Bulldogs (6th) v Tigers (12th)
The Tigers are plunging further into trouble with recent performances ruining what appeared to be a slightly successful season a few weeks earlier. Boardroom troubles, uncertainty around their coach and player availability is only compounding issues further. In the past 4 weeks, they have been beaten 168 points to 28 and there has been a distinct lack of application. The Bulldogs were heading the same way on a 4-game losing streak, but broke that last week with a narrow win again the Eels. It was in controversial circumstances and one that was timely. They are still not at their best, suggesting that they need to work hard to stay in contention for the Finals. They will also want to make amends for the Round 19 46-18 loss to the Tigers at the same ground that began their losing streak in the first place.
Bulldogs = Pat O’Hanlon and Harlan Alaalatoa are onto the bench, with one player to miss out prior.
Tigers = Bodene Thompson comes into the starting side and jack Buchanan is named on the bench.
Overall = Bulldogs 16 Tigers 10
Last 5 matches = Bulldogs 4 Tigers 1
At ANZ Stadium = Bulldogs 8 Tigers 6
Given the recent form of the Tigers, it is difficult to see them prevailing in this contest. They will take confidence away from the fact that they were victorious against the same team only 5-weeks ago, but even still, they have to turn around their disappointing efforts. The Bulldogs didn’t set the world alight last week and if they relax against the Tigers, they will again be caught out. The game is theirs to lose, hence the large odds that are on offer. The line is something that is worth consideration, especially since 75% of the Bulldogs victories have been by the 1-12 margin. In saying that, the Tigers do not have a good record when losing, 85% of their losses have been by 13+ points. That is too big of a stat to overlook and the Bulldogs should play themselves back into confidence and Finals contention against a team that is desperately searching for answers.
Bulldogs -15.5 @ $1.90
Eels (9th) v Sea Eagles (1st)
In a controversial finish, the Eels went down to the Bulldogs last week but need to avoid using that as an excuse for their result. They had 80 minutes to win that match and mistakes in attack released the pressure on their opponents, while their defense continually leaked points. Equal with 7th but out of the Top 8 on points difference, every match from now on is as important as ever. Question marks are lingering but a win against the competition leaders could make that all disappear. The Sea Eagles hung onto their Minor Premiership hopes, albeit in ugly circumstances against the Titans. In saying that, the best teams in this competition find a way to win and they are holding together a strong roster of players that is appearing difficult for any team to overcome. They will again be tough, but the Eels will be desperate to change the expected outcome and keep the pressure on the teams ahead of them.
Eels = Junior Paulo is named in the front row, while on the bench, Peni Terepo returns from injury.
Sea Eagles = Steve Matai is back from injury and will start in the centres.
Overall = Eels 45 Draw 4 Sea Eagles 82
Last 5 matches = Eels 1 Sea Eagles 4
At Pirtek Stadium = Eels 9 Sea Eagles 11
The odds are in favour of the travelling team and in many ways; it is surprising that the Sea Eagles are not more heavily preferred. Even when on a winning streak, they have hardly beaten fancied opponents and have still a lot to prove. Jarryd Hayne is a catalyst for majority of their scoring options, but they cannot rely on his contribution alone. The Sea Eagles should win this match, but it will be closer than expected. They have won 66% of matches by 1-12 this season and that trend was continued against the Titans last week. The home ground advantage will boost the Eels but they will need more than that and the contribution of Hayne to overcome the competition leaders.
Sea Eagles 1-12 @ $2.90
No hiccup = Peta Hiku FTS and/or LTS @ $9 – He is always a threat with the ball in hand and will Jamie Lyon distributing the ball to him, he may just find himself with more room to move than most out on the field.
Broncos (10th) v Knights (14th)
Disappointingly, the Broncos loss last week to the Rabbitohs further hampered their chance of featuring in the Finals. Now, they must rely upon other results going their way and win all their remain matches. In the end, the score line finished 42-16, but the match was over in the first half with the home side streaking ahead on the scoreboard. The lowly placed Knights caused an upset, at the same time releasing pressure on a few teams, like the Broncos, by beating the Warriors at home. It was a spirited performance from the home side, suggesting that in the closing weeks of the competition they are not going to lie down. Youngsters coming into their team are adding promise and fire into their team and the Broncos will need to be on guard for this. They have everything to play for and a loss on their home turf could very well spell the end to their 2014 campaign.
Broncos = Lachlan Maranta is named at fullback, but Ben Barba could easily be shifted here as a replacement for Josh Hoffman, who was injured on the weekend.
Knights = David Fa’alogo returns to a 5-man bench as Willie Mason is back in the starting team. Travis Waddell (bench) and Adam Clydsdale (starting) again switch roles.
Overall = Broncos 28 Draw 1 Knights 13
Last 5 matches = Broncos 3 Draw 1 Knights 1
At Suncorp Stadium = Broncos 8 Knights 4
The Broncos have everything to play for and with two draining weeks behind them, the Knights may be heading for a dip in performance. They have been great in recent weeks, but rookies in the NRL generally struggle to maintain consistency after a few victories. The Broncos should have a better standing on the ladder then they currently do, with a loss only going to further damage their Finals aspirations. Playing in front of their incoming coach for 2015 may just bring out the best in this Broncos team. The Knights have lost 62% of matches by 13+ and that is enough to suggest that they are going to unfortunately head down a similar path in this match.
Broncos 13+ @ $2.25
Cop that rookie = Dale Copley FTS and/or LTS @ $8 – He is one of the form players for the Broncos, looking dangerous whenever he gets the ball close to the line. Copley is relatively inexperienced, but the player opposite him this week is worse off and this talented youngster may just prove too much to handle.
Rabbitohs (2nd) v Cowboys (7th)
The Rabbitohs momentarily jumped to the top of the competition with a win against the Broncos, but were relegated as the Sea Eagles prevailed on Sunday. It was a commanding performance that sent another loud message to the rest of the competition that they are going to be a difficult team to beat at the business end of the season. Their defense tactics were brought into question though, with several players being referred to the judiciary in recent weeks for ruck infringements. Along with that, Rabbitohs fans will not get overjoyed, as they have been let down too many times before. The Cowboys missed a vital opportunity to capitalise on the road against the Panthers last week, going down by a field goal in the closing minutes. A win their could’ve cemented a spot in the Top 8, whereas now the pressure is on them to win almost every game in the closing weeks to make the Finals. They are still playing exciting football, however will continue to have doubt around their success lingering over their heads due to their troubles performing on the road. This match will be no easier, especially given the form of their opponents in recent weeks.
Rabbitohs = Kyle Turner returns to the second row after being rested last week. Bryson Goodwin and Chris Grevsmuhl has been added to the bench but are expected to miss out.
Cowboys = Tariq Sims is back from suspension in the second row and Gavin Cooper is relegated back to the bench.
Overall = Rabbitohs 13 Draw 1 Cowboys 11
Last 5 matches = Rabbitohs 3 Cowboys 2
At ANZ Stadium = Rabbitohs 6 Cowboys 1
A short turn around and another trip down to Sydney, things are working against the Cowboys and their chances of winning this match. They were despairingly close against the Panthers but the Rabbitohs will further test their opponents. It is a step up this week against them and if they’re not ready, they could be embarrassed. The Rabbitohs have a habit of scoring large totals against their opponents when they win, scoring 13+ points in 93% of their wins in 2014. Nonetheless, the Cowboys have only lost 1 match this season by that margin and proved in Round 16 that they are capable of beating the Rabbitohs. Fatigue from MNF may ultimately bring them apart and with the Rabbitohs confidence riding high, they will capitalise on the failings of the Cowboys when it matters most.
Rabbitohs -8.5 @ $1.90
Read between the lines =Rabbitohs 13-18 @ $5 – They have a habit of scoring large victories but the Cowboys are the type of team that is growing in confidence. They will stick with the Rabbitohs for majority of the contest but the home side will eventually pull away, with this option adding a lot more value.
Warriors (8th) v Roosters (4th)
Unable to reaffirm their standing in the Top 8, the Warriors now find themselves in a must-win situation in the remain 3-weeks of the competition. They were their own worst enemy in that match, missing too many tackles and making a host of errors with the ball. Luckily for them, 2 out of their 3 remaining matches will be on home turf, a ground where they appear to rise to another level. The Roosters will not be easy to overcome though, with their confidence boosted after a commanding victory over the Tigers. That makes it 3-consecutive victories for the reigning Premiers, albeit against below average opponents. In saying that, confidence can be difficult to come by and although they haven’t beaten much, they will not refuse the boost it has given to their team. On the other hand, it could’ve painted over the cracks that were appearing and limiting their efforts on the field. This is an important match for both teams and one that is going to be of high quality.
Warriors = Konrad Hurrell is back into the starting team, forcing Ben Henry back to the second row. Sebastine Ikahihifo returns at lock and Ben Matulino is back at prop. There is an extended bench of 7-players.
Roosters = Mitchaell Aubusson solves the hooking dilemma, alongside Sam Moa who returns at prop. Dylan Napa is named on the bench, as well as 18th man Jackson Hastings, with the talented rookie an outside chance of playing in this match.
Overall = Warriors 18 Draw 1 Roosters 13
Last 5 matches = Warriors 2 Roosters 3
At Mt Smart Oval = Warriors 10 Roosters 4
Playing against a team with a point to prove after last week and an understrength team makes the Roosters chances of winning this match extremely difficult. The leading cause of the Roosters problems begin in their forwards, missing two hookers and having an unrecognised player at this position attempting to lead the team to victory. Their firepower in this area is reduced and it will limit the amount of momentum they are able to build through the middle of the field. This isn’t suggesting that the Warriors are going to win this match, rather the better option for an investment is steering clear of picking a winner and going for a close contest. For what it is worth, if I was picking a clear winner, it would be the Warriors, only because the Roosters are a team that is not a full-strength.
Either team under 6.5 points @ $3
Sharks (16th) v Raiders (15th)
In the 3-last week of the competition, the battle to avoid the wooden spoon basically comes down to this match. For the first time in a long time, the Raiders demonstrated pride in their efforts, for the first half atleast, pushing the Dragons and remaining competitive. Unfortunately for them, they were not successful in their endeavours and again lacked crucial execution. For the first time in a long time, the Sharks also failed to turn out a spirited performance. Although they have several excuses with player availability compounding many other issues further. Around the league, interest in this match will be minimal but it will mean a lot to the two clubs and their fans involved. Pride is on the line and perhaps some players may be playing for their futures at their current clubs.
Sharks = Tupou Sopoaga pushes back to the bench to accommodate the return of Anthony Tupou in the second row. Michael Lichaa is back into the starting side, swapping with Pat Politoni, who returns to the bench.
Raiders = Jack Wighton shifts to fullback, allowing rookie Jeremy Hawkins to make his debut in the centres. Dane Tilse starts at prop and Kyle O’Donnell comes onto the bench.
Overall = Sharks 33 Raiders 28
Last 5 matches = Sharks 2 Raiders 3
At Remondis Stadium = Sharks 20 Raiders 8
Both teams have had their issues, but the Sharks have exhibited greater determination in their matches. They will not want to drop this game in front of their home fans and almost hand the spoon to former coach Ricky Stuart. The Sharks appear to be more capable of producing points, although this match may just be a dour contest where the winner is forced to grind out a victory. They also enjoy a strong record on their home turf against the Raiders, who themselves struggle on the road. The Sharks should be able to build on their promising efforts and drag themselves off the bottom of the competition ladder. 4 out of their 5 victories have been by 1-12 points and this is expected to be the outcome again here.
Sharks 1-12 @ $3.10
Dragons (11th) v Titans (13th)
The Dragons broke the hoodoo against the Raiders last week in Canberra, suggesting that this current group of players isn’t fazed by the challenges that lie ahead. Unfortunately for them, they are going to have to win their remaining matches and rely upon other matches to work in their favour if they are to make the Finals. They will take confidence from the fact that they were able to travel north in their last matchup against the Titans and record a victory. Their opponents were again on the wrong side of the scoreboard, but this time there was greater promise in their efforts. It was their first match without coach John Cartwright and there appeared to be a different demeanour about the team. They are no chance of featuring in the Finals and their squad is another one that is playing for pride. Above that, several players may be playing for their careers with a new coach taking over for 2015 and beyond.
Dragons = Unchanged 17, with Bronson Harrison added as 18th man. Some doubt around Ben Creagh and Dan Hunt, but they will be given right up until KO to prove their fitness.
Titans = Unchanged 17, with Tom Kingston added as 18th man.
Overall = Dragons 9 Titans 4
Last 5 matches = Dragons 3 Titans 2
At WIN Jubilee Stadium = Dragons 0 Titans 2
The Titans were gallant last week and will want to disrupt the momentum of the Dragons. Interestingly, they possess an undefeated record against the home team at Kograh. Nevertheless, this is a Dragons team that has changed dramatically in the previous 10 rounds and show no signs of letting up. They will be made to work for this victory, with this match expected to be a close one. The Dragons have greater attacking weapons that are lead by a halves pairing that is developing each match they play together. It will not be a complete walkover, but the home side is capable of capturing victory at the end of 80 minutes.
Dragons 1-12 @ $3
Panthers (3rd) v Storm (5th)
The Panthers face another difficult test this week, hosting the Storm in arguably one of the matches of the week. Amidst a mounting injury toll and doubt around their potential, the Panthers continue to prove doubters wrong and have assured themselves a spot in the Finals. The job ahead for them is to finish in the Top 4 and ensure a second chance if they lose in the first week of the Finals. The Storm are appearing as though they are reaching their peak at the right stage of the season, with a dominating performance against the Sharks last week a suitable way to bounce back from a loss. It was a match that they were expected to win but the fashion that they went about it suggested that they are one of the top teams in this competition. Their superiority in this matchup could be overstated somewhat and it will still require a complete 80-minute effort for them to prevail on the right side of the scoreboard.
Panthers = Unchanged, but a lot of doubt about hooker James Segeyaro.
Storm = Ryan Hinchcliffe is back into the starting side, with Jordan McLean shifting back to the bench.
Overall = Panthers 7 Storm 20
Last 5 matches = Panthers 1 Storm 4
At Sportingbet Stadium = Panthers 5 Storm 6
The Panthers have continued to surprise fans this season with their efforts but they are up against a tough contest here. Despite a set back 2-weeks ago against the Knights, they are tracking strongly towards the Finals. The Panthers are yet to be tested against a quality opponent with their understrength team. The last time they did, they were unsuccessful against the Roosters. Wins against the Dragons, Bulldogs and Cowboys are hardly a measure of their efforts against a top team and they are going to have to lift to another level to be competitive here. If they are capable, they will have a greater chance of reducing the Storms margin of victory. Then again anything is possible if the Storm are in the right mood. With this is mind, the safest option is taking them visitors to win by more than a converted try and climb their way into the Top 4.
Storm over 6.5 points @ $2
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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