STGEORGE ILLAWARRA V GOLD COAST Friday night, Jubilee Oval

There is nothing like suburban ground footy and that's exactly what will be served up in Friday Night football when the Dragons host the Titans at Kogarah’s Jubilee Oval. Both teams are desperate for points so that should ensure a tough contest between these sides. The Dragons have been exceptional as the home side this season with only Cronulla, North Queensland and Melbourne boasting a better record in front of their own fans.

Stgeorge Illawarra's season has been built on their ability to win at home in 2016 and boast six wins from seven starts. Their only loss as the 'home' side was against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.

The Red V head into this one off a bye but prior to that were humiliated by Manly 36-6 at Brookvale Oval. They never seemed likely on that occasion with plenty of errors and spilt ball costing them field position and ultimately the two points.

Returning to Kogarah will strengthen the case for the Dragons who have registered four straight wins at the venue but have only played there once this season. On that occasion, back in Round 10, they knocked off the Raiders in Friday night footy by 16-12 off the back an intercept try to Euan Aitken in Golden Point.

Gold Coast will come into this off the back of consecutive losses which has dampened their run at the Top 8. Prior to that they'd won four of five to put themselves into contention but currently they are one win behind the Dragons who occupy the eighth and final spot.

RECENT HISTORY

The Dragons have won three of the last four outings between these sides including the Round 7 encounter at Cbus Super Stadium earlier this season. Going back to the inception of the Titans in 2007, they have owned the team north of border by winning 11 of their 16 clashes. One interesting fact is that five of the last six games between these sides has been determined by less than a converted try.

THE VERDICT

While you couldn't classify them as 'good things' the balance of power certainly looks in favour of the Dragons ($2.05 Sportsbet). Points are still a big concern as they are averaging a little over 13 points per game which ranks them second last in the competition.

Their defence, however, has kept them in game during the times they have won and it will also be interesting to see if their Origin duo of Tyson Frizell and Josh Dugan back up in this one.

Gold Coast are a more than handy team, however, we are leaning to the Dragons here. Going off their recent history then the 1-12 Winning Margin ($3.20 William Hill) is the way to go.
Dragons - 1pt @ 2.05
Dragons 1-12 - 1pt @ 3.20

MANLY V NZ WARRIORS Saturday afternoon, nib Stadium (Perth)

The Sea Eagles are taking their home game to Perth for this one against the Warriors on Saturday. Manly snapped a seven-game losing streak in sensational style in Round 17, thrashing the Dragons 36-6 in front of the Brookvale faithful.

Considered premiership contenders at the start of the season, 11 losses from their 16 games has put finals football out of contention for 2016. They will be looking to end the season on a high, however, they will have to do it without their star fullback Brett Stewart who will have an operation on his knee which could rule him out for the remainder of the year.

THE SMOKEYS OF THE COMPETITION?

Dare we say it but the Warriors are starting to hit their straps and starting to look like a premiership threat. They have four wins from their past five games and the only defeat was to the league-leading Cronulla Sharks in Golden Point three weeks ago.

While the Warriors aren’t a team you can put plenty of punting faith in, the fact remains they are seventh on the table and capable of testing any team on their day.

BOGEY TEAM AT A BOGEY VENUE

If New Zealand are to continue their charge into the top eight then they need to overcome their difficulties against Manly.The Sea Eagles have owned the Warriors since early 2010 and won 10 of the last 11 against them including their latest encounter, at Mt Smart Stadium, where they ran out 16-point winners.

Coupled with that is the fact they have played five times at the venue and lost each and every time.

THE VERDICT

New Zealand ($1.85 UNIBET) are the best performed team over the Origin period since 2010 and we are tipping that will continue here. It won’t be easy and they will make life difficult for themselves, but hey, that’s the Warriors isn’t it?!
New Zealand Warriors - 1pt @ 1.85

SOUTHS SYDNEY V BRISBANE Saturday night, ANZ Stadium

One phrase can sum up both these sides going into this fixture – "how the mighty have fallen". Souths have lost nine of their past 11 games which is the worst stretch the team has encountered under Michael Maguire’s tenure. The 2014 premiers are languishing in 12th spot on the ladder and are three wins outside the top eight.

The story isn’t that much better for Brisbane who are going through a slump of their own. Broncos fans are starting to get a little nervous after watching their team lose six of their past eight games. Earlier in the season they were cruising towards the Minor Premiership and now they could be facing the real prospect of being dumped outside the top eight.

ORIGIN RAMIFICATIONS

The Broncos suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in their history last start when hammered 48-6 at home by the Melbourne Storm. No doubt Wayne Bennett and his side would be looking for some bounce back after that, however, this game is likely to feature several players backing up from State Of Origin.

Souths aren’t in that greater a position either as halfback Adam Reynolds has been named but is battling injury and Greg Inglis will be backing up after Origin as well.

POINTS AT A PREMIUM

The attack of both teams hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders lately so whoever makes the most of their opportunities will win this. Brisbane has been averaging just over 16 points per game in their last six contests while Souths were held scoreless last week by the Cowboys and are averaging slightly less than their counterparts. Its Souths defence that is of major concern though which is leaking 27.4 ppg during their five-game losing run.

THE VERDICT

Although Brisbane’s ($1.53 UNIBET) record at ANZ Stadium isn’t great (losing six of their last eight) you would have to think they look the more likely to break the funk. A lot will depend on the likes of Darius Boyd, Corey Oates, Corey Parker and co backing up successfully from Origin but we are banking on the fact they will.

Margin players will be interested to know the last four games between these sides has seen an average winning margin of 28.2 points.

Definitely look at the 13+ Winning Margin Brisbane ($2.75 William Hill) in that respect.
Broncos - 1pt @ 1.53
Broncos 13+ - 1pt @ 2.75

NEWCASTLE V MELBOURNE Sunday afternoon, Hunter Stadium

On paper this looks a no-brainer as the lowly Knights are up against it when they host the rampaging Storm on Sunday afternoon. Newcastle have dropped their last 10 games and have the worst attack and defence in the NRL. That is hardly a good sign when you are facing one of the better attacking sides in the competition (24.8ppg) along with the best defence (11.3ppg).

ON THE IMPROVE

Things have started to look slightly better for Newcastle in their last two games. Although they have been beaten, their level of commitment has increased to the point where they haven't been pushovers.

Unfortunately for them they got out to a 22-point lead against the Raiders last week only to lose in Golden Point. That aside, they are definitely better than they were a month ago.

STORM FRONT

Melbourne are looking every bit a premiership contender and that was highlighted by their 42-point drubbing of the Broncos at Suncorp in Round 17. That was their third 40+ points win over a team this season.

HOW IT WILL PAN OUT

The Storm will have their key playmakers backing up from Origin (Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith) and should they come through Wednesday's game unscathed, then they will win. Riding a hot streak of form that includes nine wins from their past 10 starts, Melbourne should simply prove too strong and another big loss could be awaiting the Knights.

For Nathan Brown's side, yes the level of improvement they have shown in recent weeks suggests they could put up a fight. History is also on their side as they have troubled Melbourne in recent games including earlier this year at AAMI Park where just four points separated them.

THE VERDICT

Can't see anything but a Storm win by a big score, however, it wouldn't be the silliest thing in the world to have something on them at the 1-12 Margin ($3.75 William Hill).

Invest in Suliasi Vunivalu as 1st Tryscorer ($6.40 LuxBet) and to Score A Try ($1.50 William Hill).
Storm 1-12 - 1pt @ 3.75
Vunivalu First TS - 1pt @ 6.40
Vunivalu Anytime TS - 1pt @ 1.50

PENRITH V PARRAMATTA Sunday afternoon, Pepper Stadium

It’s the battle of the west in Sunday afternoon footy as Penrith take on Parramatta. The Panthers haven't lost three straight all season and go into this off back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Tigers and Sharks.

Their performance against the latter was highly disappointing as the Sharks were missing their Origin players. What's more, Penrith went into that game as favourites. Parramatta continue to implode but are somehow still a mathematical chance of making the Top 8. With their 12-point penalty finally handed down, they are back to 12 competition points while their chief playmaker, Corey Norman, has certainly seen better weeks.

HOMETOWN BLUES

You would think playing in front of a parochial fan base would be enough to give you an advantage, however, that hasn't been the case in 2016 with the Panthers.

Penrith has just two wins in six at Pepper Stadium this season and has conceded 20.2 points per game on average there.

ORIGIN A FACTOR?

The result of this game could be decided by the likes of Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour, who have been named in the side to back up after Origin.

If they come through Origin without any problems then the chances of the Panthers lift dramatically because they didn't show a great deal without them last week.

THE VERDICT

Remarkably, we are going for the upset here and tipping the Eels ($3.85 Sportsbet). Although everything suggests to stay away from them, they keep finding ways to win and overcome adversity. That is the sign of a very good football team.

With four wins from their last five starts their only recent defeat is at the hands of the Sharks who have won 13 straight games. For us, that is good enough form to win this.

We don't think there will be much in it so we're also happy to take Parramatta at the +10 Line ($1.92 UNIBET).
Eels - 1pt @ 3.85
Eels +10 - 1pt @ 1.92

SYDNEY ROOSTERS V CRONULLA Monday night, Allianz Stadium

They say that for every win you are one step closer to a loss. Well, Cronulla have been close to that on a number of occasions during their 13-game winning streak but have always found a way to win.

This time Monday Night footy throws up an interesting assignment for them as they travel to Allianz to take on the Roosters.

Minor premiers for the last three seasons, the chooks are likely to be missing finals football in 2016 as their current horror stretch reads just two wins since Round 7.

PROMISING SIGNS

Although in the midst of one of their worst runs in club history there has been some positive signs for the Bondi boys over the last fortnight.

They had the Eels beaten before letting a 12-point lead slip away last week while prior to that they were terribly unlucky to go down by a narrow margin to the Bulldogs.

ORIGIN FACTOR

Cronulla has been lethargic in the games following the first two Origin contests this year. With five players backing up that could again be the case here.

HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?

Trent Robinson's side has been off to a flying start in their last two games and we think that will play out once again. If they do begin quickly then they need to hold on to their lead which they have failed to do in recent efforts.

The defence of the Roosters has leaked an average of 26 points per game during their four-game losing run.

THE VERDICT

We are tipping the Sharks ($1.53 UNIBET) to make it 14-straight wins. The Roosters, while expected to be gallant, will struggle with Jackson Hastings being dropped for Ryan Matterson while Origin players Blake Ferguson and Aidan Guerra haven't been named either.

Cronulla don't have a problem with playing at the venue which is sure to negate the home ground advantage for the tricolours - the visitors have three straight wins at Moore Park.

Looking for a bit of value to finish off the round? Back Valentine Holmes ($8 William Hill) as 1st Tryscorer. Second on the NRL leading tryscorer list behind Suliasi Vunivalu, the Sharks flyer is due for a four-pointer as he hasn't crossed the line since Round 14.

Sharks - 1pt @ 1.53
Holmes First TS - 1pt @ 8.00