It was amazing to see the celebrations that took place in the league last week, with a mountain of money being raised for Alex McKinnon. Full credit has to go to everyone involved with the league, from fans, players, coaches, clubs and officials. Hopefully it is a weekend that can continue to honour all players who have had their careers ended early through injury. Round 19 also saw a few upsets and several teams cling onto very slim Finals hopes. As we move into this week, several coaches have been put on notice and may be relying on a positive result or two in order to save their job. Boardroom dysfunction is also plaguing several clubs, as well as player contracts for next season and beyond. It is never a dull moment in the NRL and once the matches on Friday begin, you can be sure that the action on the field will surpass everything occurring off it.
Knights (14th) v Roosters (5th)
After an emotional day last week, the Knights had further issues with the news around Darius Boyd and the impending departure of their coach. Now they are playing for nothing but pride, facing the tough task of hosting the rejuvenated Premiers. The Roosters bounced back to form with a dominant performance against the Panthers at home. It reminded the rest of the competition just what they are capable of and proves that they will again be a difficult team to restrict in the closing weeks of the regular season. Not much will phase them now, as Trent Robinson wants the best out of his side and build as much momentum as possible heading towards the Finals.
Knights = Darius Boyd named to play, but that will change with the recent news. With Kurt Gidley out, there is no clear indication of his replacement at fullback. Gidley is replaced by Tyrone Roberts, while James McManus returns to the wing. Travis Waddell fills the vacant spot on the bench.
Roosters = Same 17 with positional changes. Nene Macdonald starts on the wing, Shaun Kenny-Dowall shifts into the centres. In the forwards, Aidan Guerra moves to lock and Frank-Paul Nuusausala drops to the bench.
Overall = Knights 18 Draw 2 Roosters 25
Last 5 matches = Knights 1 Roosters 4
At Hunter Stadium = Knights 8 Draw 2 Roosters 11
The Roosters are heavily favoured by the bookies, with good reason given the form of the two teams. They should have no trouble battling the Knights, with a superior forward pack and minimal disruption to their squad. It could get ugly, with little to play for and plagued by injuries, the Knights could be heading for their worse loss of the season.
Roosters 13+ @ $2
Complete blowout = Roosters 19+ @ $2.75 – It is only a tad over 3 converted tries and it is not beyond the Roosters. So far this season when they have won, the Roosters have won 8/10 by 13+ points. With the Knights in a spot of bother, there is no reason why they cannot score even more here.
Broncos (6th) v Storm (8th)
The Broncos have been in the headlines this week with the announcement of the return of Bennett. Whether or not it is an ideal situation for the Brisbane team remains to be seen and for now, sacked coach Anthony Griffin will have the reigns. Both teams are battling to sustain their position in the Top 8. The Broncos scraped home in a thriller against the Warriors last week, proving that they still have a winning performance when they click together. The Storm had an easier time in their match, accounting for the Raiders after a tight first half. They are in the unusual position at this stage of the season and can ill-afford any lapses in their remaining matches. Luckily, they have classy players across the paddock, which is lead well by the dynamic combination of the “Big 3”.
Broncos = Just like last week, Ben Barba and Josh Hoffman swap positions, with Hoffman at fullback and Barba playing 5/8. Matt Gillett is named to start in the back row, with Ben Hannant making way and dropping back to the bench. The trio of Jack Reed, Corey Oates and Daniel Vidot, who were dropped for last weeks match have been included on an extended bench.
Storm = Jordan McLean moves back to the bench, as Ryan Hinchcliffe returning to the starting side at lock. Junior Moors drops out of the team, while Kenny Bromwich, Dayne Weston and Young Tonumaipea added to an extended bench for the trip north.
Overall = Broncos 11 Draw 1 Storm 22
Last 5 matches = Broncos 0 Storm 5
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 3 Storm 8
If there were ever a time for the Broncos players to show their support for sacked coach Anthony Griffin, a win here would do the trick. The task of doing this does appear to be difficult though, especially considering the desperate situation the Storm find themselves in. In saying that, they are struggling and may find the Broncos a difficult team to move past on their home ground. The best thing to do in this match is to bet around a close match, rather than picking clear winner.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.85
Cop this one = Dale Copley to score a try @ $2.25 – He scored two last week to drive his team towards victory and moving into the centres only brings him closer to the ball. No doubt the Broncos will want to attack to his side of the field and build on the confidence he has develop this season.
Panthers (2nd) v Sharks (16th)
In a rare occasion, this match will be played in the central west of NSW at Dubbo. Perhaps this is an ideal move, given the current standing on the competition ladder of their opponent. The Roosters, in a match where they were backing up from MNF and battling several injuries, handed the Panthers a loss last week. Their standing on the table has been questioned somewhat, given the quality of their opponents and that will only intensify after a loss last week. The Sharks are experiencing a host of problems that have been well documented. Now, they are playing each week to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon. They have never been short on spirit and with their aspirations this season settled, the time is right for them to blood a few younger players.
Panthers = Peter Wallace returns at halfback, shifting Jamie Soward back to 5/8. Just like last week, Matt Moylan will play fullback and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will start on the wing. Adam Docker and Lewis Brown will start from the bench, allowing Isaah Yeo to start in the second row and Elijah Taylor to start at lock. Nigel Plum and Sam McKendry swap, with the latter moved to the interchange.
Sharks = Chris Heighinton is named on the bench for Siosaia Vave, who is out of this match. Sam Tagataese and Matt Prior are added to the extended bench, with the same 13 named to start the match.
Overall = Panthers 37 Draw 3 Sharks 43
Last 5 matches = Panthers Sharks
At Hunter Stadium = Panthers Sharks
The Sharks did their best last week to stick with the Cowboys but eventually, their inexperienced team couldn’t maintain a consistent performance. With the Panthers also wounded from Round 19, they will be out to make amends and prove that was a minor bump in the progress of their season. Daytime football will be the perfect conditions for the Panthers to throw the ball around and play themselves back into form. The Sharks will keep the game close early, but ultimately this talented outfit will overpower them.
Panthers -10.5 @ $2
Plus reasons = Panthers 13+ @ $2.30
Titans (11th) v Eels (13th)
The second match this Saturday features two teams that are desperate for a win to remain in touch with the Top 8. Despite their standings, they are capable of extended their season if they can put together consecutive victories. The Titans stopped the celebrations at Hunter Stadium, beating the Knights 22-8. It was a victory that wasn’t expected, nevertheless welcomed by an embattled coach and his players. Still, they have only one 3 out of their past 10 matches and are battling several injuries. As for the Eels, a long campaign is beginning to take a toll on the teams performance. They were beaten 32-12 last week by the Rabbitohs after only being down 10-6 at halftime. In this match, they will try to avoid their 5-straight loss and fall further behind in the race towards September. A -102 points difference is not helping them and Brad Arthur is going to have a difficult time turning things around quickly. They have the capabilities to do so, yet cannot rely on the contribution of 1 or 2 players to get them over the line.
Titans = Dave Taylor remains in the centres, following his strong performances there last week. Luke Bailey has suffered a hamstring injury and is out of the match. Greg Bird returns from suspension and starts at lock. Maurice Blair and Cody Nelson are added to the bench, with one of those players expected to miss out.
Eels = No changes.
Overall = Titans 7 Eels 3
Last 5 matches = Titans 3 Eels 2
At Cbus Super Stadium = Titans 4 Eels 1
The Titans are an inconsistent team that is always hard to back regardless of playing at home. Then again, the Eels are in a situation that is testing the credentials of their side at this stage of the season. Both are vulnerable to a poor performance, yet slowly returning to full-strength lifts the Titans ahead of their opponents in this match. If the Eels turn up to play, they will make it difficult for their opponents, making the margin difficult to select. The best way to go in this match is the line in favour of the home team.
Titans -2.5 @ $1.90
Destructive Dave = Dave Taylor FTS and/or LTS @ $13 – He hammered the Knights on the edge last week and the Titans will aim to give him as much attacking ball as possible. One on one with a defender could be his best opportunity to cross the line first and there is a very high chance of it happening here.
Bulldogs (3rd) v Cowboys (10th)
The Bulldogs were brought back to earth last week with a comprehensive loss to the Tigers 46-18. It was a match that they went into as heavy favorites, especially considering they won their past three matches against the Raiders, Storm and Sea Eagles. Des Hasler will no doubt have his side refocused for this match and working hard considering their flaws last week. It will not be easy though, facing a Cowboys teams confident after capturing their first win on the road this season, albeit against the Sharks. Nonetheless, it was a win that they needed and can use to their advantage here. Time is running out for the Cowboys to remain in touch with the teams in the Top 8 but they do play 4 of their last 6 matches at home. The Bulldogs are comfortable for now, although will not want to give away the advantage they have developed.
Bulldogs = Josh Morris returns from injury and will take Krisnan Inu’s place in the centres. Josh Jackson moves back to the second row from 5/8, allowing rookie Moses Mbye to make a start. Greg East moves to lock, Sam Kasiano shifts to prop and Tim Browne is out through injury. There are 5 on the bench, with Pat O’Hanlon and Damien Cook added.
Cowboys = No changes, except for the fact that Johnathan Thurston will wear jersey 7 again.
Overall = Bulldogs 21 Cowboys 10
Last 5 matches = Bulldogs 4 Cowboys 1
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 3 Cowboys 2
This is another difficult game to select, with the form of the Cowboys on the road last week difficult to read. On top of that, the Bulldogs were poor against the Tigers, perhaps reaching a lull after being up for the previous 3 weeks. Regardless, the Cowboys have to demonstrate more on the road before they can be selected with any confidence. The Bulldogs now have a specialist 5/8 leading their team around, which allows their forward pack to be at their best and dictate the match. They should be capable enough of covering the start yet with the boost in confidence, the Cowboys may make this match closer than expected.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $2.90
Warriors (7th) v Sea Eagles (1st)
The Warriors 3-game winning streak was halted last week with a loss to the Broncos in a thrilling match. They were lucky enough to remain in the Top 8 and now return home to face the leading team in the competition. Even with that loss, their tally to 7 wins from their past 10 matches and they are emerging as a possible dark-horse for September. The Sea Eagles are anything but that at this stage of the season, easily accounting for the Dragons on MNF. Travelling across the Tasman on a short turn around will make it difficult, although they have more pressing issues around player discontentment. There are several reports around eluding to the cause of their issues however for now, they are remaining a committed team on the field.
Warriors = Ngani Laumape returns to the team on the wing, with David Fusitua out. Sam Rapira drops out of the team and Agnatius Paasi is out of the team altogether.
Sea Eagles = Only one minor change, with James Hasson named on the bench at the expense of Tyson Andrews.
Overall = Warriors 8 Sea Eagles 17
Last 5 matches = Warriors 1 Sea Eagles 4
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 3 Sea Eagles 7
The Warriors have improved since their poor start to the season and even with a minor setback last week, they will be confident of their chances here. The Sea Eagles appear to be doing everything right on the field at this point, although you can never be sure of the complete effect the team situation is having. They are great when they are playing with the lead, but who knows how deep the players in the squad will dig if they fall behind on the score board. This game should be a close contest and I am leaning towards the upset in a close match.
Warriors @ $2
Tri your luck = Either team under 6.5 points @ $3 – If the Warriors do kick away to a large lead, the Sea Eagles may find it difficult to pull them back. If they switch off, it could get ugly. Yet with so many uncertainties around this betting option, it was safer to recommend the upset as the suggested bet. Don’t overlook it though, if these two teams play at their best it could become too close for comfort.
Starting strong = Warriors TRY first scoring play @ $2.10 – The Warriors have a great record recently, scoring first in 8 of the past 10 matches. They know how to start strong; they just have trouble maintaining that performance over 80 minutes.
Tigers (9th) v Dragons (12th)
The main focus around this match will revolve around Benji Marshall facing his former club for the first time. Ironically enough, both teams are now going through problems related to their head coaches, similar to the reason why Benji left the Tigers in the first place. Now at his new club, he is hoping to continue the revival of the Dragons and bounce back from a flat performance in MNF. The Sea Eagles exposed their weaknesses on the edges, with the Dragons leaking too many first half points that made it difficult for them to chase. The Tigers are flying after bouncing back into the winner’s circle with a commanding defeat of the Bulldogs last week. They are in a greater position compared with the Dragons, but still have a lot of work ahead of them. That win snapped a 2-game losing streak and moved them back up the table. Equal with 6th spot, any win they have from now on is more valuable than ever. They will have a better idea of the picture they are in heading into this match, with majority of matches already decided by the time this one kicks off.
Tigers = There is only one change, as Dene Halatau is added to the bench.
Dragons = Same as the Tigers, with Shane Pumipi and Charly Runciman added to the bench. A few injuries could emerge once they have assessed the fitness of their squad backing up from MNF.
Overall = Tigers 13 Dragons 15
Last 5 matches = Tigers 2 Dragons 3
At ANZ Stadium = Tigers 4 Dragons 4
The Dragons were poor at times in MNF, while the Tigers were equally impressive in their Round 19 display. They are a young team that is willing to throw caution into the wind, especially in daytime conditions that favours high-scoring affairs. The Dragons will have a difficult time trying to stick with their opponents and may be relying on emotion related to their playmaker rather than skill to motivate them towards victory. The home team should be ready to face anything in defense, while also carelessly attacking the Dragons where they are most vulnerable.
Tigers -3.5 @ $1.90
Allude to Lulia = Keith Lulia FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – He bagged 4 tries last week against the Bulldogs and proved to be difficult to handle. There is no reason why he cannot do the same here, with the Tigers aiming to attack down the right hand side of the field. He can finish off any attacking movement, as well as jump high enough to grab a kick.
Raiders (15th) v Rabbitohs (4th)
Round 20 concludes with the Rabbitohs out for revenge against the Raiders in Canberra. Back in Round 4, the Rabbitohs were comprehensively beaten by the Raiders 30-18, with the score flattering them somewhat. Since then, not much has worked for the Raiders and they are now at risk of grabbing the wooden spoon. They have been capable of an impressive performance or two, yet unable to put together a consistent performance to enhance their standing on the ladder. As for the Rabbitohs, they sit high on the table, although they are yet to assert themselves as a genuine contender. Coach Michael Maguire has a difficult choice to make in the halve, searching for the right combination between Reynolds and Keary. Still, they are in a healthy position without doing too much and perhaps they are building momentum slowly to ensure that their season lasts longer than the preliminary final, like it has the last two seasons.
Raiders = No changes, with Matt Allwood retained as 18th man.
Rabbitohs = Lote Tuqiri is out with injury, replaced by Bryson Goodwin on the wing. Ben Te’o is back from suspension and will start from the second row, forcing Ben Lowe back to the bench, along with Joel Reddy who is named as 19th man
Overall = Raiders 28 Rabbitohs 20
Last 5 matches = Raiders 1 Rabbitohs 4
At GIO Stadium = Raiders 8 Rabbitohs 4
A tricky game for the Rabbitohs, but one that they should win easily. The Raiders were spirited last week against the Storm, but there is a clear gap in class between their side and the top teams in the league. The Rabbitohs demonstrated what they were capable of last week against the Eels and should be difficult to hold again here. That doesn’t mean the home team are completely out of the contest, however if the Rabbitohs build early momentum and dominate the middle of the field, like they have when they’ve won, the Raiders will be suffering their 13th loss of the season. An interesting note, when the Rabbitohs win, they turn out a commanding performance, having won 9/10 matches by 13+ so far this season.
Rabbitohs 13+ @ $2.20
Draw a long bow = Draw/Rabbitohs (HT/FT Double) @ $17 – As suggested by the odds, this result is a “long shot”, but you need to think about it further. The conditions in Canberra will favour the home team early on and they Rabbitohs team may need to build momentum and grind out this win, adding plenty of value for this exotic option.
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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