Wests Tigers v Newcastle Knights
Interesting clash to kick off magic round between two likely bottom eight sides. Newcastle has been the best of these two teams so far this year, but they’re on the back foot with the loss of Kalyn Ponga. Tex Hoy is an able replacement for Ponga at fullback and can still cause some havoc for a Tigers side owning the worst defensive record after nine rounds in the club’s history. The Knights will also find this a step back in grade after three weeks against premiership contenders, which included a win over the Raiders who can’t be totally written off just yet. The Tigers have struggled to get the job done this season, despite many competitive efforts, and have lost 10 of its last 11 night matches.
Suggested bet – 2u Newcastle win at $1.75
Manly Sea Eagles v Brisbane Broncos
It can’t be said enough rejuvenated the Sea Eagles have been by the return of Tom Trbojevic. Amazingly, since Trbojevic’s return the Sea Eagles have increased their points scored per game from 9.4 to 32.5. Manly has won four of its past five and look genuine finals hopefuls on recent efforts, and now face a Broncos side which has shown patches of improvement in recent weeks. How will the Broncos respond to the key signing of Adam Reynolds for next season? If they handle it well and can contain Trbojevic, they’ll be in this for a long way. I’m just not totally convinced the +9.5 is enough, but it’s worth a small bet.
Suggested bet – 0.5u broncos +9.5 at $1.90
Canterbury Bulldogs v Canberra Raiders
Canberra is likely the most under pressure side in the competition right now, with more scrutiny heaped on them after losing to Newcastle last week. Alarm bells are ringing after five straight losses for the Raiders, but having said that, the Dogs are still the worst side in the competition. Dylan Napa is a handy in for the Dogs, while the try-scoring firepower of Jordan Rapana is a huge loss for the Raiders. The Bulldogs have lost their past seven games at Suncorp Stadium, but the Raiders are playing such unconvincing footy (and have been outscored 93-8 in their past five second halves) that I can’t bring myself to back them even at the minus.
No suggested bet
Cronulla Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs
While Adam Reynolds is on his way to Brisbane next season, he returns here from injury. He’s a significant inclusion with Rabbits winning 16 of their past 20 games when he has played. They’ll be smarting after being whacked 50-0 by the clinical Storm last week. It spells danger for an out-of-sorts Cronulla side which has lost its past five matches. There could be some personnel changes for the Sharks, with Shaun Johnson, but it’ll likely matter little. The Rabbitohs should put them away easily.
Suggested bet – 1.5u -9.5 Rabbitohs at $1.90
Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys
After winning four of their past five, the Cowboys are sniffing around for a spot in the top eight. But they come up against a Roosters side which continues to defy its lengthy injury list. Both sides don’t fancy Suncorp Stadium, with the Cowboys losing nine of their past 11 here, and the Roosters winning only two of their past nine at the venue. The Roosters simply have vastly superior form and have only lost to the Storm and Eels in recent weeks. They should be bringing the Cowboys back down to earth here.
Suggested bet – 1.5u Roosters -12 at $1.90
New Zealand Warriors v Parramatta Eels
One of the more intriguing battles of the round, with the enigmatic Warriors clashing with an Eels side which has tasted defeat only once after nine rounds. For the Eels, hooker Reed Mahoney and lock Nathan Brown have been named despite being under injury clouds. I’ve been a big fan of the Warriors this season – when they show up, they can match it with almost any side. Ben Murdoch-Masila returns in the second row and is a handy inclusion. At the prices, I’m happy to side with the Warriors to turn the heat up on an Eels side which really had to dig deep to get past the Roosters last week.
Suggested bets – 1u Warriors win at $3.10
Melbourne Storm v St George Illawarra Dragons
A long injury and suspension list for the Storm has Brandon Smith, Harry Grant and Cam Munster all out for the clash. Ryan Papenhuyzen has only been named in reserves – is he 100% fit? Here’s a crazy stat – the Storm have won their past 20 games in Queensland. It bodes well for the Storm, but they are rally testing their squad’s depth with some key outs. Having said that, the Dragons had to meet the lowly Bulldogs to snap a three-game winning streak, but it could be wat they needed to rekindle that winning feeling. I doubt they can beat the Storm, but with Mikaele Ravalawa a key inclusion, they should test a depleted Melborne side. The Dragons have quite a solid record over the Storm in recent clashes, and it makes the big head start appealing for a small bet.
Suggested bet – 1u Dragons +14.5 at $1.90
Gold Coast Titans v Penrith Panthers
The undefeated Penrith Panthers take on a Titans side without wrecking ball David Fifita. Kurt Capewell is a significant loss for the Panthers, but centre Paul Momirovski is a handy return from suspension. The absence of Fifita makes this a very tough match to assess, and while the Panthers haven’t always totally put sides away this season, they did just that beating the Sharks 48-0 last week. Happy to stay out of this one.
No suggested bet