PARRAMATTA V SYDNEY ROOSTERS Friday night, Pirtek Stadium

Friday Night Football has thrown up a potential thriller with both sides needing to win to remain alive in the finals race. Parramatta are in a far better position than the Roosters to make a charge for the top eight, even though they are currently running fifth. With the NRL set to deduct up to 12 points, that leaves them on 10 points – the same as the Roosters.

The fact remains that the Eels have won 10 matches this season compared to the Roosters three. On that fact it is clear why we are choosing the Eels**** to get the money in this one.

They gave the competition frontrunners (Cronulla) an almighty scare last week and had won three games prior to that. While there has been several dramas distracting the club, both on and off the field, the side continues to produce on the park and are averaging 24 points per game in their last four outings. What’s more impressive is that the bulk of those performances have come without star halfback, Kieran Foran.

ROOSTERS REVIVAL? The chooks have had a miserable season but very nearly pulled off a huge upset against the Bulldogs last week. Racing out to a 12-nil lead, they would go down 24-20 but there are some positive signs from the boys from Bondi especially from their halfback, Mitchell Pearce.

STUMBLING BLOCK

In recent times the Eels have struggled against the Roosters with just two wins from their last nine encounters. Although it must be remembered that during that run the chooks were three-time minor premiers while the Eels were fighting off the wooden spoon.

THE VERDICT

Parramatta have Michael Jennings on Origin duty but get some handy reinforcements back including Brad Takairangi, Tim Mannah and Jeff Robson. With the Roosters missing Blake Ferguson and Aidan Guerra, we think the Eels ($1.80 UNIBET) will be too strong at Pirtek.

Fans of Semi Radradra have extra reason to have a crack at him in 1st Tryscorer ($7 William Hill), Last Tryscorer ($7 William Hill) and To Score A Try ($1.62 Bet365) markets here. He has scored 27 tries in 25 games at Pirtek while he has crossed the line in all three games he has played at the Roosters.
Eels - 1pt @ 1.80

CANTERBURY BANKSTOWN V WESTS TIGERS Saturday night, ANZ Stadium

Des Hasler seems to have his side ready to make a serious charge at the finals and this game will prove to be another stepping stone for them. Canterbury Bankstown will be aiming for a season-high four straight wins when they clash with the Tigers this Saturday night.

In recent weeks they have left the Dragons, Broncos and Roosters in their wake although they did struggle against the latter in Round 17. It is no coincidence that their lift in form has been since the return of Will Hopoate to the squad, while another outstanding back in Brett Morris is also back with a bang with five tries in two games.

As for the Tigers they aren’t hopeless either, winning four of their last six games including a highly entertaining 34-26 result against Penrith last week.

ORIGIN STARS MISSING

Both teams will be missing players due to State Of Origin but we feel the losses for the Tigers could have a far bigger impact. Robbie Farah, Aaron Woods and the exciting James Tedesco will be all missing while for the Dogs it will be big men Dave Klemmer and Josh Jackson.

CONSISTENCY

Canterbury were struggling to score points earlier in the year but are averaging over 32 points per game in their last three starts. That could spell trouble for the Tigers who are the second-worst defensive side in the competition (25.3ppg) behind Newcastle.

GOOD THINGS?

On paper it looks as though the Dogs are close to good things and we cannot argue with that despite the improving form of the Tigers. We feel that the loss of the Tigers ‘Big Three’ will be too much to overcome against a team that is finding its feet at the right time of the season.

Take the Dogs to win ($1.25 William Hill) and if you are looking at Margins, try the 13+ ($1.93 Bet365) option – five of the last seven games between these sides have been blowouts.
Bulldogs - 1pt @ 1.25

PENRITH V CRONULLA Sunday afternoon, Pepper Stadium

The Panthers have the perfect chance to get back into the top eight when they host the ladder leaders in Sunday afternoon footy. Ordinarily we would have them as outsiders going into this, however, the Origin period sees Cronulla severely depleted with five players representing New South Wales on Wednesday night.

On the flip side and Penrith will be better served with Matt Moylan, who played the first two Origin games, dropped for Game III and hence takes his place at fullback here.

MAKING UP GROUND

Penrith ran out to a 14-2 lead early against the Tigers last week but compounded to eventually lose 34-26. It was yet another close game and was their 13th this season which has been decided by eight points or less.

Coach Anthony Griffin has been frustrated by a lack of consistency from his young and talented outfit, who are yet to win three-in-a-row this season. A win here could see them jump the Warriors (bye) and re-enter the top eight, so there will be a sense of desperation about their play.

RECORD UNDER THREAT

The Sharkies head the comp with 30 points and have now notched a club record 12 straight wins. Their task here will be difficult without skipper Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, James Maloney, Andrew Fifita and Jack Bird.

WHICH WAY?

Penrith ($1.60 LuxBet) has only won two of five at Pepper Stadium this season but we think they will have the measure of the Sharks. There are a few things playing against Cronulla besides missing a sizable part of their squad including the fact their only two losses in 2016 have been away from home.

Margin players only have one way to go in our opinion – a 1-12 Margin ($3.10 Bet365) as both teams have a tendency to be in close finishes with the Sharks averaging a 4.25 points winning margin in 10 of their 12 games during their winning run.
Panthers - 1pt @ 1.60
Panthers 1-12 - 1pt @ 3.10

CANBERRA V NORTH QUEENSLAND Monday night, GIO Stadium

What promised to be one of the games of the season could turn out to a fizzer in Monday Night Football. The Raiders are on a roll while the Cowboys are displaying all the hallmarks of a team that can become just the second in 23 years to go back-to-back in the premiership.

Unfortunately the Origin period has come down hard on the Cowboys with five players missing including Johnathan Thurston, James Tamou and Matt Scott.

This paves the way for the Raiders to notch their sixth win in seven games and their fourth straight at the venue.

ROAD TRIP STUMBLE

North Queensland have been near invincible at home but on the road it has proven quite the opposite.

While they have been ultra competitive, they have dropped five of their eight games away from Townsville which could be a slight concern for coach Paul Green. Admittedly they have been hard to beat in those games with their average losing margin a mere 2.6 points per game. It is interesting to note that they lost to the Dragons at WIN Stadium when missing their Origin players in Round 12.

FINALS FOOTBALL

Canberra are sitting in sixth spot on 21 points and head into this off after a sluggish, but exciting, Golden Point win over Newcastle last week. Trailing 22-0 at one point, the Green Machine roared back to show just why they are considered one of the dark horses of the competition.

THE VERDICT

Although North Queensland have dominated the Raiders in recent years, winning eight of their last 10 clashes, the fact they are missing their Origin stars is too big an obstacle for us to ignore.

Take Canberra to win ($1.29 Bet365) here while the Overs in Total Match Points ($1.90 Sportsbet) looks highly likely as it’s usually a points fest whenever these teams play.
CANBERRA V NORTH QUEENSLAND Monday night, GIO Stadium - 1pt @ 1.29