The rugby league world was thrown into chaos last week, as another player controversy brought the game into disrepute. It is a sad state of affairs and something that could’ve been avoided, but it hasn’t. The game is too strong to be dragged back down; especially considering this issue has overshadowed the third and final Origin next week. Aside from that, Round 16 featured a few shocks, with more fancied teams being upset by lower opponents. Time is running out for teams to affirm their position in the Top 8, while others now have limited opportunities to make a spirited run. Otherwise, some may as well book their holidays for September and October, because there is no chance of them featuring there. Ready! Set! Go! 10 Rounds of the regular season to go and at this stage, anything is possible!
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Friday night action kicks off with one game of rugby league, which this week is a replay of the Round 13 fixture on the same night. This time, it will take place out at ANZ Stadium as the Bulldogs host the Sea Eagles. Unfortunately, this match will not be the same, with several players missing from both teams meaning that both teams will field understrength lineups. NRL fans are otherwise robbed of an exciting contest, with the Sea Eagles sitting at the top of the competition ladder, while the Bulldogs are left chasing them in 3rd position due to points difference. The Bulldogs head into this week on the back of their second bye, which gave their players a chance to rest their weary bodies. Prior to that, they were going through a tough period, with just one win from their previous 4 matches. Their last match was a successful one in trying circumstances, as they headed down to Canberra and overcame the Raiders. Their consistency has been questioned, with injuries and representative selection hampering their progress, but they are in a position now that they can afford a few sub-par performances. The Sea Eagles can do the same, but they are travelling nicely with only a few players missing from their lineup. In saying that, they have enough depth to cover their absence and still produce quality performances. The pressure was on them last week against the Roosters, but they were able to overcome that with a thrilling contribution from their fullback, Brett Stewart. They are proving each week that at the business end of the season; they are going to feature heavily and are difficult for any team to overcome. They will be looking to assert their dominance over the Bulldogs in this contest, but you can never count the Dogs out in any situation, regardless of how tough the situation may be.
The Bulldogs are forced to make another set of changes due to Origin selection. Missing Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds in the halves, Hasler has chosen to name Josh Jackson at 5/8 and captain Michael Ennis at halfback. The last time this move was made, it was ineffective having Ennis at halfback, but it’s just a short-term solution. To cover for those moves, Greg Eastwood shifts into the second row from lock, with Dale Finucane promoted from the bench. Damien Cook is named at hooker and will have his work cut out trying to match the contribution of Ennis in the middle of the field. Aiden Tolman returns to the team and is immediately slotted back into the starting side. This forces Sam Kasiano back to the bench, alongside Lloyd Perrett, who is promoted from 18th man. Pat O’Hanlon, who is likely to miss out on selection if all players are fit, fills that position.
Manly-Warringah Sesa Eagles
The Sea Eagles are fortunate this week to only be without DCE at halfback, due to his selection for Queensland. Just like the previous matches when their halves have been missing; Jack Littlejohn comes into the team. He will play halfback this week, partnering with Kieran Foran to bring about the downfall of their opponents. Wherever you look on the field, they have attacking threats that are difficult for any opponent to hold out. Their backline is one of the strongest in the league and can finish off any attacking movement. It has been stated week after week, the establishment of the forward’s platform creates this. They too are difficult to maintain and dominate the middle of the field. It is scary to think that they still have several players to return to their team and are probably the team to beat at this stage of the season.
Overall = Bulldogs 51 Draw 5 Sea Eagles 63
Last 5 games = Bulldogs 3 Sea Eagles 2
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 4 Sea Eagles 6
TAB Sportsbet = Bulldogs $3.40 Sea Eagles $1.33
Centrebet = Bulldogs $3.55 Sea Eagles $1.30
Sportsbet = Bulldogs $3.50 Sea Eagles $1.32
Betfair = Bulldogs $3.60 Sea Eagles $1.36
With the reshuffle that has occurred at Canterbury this week, it will be a difficult task for them to win this contest. Even if they were at full-strength, the Sea Eagles would still be a tough team to overcome and nothing changes here. Ennis and Jackson are not the best halves pairing in the league and they will have their hands full trying to get the Bulldogs attack moving. Their defense should still be competent enough and the players that they have in their team will still be determined enough to overcome a superior opponent. Manly still have several attacking weapons that will threaten their opponents line, while at the same time maintaining their own. The hardest thing to decide upon will be the line and in a match like this one where key players are missing, it becomes difficult to selection. Then again, the Sea Eagles have never had trouble scoring points against any team this season and this game should be no different. Take on the line, with the Sea Eagles expected to kick clear of a team that lacks the killer blow in attack.
Sea Eagles -8.5 @ $1.90
Soaring Eagles = Sea Eagles 13+ @ $2.35 – As stated above, the Sea Eagles posses several attacking options that will trouble the Bulldogs, while their opponents will struggle to do the same. There is a little more value then the suggested bet, so consider this option if you are confident enough that the margin will reach this level.
St George-Illawarra Dragons v North Queensland Cowboys
The first game of Super Saturday this week heads out to Kograh, as the resurgent Dragons host the travelling Cowboys. The Dragons are backing up from a successful MNF contest, meaning that fatigue may become an issue, but shouldn’t if their confidence levels are still high. They were great against the Storm in shutting them down across the park. Their opponents were not at full-strength; still, it was a pleasing sight to see more fluidity and structure in both attack and defense. Fortune is with them this week also, as they encounter a Cowboys team that is struggling to put together a competitive team. That has always been the case during the Origin period, although this time injuries are also a factor. The situation they are in cannot be helped and they must put it behind them, even with the combinations that they are trying to form within 1-game. They will also head into this match with confidence, as they upset the Rabbitohs in Townsville. They started that match with a mountain of momentum and were able to hang on for a narrow win. They would’ve been disappointed with how their defense came apart towards the end of that match, but it does little to change the outcome and the 2-competition points that they gained. Painfully though, they are on the road again and are still searching for consistency when they hop onto a plane. Paul Green must be pulling his hair out trying to overcome this issue for his side but they have another opportunity to make amends and make it consecutive wins, while also trying to halt a team that is on a 2-game winning streak.
St George-Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons have lost Josh Dugan to Origin duty this week, with Peter Mata’utia named to replace him in the centres. He will wear jersey 14 for this game, as number 3 is retired for this match to honor Reg Gasnier. On the bench, both Dan Hunt and Dylan Farrell have been included in the team. They are tipped to make their long-awaited return from injury, with two players having to make way prior to KO. The Dragons have again improved and were at their best during stages of their last match. Stability is key in their halves and that appears to be resonating around the rest of the team. Along with that, the change in attitude brought from Paul McGregor is working wonders. They now need to go on with the job and ensure that this current run of form continues to increase their chances of making the Top 8.
North Queensland Cowboys
No surprise to see the Cowboys without several of their players around the Origin period. Trouble is, only Johnathan Thurston and James Tamou are on representative duty, as Brent Tate and Matt Scott are sidelined with injury. Last week, the Cowboys acquired Tautau Moga from the Roosters to cover a few injuries in their backline. The hype around this player was large but several injuries have delayed his progress in the NRL. He is named to start in the centres this week, as Matthew Wright shifts back to fullback. Michael Morgan has been moved from that position and into halfback, to cover for JT. He debuted in the halves and while he will be pressured, he should be able to provide direction for the team. Ashton Sims comes into the team in the front row for Tamou and has been given the captaincy. Glenn Hall is named at lock, swapping with Ethan Lowe, who moves back to the bench. Tariq Sims shifts into the second row, strengthening their ball-running options on the edge. Ben Spina is named as 18th man, but is likely to miss out if all players are fit for this match.
Overall = Dragons 11 Cowboys 13
Last 5 games = Dragons 2 Cowboys 3
At Jubilee Oval = Dragons 3 Cowboys 1
TAB Sportsbet = Dragons $1.30 Cowboys $3.60
Centrebet = Dragons $1.28 Cowboys $3.75
Sportsbet = Dragons $1.32 Cowboys $3.50
Betfair = Dragons $1.32 Cowboys $3.65
Like majority of matches this weekend, the players that are not taking the field impact upon the outcome of this match. The Cowboys are a depleted team hoping to move through this match with minimal worries and enjoy a week off with the bye in Round 18. That isn’t to suggest that they are not going to be trying to win this match, but the odds reflect how difficult it will be for the Cowboys to overcome. The Dragons proved last week how tough they can be when they are firing, with their Origin players not disrupting their lineup or combinations too much. As well as this, the Cowboys struggle to perform away from Townsville and the trip south to Sydney doesn’t do them any favors, having only won once at this ground. As for the margin, both teams have proved this season that they can leak points when they are least wanted. The Cowboys will struggle to score them and the Dragons will draw confidence from MNF against the Storm and hope that fatigue isn’t an issue. This is another chance for the Dragons to build upon their points difference tally and they should be able to beat their opponents by more than 2 converted tries.
Dragons -9.5 @ $1.90
Firing Dragons = Dragons 13+ @ $2.20 – If you want a little more value out of your bet, then consider this option. As stated above, the Dragons should be able to win by more than 2 converted tries, with the Cowboys attack appearing to be flat without JT.
Sydney Roosters v Cronulla Sharks
The 7:30pm match on Saturday will take place out at Allianz Stadium, with the Roosters hosting the embattled Sharks. If you asked an outsider with little knowledge of the game, they would be wrong for thinking that the Sharks are the losing team heading into this contest. It has again been a week to forget for the team from the Shire, as the Carney issue was to be surpassed by the shock resignation of their interim coach, Peter Sharp. He didn’t shy away from the fact that he was reluctant to take the position since the suspension of head coach Shane Flanagan. The situation was only made worse with the comments made by captain Paul Gallen. Now, this team that has already dealt with so much must again rise to face a difficult opponent. At least they will have a win against the Broncos to draw confidence from. While the Roosters have been out of the spotlight, they will have privately been upset with their efforts against the Sea Eagles last Friday. They were comprehensively beaten and outplayed over the 80-minute, with the score line only flattering the losing team. The game was there to be won and it was disappointing that they were unable to rise to the occasion. Looking at the bigger picture, it will do little to hamper their back-to-back Premiership aspirations. They will learn from that loss and aim towards building a better effort in this match. Facing the Sharks after everything that they’ve gone through may make them easy prey, but this is a situation that is not strange to the visiting team. They often are at there best in times of adversity and the Roosters will have to be ready for this or risk facing further embarrassment.
The Roosters lose Daniel Tupou, Aiden Guerra and Body Cordner this week, as all players are away on Origin duty. Nene Macdonald is named on the wing, to make just his 3rd start at the top level. In the forwards, Aidan Guerra is replaced by Dylan Napa in the second row, while Heath L’Estrange takes Boyd Corner’s position on the bench. Kane Evans also comes into the side in jersey 17, ensuring that the Roosters have a strong bench to call upon when needed. Siosiua Taukeiaho is named as 18th man to cover for any late chances. They are missing some quality players in their lineup, but they still retain it in several other areas. Luckily, they are able to keep their “spine” together, ensuring that the direction of the team isn’t effected. Their forwards are tough to overcome at any stage, but they were comprehensively beaten last week and will have a point to prove here.
With everything that is occurring at this club at the moment, the first question that comes to mind is who was responsible for naming this team. To compound problems, they are now without Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis in their team. Tinirau Arona is named at lock to cover for Gallen, with Anthony Tupou named to replace Lewis. Wade Graham is given the captaincy duties in Gallen’s absence, while Sam Tagataese is relegated back to the bench and swaps with Siosaia Vave. Obviously, Toddy Carney is out of the Sharks team this week and Fa’amanu Brown comes into the team to partner Jeff Robson in the halves. Tupou Sopoaga, Junior Roqica, Tim Robinson and Pat Politoni are all new faces on the bench and there is no clear indication of which way the Sharks will go in the lead up to this match, so stay tuned to the final line up that is named.
Overall = Roosters 56 Draw 2 Sharks 28
Last 5 games = Roosters 3 Draw 1 Sharks 1
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 13 Sharks 7
TAB Sportsbet = Roosters $1.07 Sharks $9.00
Centrebet = Roosters $1.07 Sharks $9.00
Sportsbet = Roosters $1.07 Sharks $9.50
Betfair = Roosters $1.09 Sharks $10.00
With a week of turmoil behind them, the Sharks will want nothing more than for this game to begin. They have had another week to forget, although their jobs do not get any easier once the whistle sounds to start this match. They are without their Origin players and will also struggle to find impetus in attack. Carney was responsible for their flair in this area and now halfback Jeff Robson has to form a new combination with his 5/8. Looking at the home team, they have a point to prove after failing to impress last week and overcome the Sea Eagles. Even with several players absent from their team, they have enough depth to cover their losses and still produce a quality performance. It was surprising to see the Sharks win last week, although the Roosters are a superior opponent compared to the Broncos. The home team may just run up a tally against a wounded opponent and if the Sharks attitude isn’t right, this match could get very ugly. Be wary of investing in this match though, the value around isn’t anything to get excited about and this match may be one that you want to overlook and invest elsewhere throughout the weekend.
Roosters -23.5 @ $1.90
Mini Magic = Anthony Minichiello FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – He hasn’t scored in the past 3 matches for the Roosters but that doesn’t mean he is out of contention. He is a vital piece of the puzzle for the Roosters and an attacking threat that can find his way to the try line from anywhere on the field.
Wests Tigers v Penrith Panthers
There is only one match on Sunday, with all attention focused on the 3pm “match of the day”. This week, it will be a battle of western Sydney, as the Tigers host the Panthers at Leichhardt Oval. Unfortunately, this contest has been impacted upon by the lack of player availabilities in the lead in to the 3rd origin match. The Tigers also have a few injuries to contend with, making this game against the 2nd place Panthers even more difficult. They will be able to draw their confidence from their 1-point victory last week against the Raiders at Campbelltown. Their plans were thrown into chaos early, losing James Tedesco to a knee injury in the first tackle of the match. Fortunately for them, Braith Anasta had the experience and poise to kick a field goal 10 minutes from fulltime. It was a vital win for the club that heads into this round in 6th place on the ladder. The Panthers will have a tough time attempting to back up from their last match, with a road trip over to New Zealand bringing a loss to them. It wasn’t the ideal match for them either, as they appeared to be vulnerable in several areas over 80-minutes. Not to worry though, they have faced a variety of set backs in 2014 and will not let one loss worry them too much. One factor that has worked in there is the amount of players they have used each week and the stable combinations that they have been able to form. They will be hoping that this is able to get them through this match, as the Tigers will be hungry to continue on their winning ways and reaffirm their position in the Top 8. On top of that, the Panthers have not beaten the Tigers in their past 5 meetings, enhancing the importance of this contest as both aim to build their supporter base in a lucrative market.
Aside from the fact that the Tigers are missing Robbie Farrah and Aaron Woods through Origin selection, they were dealt a further blow last week with another injury to James Tedesco. It is no surprise to see that it was his knee that was again injured and he is probably going to miss the remainder of the season. Blake Austin has been named at fullback as his replacement, just like he did during the game when Tedesco when down in the opening seconds. Tim Simona is out of this match and Keith Lulia is his replacement in the centres. Joel Luani is back at hooker to replace Farrah, with Martin Taupau called up from the bench to cover for Woods. Sitaleki Akauola and Jack Buchanan, two players who will be tested when they take the field, have filled the two vacant spots on the bench. Dene Halatau is also named to return from injury and hopefully he can get through this match without worry. This Tigers team will have their work cut out trying to limit the Panthers, but it is a task that is not beyond this young and talented team.
The Panthers sprung a surprise last week with the return of Jamal Idris to their team. He has battled a few off-field issues this season but all involved with the Panthers club would be happy to see him back on the field. He is named again in the centres, with Kevin Naiqama returning outside him on the wing. This forces Isaah Yeo out of the team but he has proven himself as a suitable replacement for Ivan Cleary to call upon. In the forwards, Adam Docker is named at lock, after missing last weeks match with injury. This move forces Tyrone Peachey back to the bench and Bryce Cartwright to 18th man. After being taken off the field against the Warriors, Jamie Soward is named to play but is in some doubt. It would cause plenty of disruption to their team, although they have proven in the past that they should be able to cope without him; as Peter Wallace’s responsibilities increase over 80 minutes.
Overall = Tigers 11 Panthers 14
Last 5 games = Tigers 5 Panthers 0
At Leichhardt Oval = Tigers 1 Panthers 2
TAB Sportsbet = Tigers $3.40 Panthers $1.33
Centrebet = Tigers $3.35 Panthers $1.33
Sportsbet = Tigers $3.65 Panthers $1.30
Betfair = Tigers $3.50 Panthers $1.36
Unfortunately lacking a host of quality players has affected the Tigers chances of winning this match. Playing this match at Leichhardt Oval will bring them closer to the Panthers, but it will not be enough to grab the 2-points. The match will be a lot closer than most people think due to three factors. One, the home ground advantage; two, the fact that the Panthers are backing up from a tough road trip to New Zealand and; three, they could be without playmaker Jamie Soward. The Tigers will be out to prove a point and reaffirm their position in the Top 8, but will fall short towards the end of this match. It should be a thrilling contest though, with the travelling team prevailing towards the end, as their experience and execution gets the better of their opponents.
Tigers +9.5 @ $1.90
Cat fight = Panthers 1-12 @ $3 – The Panthers will be made to work for the win in this match, bringing this option into consideration. It is slightly different to the suggested bet in that it allows for a 2-converted try margin of victory, just outside the line. Either way this match should be close and this option offers slightly more value.
Sweet man = Josh Mansour FTS and/or LTS @ $7 – He was able to cross the line once last week against the Warriors, proving that he is always a factor in attack. With the Tigers weaker on the edges, look for the Panthers to move the ball to their left edge more often and allow Idris to attract two defenders, leaving this man unmarked on the outside.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Gold Coast Titans
MNF heads to Sydney this week, with two depleted teams in the Rabbitohs and Titans facing off against one another. The Rabbitohs find themselves up against another team from Queensland and hoping for a different outcome compared to last Saturday. They went down to the Cowboys on the road, starting the match slowly and unable to run down their opponents tally. They will take some confidence away from that match, but is was disappointing to see execution let them down in several areas. On top of that, they appeared to be hampered by a week off with the bye. The Rabbitohs were caught off guard and will now have to win this match minus their Origin stars. The Titans are also forced into the same predicament, with player availabilities only compounding the issues they are facing. Execution is also an issue, as well as consistency that saw them go down to a spirited Dragons team in Round 15. A week off would’ve given them a chance to work on a few combinations, although they are heading into this match with their backs against the wall. If they can overcome those problems, they may just be able to spring a surprise upon the Rabbitohs. The time is right for that to happen but rugby league is a game where on-field performance during 80-minutes will have a greater effect on the outcome than any other factor. MNF is no stranger to a thrilling contest; nevertheless the players in this match are going to have to improve its quality and grab a vital 2-points for their team.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
For the second time this season, the Rabbitohs are forced to field a depleted team during the Origin period. This week, they are missing Greg Inglis and Ben Te’o on Origin duty, while Chris McQueen is absent through injury. Nathan Merritt shifts from the wing to fullback and Joel Reddy comes into the team on the edge. Kirisome Auva’a is again out of this match, with Bryson Goodwin named to start in the centres. In the forwards, Sam Burgess has moved from lock and into the second row, this week partnering Ben Lowe, who is promoted from the bench. Also finding a starting spot at lock is Jason Clark. Surprisingly, Maguire has named Issac Luke on the bench and Apisai Koroisau will start the match. The reasoning behind it is not known, although perhaps the coach is trying to reduce the burden on one of his star players.
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans have lost Greg Bird, Nate Myles and David Taylor to Origin duty this week, taking away a host of talent and experience from this team. The Titans certainly needed a week away last week to work on the new combinations they are trying to form. Brad Tighe is dropped from this match, with Brad Takairangi shifting back from 5/8 and into the centres. Maurice Blair remains in the halves, although he will play 5/8 alongside new recruit Daniel Mortimer. Ben Ridge is promoted form the bench and into the second row, with Ashley Harrison returning to cover for the injured Paul Carter. On the bench, Mark Ioane and Cody Nelson feature, while Tom Kingston (18th) and Albert Kelly (19th) have also been included in the team. If Albert Kelly is included in the team, their attacking potential changes dramatically and may mean that Mortimer finds a different role within the team. The only way to be sure is to pay attention to the final teams that are named 1-hour prior to KO.
Overall = Rabbitohs 7 Titans 4
Last 5 games = Rabbitohs 5 Titans 0
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 3 Titans 2
TAB Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.14 Titans $6.00
Centrebet = Rabbitohs $1.15 Titans $5.50
Sportsbet = Rabbitohs $1.14 Titans $6.00
Betfair = Rabbitohs $1.18 Titans $5.70
The Titans are in all sorts of trouble this week, as they are missing several players and have a variety of questions lingering around their recent performances. They are a capable team on their day but have failed to produce consistent performances to overcome various opponents. The Rabbitohs will relish the extra recovery time that is given from their last match and will be out to make amends for that effort. They will find it difficult to perform without their Origin stars; nevertheless they are capable enough to beat the Titans. The odds suggest that the Rabbitohs should be able to easily dispose of their opponents, although it isn’t as clear-cut as that. The Titans need to prove that they are a better team then their recent performances suggest. In saying that, the Rabbitohs have a strong pack of forwards that will dominate the middle of the field, creating more room for their halves and outside backs to operate. Their defense should also remain strong, meaning that if the Titans do not produce something special in attack, the Rabbitohs may run up a host of points.
Rabbitohs -15.5 @ $1.90
Bouncing bunnies = Rabbitohs 13-18 @ $4.75 – The suitable option for the Rabbitohs margin of victory appears to be 19+ ($2.20), but MNF is famous for producing a closer than expected contest. There is more value around this option and it lines up with the line that is being offered.
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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