Manly Sea Eagles v Penrith Panthers
One of many early round mismatches with last year’s grand finalists Penrith up against the winless Sea Eagles. With the return of skipper Nathan Cleary, the Panthers should be able to inflict another loss on a Manly side already cemented at the bottom of the ladder. Penrith has won its last three against the Sea Eagles and should have no troubles extending the streak to four. Manly are suffering from a dearth of quality in its back-row department and it’s an area the Panthers will no doubt be looking to exploit. The Panthers will miss Dylan Edwards at the back but I’m tipping they’ll take huge confidence from their epic grand final rematch win over the Storm. While the Panthers should have absolutely no trouble taking the points, they will need to be somewhere close to their best to cover the three converted tries-plus line.
Suggested bet – 1 unit Panthers -18.5 at $1.90
Canterbury Bulldogs v South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Bulldogs come off an abysmal showing last week against the Broncos, notching consecutive results where they failed to trouble the scorer. In contrast, the Rabbitohs attack has gelled early in the season – on display in the 26-16 route of the Roosters last week with Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker now forming the most lethal combination in the competition. It doesn’t get any easier for the Dogs with Josh Jackson on the sideline from suspension. The Dogs sit at the bottom of almost every NRL stat and there seems no magic fix this year. Historically these clashes are mostly low-scoring but the floodgates should open here for the Rabbitohs.
Suggested bet – 1 unit Rabbitohs -21.5 at $1.90
Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos
A third straight mismatch to start round four, with the Broncos facing a seething Storm side off two consecutive losses. The Storm have won their past two encounters with the Broncos by 38 points on each occasion – both on Brisbane’s home turf. The past two clashes at AAM Park have been a little closer but expect the Storm to be looking to inflict serious damage on an opposition side after back-to-back losses. The return of Ryan Papenhuyzen adds further spark and speed to the Storm side which comes up against a Broncos side which was woeful in the first half of last week’s game against a similarly hapless Bulldogs outfit. The Broncos will no doubt take some heart from the second half performance, but that must be tempered by the Bulldogs’ low showing. Pangai Jnr, Lodge and Flegler should be useful inclusions, but it’s hard to see them being the difference in what should be an easy Storm victory.
Suggested bet – 1u Storm -19.5 at $1.85
Cronulla Sharks v Nth Queensland Cowboys
The early round lopsided clashes continue with the Sharks further bolstered for this clash against the Cowboys transferred from Queensland to their home deck at Kogarah. The Sharks have proven somewhat of a surprise packet with their early form, despite last week’s thrashing by the Eels which can be forgiven due to key injuries throughout the game. Looking back to their impressive round one victory, and then taking it to the Raiders in Canberra last week, the Sharks should easily account for the hapless Cowboys. There are a few personnel concerns for the Sharks, with Briton Nikora suspended and Siona Katoa out with a season-ending knee injury, but Will Kennedy and Wade Graham are considered likely to play after copping head knocks. Pressure is on the Cowboys and new coach Todd Peyton after just three rounds. The cowboys have made some changes – some forced by injury – but none of the inclusions look capable of making the necessary form turnaround required to trouble the Sharks.
Suggested bet – 3u Sharks -8.5 at $1.90
Gold Coast Titans v Canberra Raiders
One of the more interesting clashes of the round, with the clash moved to Kogarah following Queensland’s COVID-19 troubles. There are some questions marks about the Raiders early season form, losing to the Warriors last week in a second half collapse, which followed a lucky / slender victory over the Sharks. It would be a surprise if we didn’t see a response by the Raiders against a Titans which is certainly not the finished product just yet. The Raiders lose Curtis Scott but should be bolstered by Sebastian Kris, Ryan James, Dunamis Lui and Hudson Young. The Raiders have also won their past four against the Titans (all by big margins) in what shapes as a serious test of how far the improving Gold Coast has come this year.
Suggested bet – Raiders -4 at $1.95
Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons
Interesting encounter here with the Knights having the wood over the Dragons in the past two clashes by big margins (33 and 24 points). Much has been made of the Dragons positive early season form, especially its past two wins over the Cowboys and Sea Eagles (hardly quality opposition). The Knights won their first two and went down to the Tigers in a mostly disappointing performance last week. The tricky part here is to work out which side has the best form line. It must be said neither side has really faced a genuine top 4 / finals side yet, apart from perhaps the Knights who beat the Warriors. Whether or not Jacob Saifiti lines up for the Knights will be important, while young gun Bradman Best also remains on the sidelines. The Dragons will miss Ben Hunt who has been gelling nicely with Corey Norman. This a tough contest to dissect, but at the price it’s worth having something on the Dragons.
Suggested bet – 1u Dragons at $3
Sydney Roosters v New Zealand Warriors
Another intriguing Sunday clash with the emerging Warriors side facing their toughest test yet. The Roosters will be stinging after being embarrassed by the Rabbitohs last week, punctuated by a raft of injuries to key players including the season-ending knee injury to Luke Keary. They have the depth to cover with Sam Walker, Victor Radley and Isaac Lui set to either return or move into key positions in the reshuffle. The Roosters have won the past three clashes with the Warriors, but this is a much more composed New Zealand outfit. On the stat sheet, the Warriors are the best team in the competition for set completions (85%) and second for offloads (averaging 14 a game). It’s a strong recipe and if it can be maintained, they’ll take it to the Roosters here.
Suggested bet – 1.5u +6 Warriors at $1.95
Wests Tigers v Parramatta Eels
The Eels are one of only two teams to remain undefeated early in 2021 after a second-half dominance of an under-strength Sharks side. While the Tigers scored a much-needed gritty win against the Knights to taste victory for the first time this season. Already it’s clear there’s a gap between these two sides, with the Eels a genuine finals contender and the Tigers likely to be doing their best to stay out of the bottom four. The Eels are leading the competition in average offloads and are third for tackle breaks, making for a formidable attack. They also have the wood over the Tigers, winning the past five, and 25 of their 41 overall encounters. Forecast rain on Monday could make this game tricky, but it shouldn’t worry the Eels.
Suggested bet – 2u Eels -9.5 at $1.85
*** All prices quoted from TopSport at Wednesday 4pm ***