Rabbitohs (2nd) v Sea Eagles (1st)
In a game that is being billed as a possible “Grand Final preview”, the two top teams in the competition face off. The Rabbitohs will have a tough time backing up for this match after a road trip to Cairns for their match on Sunday and the situation will not be made any easier by their opponents. The Rabbits were again dominating on the scoreboard but are not causing any major concern with their play. Perhaps they are progressing towards peaking at the right end of the season, when it matters most. The Sea Eagles overcame the Broncos at home last week, proving that regardless of what is going to be thrown at them over 80-minutes, they have what it takes to win a match. Five matches out from the Finals, they are emerging as the team to beat. This match will be a preview of what is coming in September and a measure of where the home team is at in their development.
Rabbitohs = Sam Burgess and Ben Te’o have been named to start, but there is still doubt around Burgess’ fitness for this match. If he does feature, Ben Lowe will move back to the bench, along with Joe Picker who has been added to the team.
Sea Eagles = Justin Horo is back from suspension and Jorge Taufua is named to make a return from injury. If he isn’t fit, Cheyse Blair has again been named as a backup.
Overall = Rabbitohs 59 Sea Eagles 73
Last 5 matches = Rabbitohs 2 Sea Eagles 3
At The SCG = Rabbitohs 14 Sea Eagles 12
This game is expected to be a close match, but the Rabbitohs may find it difficult to back up from their road trips to Cairns and Canberra. They are also missing a few key players and with news around that Burgess may also be out, the Sea Eagles chances are very strong. In saying that, the match should be a close one and rather than declaring a clear winner, it is better to seek an option that accommodates this.
Either team under 6.5 points (tri bet) @ $2.75
Broncos (10th) v Bulldogs (5th)
Both teams are coming off a loss and will be desperately searching for a win to get their season back on track. The Broncos slipped out of the Top 8 with their loss, making each match in the coming 5-weeks a “must win situation” if they want to extend their season. The Bulldogs can consider themselves unlucky with some decision against the Panthers, but by their own admission, they were not at their expected level for the duration of the match. Losing 3-mathces in a row is never ideal, especially at this stage of the season and Des Hasler will demand a lift from his team. Interestingly, they enjoy a strong record on the Broncos home turf and will be out to exact revenge for their 6-point loss in Round 1.
Broncos = Justin Hodges is out with a hamstring injury, with Jack Reed shifting into the centres. Lachalan Maranta comes into the team in the vacant wing spot.
Bulldogs = Josh Morris is named to feature, with Mitch Brown included to replace the injured Chase Stanley. Aiden Tolman returns to the team, albeit on the extended bench alongside rookie Moses Mbye and Reni Maitua.
Overall = Broncos 25 Draw 1 Bulldogs 19
Last 5 matches = Broncos 3 Bulldogs 2
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 4 Bulldogs 7
Either side will be despairingly fighting to win this match. There is a chance to break a losing streak and the odds are slightly favoured in favour of the home side. The Bulldogs enjoy a positive record at Suncorp Stadium but their current form suggests that they are going to have a difficult time emulating previous efforts. Just like the other Friday match, this game is going to be close and rather than picking a clear winner, the better betting option is selecting a close match.
Either team under 6.5 points (tri bet) @ $2.75
Cop this one! = Dale Copely FTS and/or LTS @ $10 – The youngster has been in great form recently and there is no reason why he cannot continue that here. Playing in the centres will bring him closer to the ball and he will relish the chance of extra responsibility without Hodges playing.
Knights (14th) v Storm (6th)
This match will unfortunately have greater interest in it for anything but the action over 80-minutes. The focus has to remain there though and hopefully both teams turn out an entertaining match. As it stands, the Knights are playing for pride, something that was knock out of them with a 40-point loss to the Rabbitohs last Sunday. They have a horror injury toll, players unavailable and a coach that is departing at the end of the season. Fortunately for Melbourne, they have no such issues; reminding the competition what they are capable of in MNF. The “Big 3” are dominating the pace and execution of matches; while the rest of the team is going about their jobs and setting up a strong platform. If they are to maintain this level, they are going to be difficult for any team to beat. It will be interesting to see how they deal with the emotion of this match above anything else.
Knights = Jarrod Mullen, Kade Snowden and Akuila Uate all return to the team. Kurt Gidley shifts from the halves and to fullback, while Chris Houston is named as 18th man.
Storm = Unchanged, except for Dayne Weston and Kurt Mann being added to the extended bench.
Overall = Knights 13 Storm 19
Last 5 matches = Knights 1 Storm 4
At Hunter Stadium = Knights 9 Storm 5
The sheer emotion of this match will lift the Knights to another level, although it will take more than just sentiments to win this match. The key players returning and facing the Storm after MNF may just make this match closer than expected. By no means does that discredit the Storm’s previous performances; it simply means that after 3 dominating performances, they are due for a lapse in their run towards the Finals.
Knights +12.5 @ $1.90
Close call = Storm 1-12 @ $3 – As stated above, this match should be close and the value around this margin is almost too good to overlook. It is a risk, just in case the Knights lift for this match and produce a shock win, although it is still worth consideration.
Cowboys (7th) v Tigers (12th)
The Cowboys confirmed their standing in the Top 8 last week with a victory against the Titans, making it 3 in a row. They are not out of trouble just yet, but with a favourable run towards the Finals, they are firmly in control of their destiny. Dominating play by the forwards, which has created greater room for Thurston to move and produce possession for his outside backs, has set up their victories. The Tigers desire the same thing at the moment and now have to contend with a team in form after their loss on Monday to the Storm. They have a host of problems plaguing their club off the field, although teams like the Sea Eagles have proved that it doesn’t have to be a distraction. They need their team at full-strength if they are to be competitive in the closing rounds. As it stands, they are still in with a chance for Finals football but can ill-afford another set back in that quest.
Cowboys = John Asiata is added to the team as 18th man.
Tigers = Luke Brooks named to start after missing out on MNF, causing Curtis Sironen to shift back to the forwards.
Overall = Cowboys 13 Tigers 16
Last 5 matches = Cowboys 2 Tigers 3
At 1300Smile Stadium = Cowboys 10 Tigers 4
Backing up from MNF, travelling to Townsville and a club full of animosity; the odds are stacked heavily against the Tigers. There is no surprise then that Cowboys are heavy favourites and rightly so. They should easily handle this win, with the hardest choice being selecting a bet that also includes value. Expect a lot of points to be scored and just like the Storm did to the Tigers on MNF, once they get too far ahead, the visiting team will switch off altogether.
Cowboys 19+ @ $2.75
Eels (9th) v Raiders (15th)
The Raiders plummeted again in Round 21, this time with a demoralising loss to the Warriors on their home turf. Ricky Stuart was lost for words at the press conference and the troubles appear as though they are far from being solved. A trip north to Darwin, where the Eels host them, is only going to prove more problematic. On the back of individual brilliance from Jarryd Hayne, the Eels are proving to be a difficult team to face. He is dominating the play and is in similar form to the last time the Eels made the Grand Final. They have a favourable draw ahead of them and considering they still have to play the Raiders again after this game, this match is crucial to how they are going to finish the season.
Eels = Kenny Edwards is back to the second row and Jospeh Paulo moves back to lock.
Raiders = A host of changes for a struggling team. Edrick Lee and Jack Wrighton are back from injury. Rookie Jordan Rapana will make his NRL debut at fullback, covering for Anthony Milford, who shift to 5/8. Shannon Boyd starts in the front row and Matt McIlwrick starts at lock, while Jarrad Kennedy will be alongside him at lock. Mitch Cornish comes onto the bench as the utility.
Overall = Eels 24 Raiders 24
Last 5 matches = Eels 1 Raiders 4
At TIO Stadium = Never played at the venue
Nothing is working for the Raiders at the moment and traveling to the climate that Darwin offers will only make things increasingly difficult. On the other hand, the Eels are on the cusp of the Top 8 and will be desperate to produce a victory that keeps them in contention. If the Eels use the confidence generate by Jarryd Hayen to their advantage, they could run up a large margin on their opponents. The Raiders appear to be a team that has checked out for the season. Injecting youngsters into the team will change the attitude but it will still take a rather large effort to stick with their opponents in this match.
Eels 13+ @ $1.90
Just try and stop him = Semi Radradra FTS and/or LTS @ $7 – After being tipped to score first last week, he crossed the line second and will again be on the hunt for a try. The Raiders lack strong defensive players on the edges and Radradra’s strength makes him a threat when the Eels are attacking the line.
Warriors (8th) v Sharks (16th)
The Warriors are maintaining contact with the Top 8 by winning matches in dominating fashion. They pummelled the Raiders on the road last week, at a ground that has proven problematic to say the least. Returning home this week, they still have a few injuries detracting away from their squad, but should be able to do the same against a team that is also struggling with player fitness. Sitting at the bottom of the ladder, the Sharks are playing for pride and to avoid the wooden spoon. Their effort on the field suggests that they do not deserve such an award, especially considering the form of other teams around them. Depending on other results, they can create a gap between some of the teams around them with a win here. Then again, the Warriors have a lot more to play for and on their home turf, they will be difficult for any team to beat.
Warriors = Dynamic duo Shaun Johnson (like last week) and Konrad Hurrell are out with injuries. Tuimoala Lolohea comes onto the wing and Ngani Laumape comes shifts into the centres.
Sharks = Siosaia Feki comes onto the wing, while Chris Heighington and Tupou Sopoaga are also called into the starting side in the back row. Paul Gallen returns at lock, with Junior Roqica, Matt Prior and Tim Robinson added to an extended bench.
Overall = Warriors 14 Sharks 18
Last 5 matches = Warriors 0 Sharks 5
At Mt Smart Stadium = Warriors 8 Sharks 6
The Sharks suffered further blows to their playing roster and a trip across the Tasman will only increase the burden on their team. Their efforts have been spirited, but if the Warriors grab early points, they may just succumb to their opponents. After last week’s effort, you would be right for thinking the Warriors are going to run up a tally. They have a 50% 13+ record this year with their wins, while 71% of the Sharks losses have been by the same margin.
Warriors -15.5 @ $1.90
Go for more = Warriors 19+ @ $2.15 – As stated above, the Warriors have the potential to score a high amount of points. This match shouldn’t be any different and early scoring may lead to momentum continuing on from their efforts last week.
Beast mode = Manu Vatuvei FTS and/or LTS @ $7 – He scored 3 tries in their victory last week, none of which had him paying punters though. He is a player in form and will relish the chance of playing against inexperienced opponents on the edges. Furthermore, of the 5 matches played at Mt Smart this year, he has crossed the line 3 times.
Dragons (11th) v Panthers (3rd)
The Dragons did everything possible last week to fight back against the Roosters, but a first half lead allowed their opponents to eventually win the match. The scoreboard flattered them somewhat, as a late try cut the margin to just 8-points. There were glimpses of hope, but they are going to need to produce a complete performance if they are to make the Finals. They should take advice from the Panthers, who themselves had to fight against a horror injury toll and a tough Bulldogs outfit. Many were (and still are) questioning their title aspirations considering the players that are missing from their team. Unfortunately, the situation was only made worse over the weekend. Nevertheless, a win has reaffirmed their standing on the competition ladder to the point where one or two more will ensure they feature in the Finals.
Dragons = Unchanged, aside from the fact that Dan Hunt and Bronson Harrison have been added to an extended bench.
Panthers = Sam McKendry is named to start at prop, while Isaah Yeo is back into the team in the second row. There is an extended bench of 7, with Tim Grant, Matt Robinson, Sam Anderson, Ryan Simpkins and Kevin Kingston all added to the team.
Overall = Dragons 16 Panthers 11
Last 5 matches = Dragons 1 Panthers 4
At WIN Stadium = Dragons 5 Panthers 1
The Panthers surprised everyone last week with a victory over the Bulldogs, but this week they face a tougher test, albeit against a lower ranked opponent. Injuries and travel to a tough ground will make the task tough, but it is not one that is beyond them. They relish daytime football and will be out to pressure the Dragons from the beginning of this match. The Dragons are the favourites for this match and will sense that the 3rd place Panthers are a chance of losing this match. The match is not as one-sided as the odds suggest and along with betting for a close match, the line that is given to the Panthers is too good to refuse.
Panthers +4.5 @ $1.90
Tri your luck = Either team under 6.5 points @ $3 – This match will be very close and if you are looking for greater value and believe that one team will not dominate this match, then consider this option.
Do Dugan = Josh Dugan FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – Dugan has enjoyed tremendous success in Wollongong this season, playing 2 matches and scoring 4 tries. There is no reason why that trend cannot continue, especially when his form since Origin has been so strong.
Roosters (4th) v Titans (13th)
The Roosters played themselves back into form last week with a win over the Dragons, albeit a closer one than was expected. They were able to produce a performance that was needed from the reigning Premiers, if they were able to recapture their claims as one of the teams to beat in 2014. Extra motivation for a successful performance was given to them early this week, with news that captain Anthony Minicheillo will retire at the end of the season. News also rocked the Titans this week, but it was far more negative with the resignation of their coach, John Cartwright. This match will be his last in charge and perhaps the last match that the Titans have their Finals hopes alive if they do not win. The Cowboys, making it 2-consecutive losses, comprehensively beat them last week. As pressure grows, there is no surprise that John Cartwright has succumbed to the pressure. This could be a danger game for the home team if the Titans come out with a point to prove for their departing coach.
Roosters = Heath L’Estrange starts at hooker for Jake Friend, while Mitchell Aubusson returns from injury on the extended bench.
Titans = William Zillman returns at fullback, forcing Kevin Gordon back to the wing. Kalifa Faifai Loa is also on the wing, while Luke Bailey is named to start at prop. This forces Nate Myles shifts back to second row and Paul Carter moves to the bench. Aidan Sezer is a slight chance of being a late inclusion to the team and will be given every chance.
Overall = Roosters 4 Titans 7
Last 5 matches = Roosters 2 Titans 3
At Allianz Stadium = Roosters 1 Titans 4
The Titans will want to send their departing coach away with a win, but that outcome looks beyond them due to their recent form. The Roosters are building back to their best at the right time of the season and will not want to drop a match that they should comfortably win like this one. They will not have things all their own way, the Titans have a habit of lifting against highly ranked opponents, largely due to the influence of the experienced members in their team. This makes selecting a margin of victory difficult to say the least. If the Titans play to their potential, this match will be closer than expected. Then again, they are a team that has lost 8 of their past 10 matches by an average of 10.7 points. The Roosters are not back to their peak performance just yet and will take a few more weeks to reach it.
Roosters 1-12 @ $2.90
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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