We are back to a full round of 8 games this weekend. Plenty of opportunity for a punt!
BRISBANE V CANBERRA Thursday night, Suncorp Stadium
We are predicting they will when they host the Raiders in Thursday night footy. Brisbane looked to be cruising towards the Minor Premiership five weeks ago, however, have gone on to lose four of their five games since then, including the last three in succession.
Admittedly in defeat they’ve still been a hard team to toss with four of their losses being by two points or less. Last week’s loss to the Warriors was their biggest so far in 2016 (18 points).
The concerning thing for Wayne Bennett is that his team never looked in the hunt and appeared disinterested. That should change as they head back home where they’ve lost just the one game so far this season – a cliffhanger to the Tigers by one point with a side that was Origin affected.
If you are looking for value then the Raiders ($3.75 UNIBET) are the way to go because they’re shooting for four straight wins, however, one of the big turn offs with them is their terrible record in Queensland. They’ve won just five from 28 in the Sunshine State and just two of the last nine at Suncorp.
Bennett has brought back Origin players Corey Oates and Matt Gillett, which is a big boost. On the flip side the Raiders will be without Jack Wighton and Shannon Boyd.
TAKE THE SHORTS?
Brisbane are very short to win this one and we are counting on their home ground advantage to get them across the line, however, don’t hesitate in taking Canberra with the +10 start ($1.98 UNIBET) if you fancy a little bit better value.
TIGERS V RABBITOHS Friday night, ANZ Stadium
That broke a six-match losing streak for the Tigers who have won three of their last five games including an upset over an Origin-depleted Broncos outfit a fortnight ago.
Jason Taylor's side has an excellent chance to build on that momentum as they face a Rabbitohs outfit that has struggled for consistency for much of the season. After winning back-to-back games to start the season they've lost seven of their next 10 games. Having the chance to make it three straight wins for the first time this season, Souths were beaten in Golden Point by the resurgent Gold Coast last week.
Recent history has been with Souths when it comes to this fixture, however, the last two have gone the way of the Tigers. The Rabbitohs haven't lost three straight against the Tigers for 10 years.
You can make a compelling case for either side but we are leaning towards the Rabbitohs 1-12 ($3.20 Bet365). If they’re to make a Finals charge then now has to be the time. Looking for a more exotic bet? Then take the Tigers to open the scoring through a Penalty Goal ($8 Ladbrokes) or Try ($2.80 LuxBet).
NEWCASTLE V NEW ZEALAND Saturday, Hunter Stadium
Knights fans shouldn't get too far ahead of themselves though as the Kiwis have equally as good a chance of registering back-to-back wins for just the second time this season.
Newcastle has the worst attack (11.3 ppg) and defence (33.9 ppg) in the entire competition, however, it has to be noted that just five of their 13 games have been played at home.
When you break down their performances at home its easy to see they have been far better on home turf than when travelling.
Take out the 62-nil hiding at the hands of the Sharks, which we all know now is outstanding form, and their For and Against at the venue is just minus six (-6).
With a parochial home crowd behind them the Knights are more than capable of springing an upset over the visitors.
New Zealand, on the other hand, showed exactly what they are capable of on their day by belting the Broncos 36-18 last week. The problem with the Warriors is that they aren't consistent.
HOME GROUND ADVANTAGE
Newcastle only have three points so far in 2016 and all of those points have been secured at home. Couple that with the fact the Warriors have only one win outside the Shaky Isles this season and there are some signs that the Knights could win this one.
On paper it does look the Warriors game to lose. These teams met earlier in the season when the Kiwis smacked the Knights 40-18. We are going for a bit of value and picking the Knights ($3.75 UNIBET).
PARRAMATTA V GOLD COAST Saturday, TIO Stadium
After looking a genuine premiership contender just six weeks ago their whole world has been turned upside down. Salary cap issues and off-field dramas have been further tempered with the news star recruit Keiran Foran is likely out for the season with a shoulder injury.
With their season imploding it's very difficult to back them with any real confidence no matter which team they are playing. We think that the Titans**** are the way to go here because they've shown great resilience over the past three weeks in notching a hat-trick of wins.
Their winning streak began after their round 9 humiliation at the hands of the Storm, a 38-nil thumping at home, but since then they have knocked off the Roosters, Panthers and Rabbitohs.
The last two of those, on the road, have been impressive considering their poor record away from Cbus Super Stadium in recent times.
Even though they are on the road again this will be a neutral ground for both teams as it’s played at Darwin's TIO Stadium.
Gold Coast were considered one of the 'easy beats' heading into 2016, however, they have really turned things around and are suddenly looking a real finals prospect.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
This is the third straight season that the Eels have played a game in Darwin and boast a perfect record so far. The Titans on the other hand lost their only game in the Northern Territory back in 2013.
HARD TO PICK
This one is a real head scratcher but there’s just been too much go wrong for the Eels of late to suggest it won’t be a problem on the park. We’ll go with the Titans ($1.80 Bet365) here especially when you consider they’ve beaten Parramatta in nine of 13 matches.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS V MELBOURNE Saturday night, Allianz Stadium
They are catching the Roosters at a good time as the home side will be missing halfback Mitchell Pearce along with explosive forward, Boyd Cordner. Injuries haven't been kind to the Roosters in 2016 which is why they're currently 15th on the table.
Sydney Roosters have won their past two games at Allianz quite comfortably over the Knights and Tigers. Prior to that they'd lost five of six but if you go back even further than that they registered eight straight at the venue.
On the flip side, the Storm don't have the best record at the venue which paves the way for a tough contest. Their last 10 visits there have seen them come away with the points on just four occasions.
We think this one will be tighter than it looks but are taking the Storm to win ($1.42 UNIBET). On what they've shown us so far we think they are genuine premiership contenders, which makes them a good bet here. If weather looks like intervening, take the Storm 1-12 ($3.10 William Hill).
MANLY V PENRITH Sunday afternoon, Brookvale Oval
Manly have their backs against the wall on this one as they go into the game off the back of four straight losses. If you thought that Fortress Brookvale could give them some respite then you’d be wrong – they’ve only won once there in 2016.
On top of that the Sea Eagles have to go around without talented halfback Daly Cherry-Evans as well as captain Jamie Lyon.
Those two big blows pave the way for Penrith to break their own mini slump of consecutive losses but they’ll have to do it without veteran playmaker Jamie Soward, who was dumped to the lower grades.
Penrith has typically been hard to beat this season with six of their seven losses being by eight points or less. They go into this off a 24-6 loss to the Storm in Melbourne with the score somewhat exaggerated slightly with the winners scoring a try right on fulltime.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Exciting prospect Bryce Cartwright has been thrust into the halves for coach Anthony Griffin to partner Nathan Cleary – son of Narabeen local and former Manly player, Ivan, who made his NRL debut last week.
Although the halves pairing are very inexperienced, the Panthers are a talented outfit and have troubled many of the top sides.
Penrith has won four of the past five against Manly and did win at Brookvale in Round 10 last year. We think the Panthers*** will be too enthusiastic for the home side who may struggle without the guidance of Cherry-Evans and Lyon.
STGEORGE ILLAWARRA V CANTERBURY Monday afternoon, ANZ Stadium
Although Canterbury Bankstown went down on the siren to Cronulla, it was arguably their best performance of the season. After racing out to a 12-nil lead and giving the ladder leaders all sorts of troubles, their kicking game ultimately let them down but there was still plenty to like about their effort. A similar performance should be too much for a Dragons side that has surprised a few considering their six and six record so far this season.
Doggies supporters have had the better of their Dragons counterparts in recent seasons, earning bragging rights on seven of the past eight occasions. The last time these teams met was in the first week of the finals last season with the Dogs winning 11-10 in Golden Point.
Another close, low-scoring contest could be on the cards here as the Dragons typically don’t allow opposing teams to get into any attacking rhythm. The problem for the Red V has been scoring points themselves as they’re the second worst attacking team in the comp behind Newcastle.
HAPPY HUNTING GROUND
The Dragons will be the ‘home’ side in this one and are actually unbeaten at home in 2016. Throw in their love affair with ANZ Stadium, eight wins from their last 10 games, and an upset could be on the cards if they discover their attacking touch.
That said this is the Dogs home ground and although losing three times here so far this season, two of those were against the Eels who are a far better team than the Dragons.
We cannot ignore the effort on Monday night by the Dogs. If they turn up and do that again then we can see them walking away with the two points. Back Canterbury ($1.44 Bet365) and whilst it is short, you can use them in an all-up to generate good value elsewhere.
CRONULLA V NORTH QUEENSLAND Monday night, Southern Cross Group Stadium
Sharkies fans are starting to believe that an inaugural premiership could be headed towards the Shire and recent performances suggest they could be right. On the other hand the Cowboys have shown no signs of a premiership hangover, losing just four matches in 13 to sit just off the pace on the ladder.
They’ll enter this game with a regulation 46-16 win over the Knights and have the confidence of beating Cronulla seven of the past 10 times they’ve met.
OLD PROBLEMS RESURFACING?
For many years the problem North Queensland faced was not being able to win away from Townsville, however, they rectified that last year on their way to claiming the title. Although they’ve been irresistible at home this season, all four of their defeats have been on the road albeit by narrow margins.
SHARK PARK IN THE DARK
The old saying of ‘Don’t bet against the Sharks at the park in the dark’ rings true for this one. They have two wins from three games in Monday Night Football and are yet to taste defeat in front of their fans in 2016.
Cronulla head into this one off the back of a last-gasp win over the Bulldogs in MNF, however, they seemed sluggish for much of the game and can’t afford to give away another 12-nil start this week.
These teams are matched so evenly that it’s difficult to find any separation.
While their attack is seen as the best in the competition, defence has also been key to their successes with only Melbourne conceding less points than both teams. It’s no wonder the bookies have had trouble splitting them but we are going the way of Cronulla ($1.97 UNIBET), purely on the strength of their home form this year.
Looking for value? Look for Sosaia Feki ($13 Sportsbet) and Valentine Holmes (($9.15 LuxBet) in 1st Tryscorer markets.