and appear to have class that is well beyond the rest of the competition. There isn’t too much that will stand in their way and each week they have to ensure that they are avoiding injuries, while at the same time turning out a dominating display. The Sea Eagles will need every bit of their home ground advantage here to get them over the line.
Sea Eagles = Both Brett Stewart and Tom Trobojevic, who were injured last week, have been named but it is expected that they will miss out. Matt Parcell has been named as 18th man.
Cowboys = Unchanged.
Overall = Sea Eagles 13 Cowboys 10
Last 5 matches = Sea Eagles Cowboys
At Brookvale Oval = Sea Eagles 65% Cowboys 50%
Form = Sea Eagles 1 win – Cowboys 4 wins
Anything but a Cowboys victory in this game appears to be highly unlikely. They have the class, experience and fitness on their side and the injury-hit Sea Eagles will struggle to compete to the same level as their opponents. Even if the two sides were at full strength, you would lean the way of the visitors so the fact that they’re not give you an indication of the way this contest is likely to pan out. As for the margin, the Sea Eagles have lost their past 2 matches by less than 2 converted tries but the Cowboys are a different class of opponent altogether; even more so considering the Eels beat the Sea Eagles by 12-points back in Round 7. Expect the Cowboys to get home comfortably, once they wrestle momentum away from their opponents, at which point they should be able to turn on an impressive display.
Cowboys 13+ @ $2.30
Covering the line = Cowboys -9.5 @ $1.90 – If the Cowboys are to win as expected, it makes sense to also take on the line that is on offer. There is less value than the margin but perhaps a safer bet if they were to win by 10 or more points.
New Zealand Warriors (13th) v St George-Illawarra Dragons (9th)
The Warriors season plummeted further out of control last Monday, with a demoralizing 42-nil loss in Melbourne to the Storm. It was a match that they were never competitive with and passages of play left a lot to be desired from them. They were never in the contest and things went for bad to worse for them; with talk now around how much longer their coach, Andrew McFadden, will last. The Dragons continued their winning streak and moved themselves from their horror trip to Queensland, with a 2-point win over the Roosters. They jumped out to a strong lead and while it wasn’t a comprehensive effort, they will take pride in the fact that they were able to defend a lead. Things were looking very tight in the closing minutes though and a few different decisions may have altered the result of the match. Regardless, there appeared to be renewed confidence in their attack and a their defence was improving its structure to return to its best. In perspective, they still need a performance like that against a top-ranked team to prove themselves as a contender, nevertheless a tricky match here against the Warriors across the Tasman will offer plenty of challenges.
Warriors = David Fusitu’a shifts to fullback, Jonathan Wright moves to the wing and Charlie Gubb will start at lock; all to accommodate the loss of Simon Mannering (injured) and Tui Lolohea (injured). Shaun Lane and Albert Vete come onto the bench.
Dragons = Euan Aitken (injury) returns in the centres, while Will Matthews is named on the bench.
Overall = Warriors Dragons
Last 5 matches = Warriors Dragons
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors Dragons
Form = Warriors Dragons
Given the Warriors performance last week, you would expect an improved effort here. Both sides are having to battle fatigue after a fixture on Monday and it may come down to which team handles that better. It is interesting to note the amazing record that the Dragons hold over the Warriors. It even appears as though a trip across the Tasman will not worry them either; with the Dragons aiming to gain as much confidence from their win over the Roosters as possible. However, this game can throw up a surprise or two from time to time and the while the Warriors are struggling, you cannot count them out in this particular situation. In terms of picking a winner, I would recommend sticking with the Dragons given their superior record they have over their opponents. Further, they appear to be executing better than their opponents at this stage of the season, with the Warriors last win coming against a weakened Bulldogs outfit; either side of that they’ve been terrible. The game is expected to be close though, so perhaps invest around that first and foremost, but don’t invest too much as this game could go either way.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.90
Gold Coast Titans (10th) v Melbourne Storm (3rd)
The Titans went down by 1-point last week to the Bulldogs in extra time, a loss that could’ve been different had they not (again) given their opponents a lead within a match. They were able to claw their way back to level things up in the closing stages, but it wasn’t enough. Now, they head into this match hoping to exact revenge on the Storm for their loss in Melbourne back in Round 2. The Storm come into this game full of confidence after a dominating 42-nil win over the Warriors on Monday. They opened up the scoring after 3 minutes and never looked back, continually building pressure on a wounded opponent and demonstrating their superior class. They are sitting high on the competition ladder now but you get the sense that they still haven’t produced their best football. Last weeks match was a sign towards that but there is still a lot left to be desired from them. If it wasn’t for a 15-20minute passage last time these two teams met, the result may’ve been a lot closer or even different. The Storms key players may also have one eye on next week, where they’re going to feature in the representative weekend. Whether or not that works into their opponents favor remains to be seen.
Titans = Unchanged.
Storm = Unchanged.
Overall = Titans 5 Storm 10
Last 5 matches = Titans 1 Storm 4
At Cbus Super Stadium = Titans 50% Storm 50%
Form = Titans 4 losses – Storm 2 wins
There is a sense that the Titans may just be able to get home in this match but it is perhaps hope more than anything. Coming off a strong win like the Storm had last week, it would be surprising to see them have a dip in performance. However, several of their players will feature in the Representative week and will want to get through this match unscathed. The Titans narrow loss to the Bulldogs could also be the spark that they needed, as it was the Bulldogs who upset the Storm in Round 6. The Titans are a better team than many are giving them credit for and they have a real chance to prove themselves here. A poor recent record against the Storm isn’t helping their cause, but only one of those matches was at home and they will benefit from having Melbourne travel to them. Surprisingly, this game will be closer than most people think so invest around that and in terms of a winner, stay with the Storm if you’ve had a tough weekend of tipping but if you want to search for an upset, the Titans may deliver in this game.
Titans +4.5 @ $1.90
Cronulla Sharks (4th) v Brisbane Broncos (1st)
The Sharks scraped home last week in a tough and bruising encounter against the Panthers. After jumping out of the blocks, they were made to fight for the win from behind and were great in clawing their way back. Both sides are on a 5-game winning streak and have looked impressive along the way. For the Broncos, they continued their strong home record, hammering the Rabbitohs 30-8 in another superior display of class. They have a few difficult weeks ahead though, with some players missing through injury in key positions. It is never an ideal situation to be in, but thankfully the representative week next weekend will allow some rest for their team. It is interesting to note that this is the first day game the Broncos have played since July 2015. Whether or not that will have an influence on their play remains to be seen but this ground is always a difficult place to win at and with the weather expected to be poor, the Broncos appear to have a tough task ahead of them in arguably, the match of the round.
Sharks = Unchanged.
Broncos = Kodi Nikorima is named in the starting team at hooker, replacing Andrew McCullough (injured), with Travis Waddell coming into the team on the bench.
Overall = Sharks 14 Broncos 19
Last 5 matches = Sharks 3 Broncos 2
At Southern Cross Group Stadium = Sharks 55% Broncos 44%
Form = Sharks 5 wins – Broncos 5 wins
The Sharks have a great habit of grinding out a victory in tough conditions and this game should be no different. The Broncos will be ready for this game and given the extended preparation they’ve had, fatigue should be minimal. Without McCullough at hooker though, the Broncos may struggle for momentum in the middle of the field. The work he does around the ruck is underrated and goes unnoticed; something that will be missed now that he is not out of the field. This could be the deciding factor between the two sides in the end and the Sharks will need to target their opponents in this area of the field. The score should still be very tight though, both sides have a great pack of forwards and halves that will rely heavily upon their influence up front. For the sake of selecting a winner, stick with the Sharks based upon the expected poor conditions and the players missing for the Broncos, but it would be better to invest around a close contest and enjoy everything that this match has to offer.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.50