The North Queensland - Melbourne Storm fixture stands out in a great round of NRL action.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS V BRISBANE Thursday night, Allianz Stadium
It is hard to believe that the last time these teams met it was for a place in the 2015 Grand Final!
This season hasn't worked out quite as well for the Roosters while the Broncos are throwing away all their good work from early in the year and are now clinging to a spot in the Top 8. Thursday night footy will give the Roosters a chance to break their six-game losing streak when they host Brisbane at Allianz Stadium.
They have beaten the Broncos in three of their last four games at the venue.
ON THE SLIDE
Early in 2016 it looked as though we were set for a repeat of the 2015 decider between the Broncos and Cowboys. Brisbane were flying high at the top of the ladder but a one-point loss to the premiers in Round 11 has set off a sequence of six losses in their last eight games.
Last Friday night's performance was arguably one of their poorest as they lost 31-12 to the Panthers at Suncorp - the first time in history they conceded 30 points or more in consecutive games at the venue.
Roosters fans haven't had much to crow about recently with just three wins for the entire season but there have been some positive signs to suggest a win isn't too far away.
Eight of their losses have been by four points or less while they were in winning positions against premiership contenders Cronulla and Canterbury in recent weeks.
HOW IT PANS OUT
Brisbane will be missing Sam Thaiday and Josh Maguire for this but get back Matt Gillett. One of their biggest problems has been poor defence during their recent slide that has seen them concede 32.1 points per game. For us, they have been poor for a number of weeks and are there for the taking.
With the Roosters ($2 Ladbrokes) looking a much better team than earlier in the season we are prepared to back the Sydney-based team to cause the upset.
Coach Trent Robinson will be in charge of his 100th career match and the Roosters should be keen on giving him something to smile about after a poor season.
Roosters - 1pt @ 2.00
CANTERBURY BANKSTOWN V STGEORGE ILLAWARRA Friday night, ANZ Stadium
It wouldn't be retro round without having a match featuring the Bulldogs and Dragons. Friday night is the perfect setting for these traditional rivals to do battle, however, we think it will be one-act affair.
Canterbury have aspirations of not only a Top 4 finish but having a genuine crack at the premiership while the Dragons may already be looking to 2017.
DOG GAWN IT
The Bulldogs four-match winning streak was put to an abrupt halt in Townsville last week by the defending premiers. Held scoreless for the first time in three years, expect to see some sort of bounce back here from the blue and whites.
DRAGGING THE CHAIN
The Dogs have conceded 21.6 points per game over their last five contests which suggests they can leak points against the right attack - last week's 36-nil flogging at the hands of the Cowboys reinforces that.
On the flip side they are facing a Dragons outfit that is second last in attack (13.2ppg) and the fifth worst when it comes to defending (22.1ppg).
This presents the perfect opportunity for the Bulldogs to get their premiership campaign back on track.
HOW IT WILL PAN OUT
The Red V have been poor in recent weeks with big losses against Manly, Gold Coast and Wests Tigers. Without star fullback Josh Dugan they are set to struggle here especially since their defence, which has given them eight wins for the year, has gone AWOL of late.
With just one win from their past nine against the Dogs this match could get ugly really quickly.
We can't see anything but a Dogs victory. Although the price is short the value is in Margin betting with 13+ ($1.62 Bet365) looking the logical way to go.
For Tryscoring options look to ex-Dragons Brett ($9 Bet365) and Josh Morris ($15 Bet365) for 1st Tryscorer bets. Josh has nine tries in 11 against his former club while Brett has seven tries in just four matches since returning from injury.
Bulldogs 13+ - 1pt @ 1.62
B. Morris First TS - 1pt @ 9.00
J. Morris First TS - 1pt @ 15.00
NEW ZEALAND V PENRITH Saturday afternoon, Mt Smart Stadium
Desperate times call for desperate measures and that will be the motto for the Warriors when they host Penrith on Saturday afternoon.
The New Zealanders are on the fringe of the Top 8 with the Panthers just one spot in front of them but recent costly defeats have put them on the back foot.
Going into this off back-to-back Golden Point losses, New Zealand will be desperate to reverse their recent fortunes and stay in finals contention.
DEFENCE WINS GAMES......MOST OF THE TIME
The Warriors have won four of their last seven games and defence has been the key to that run. On average they have conceded 17.4 points per game during that time.
Although they copped 26 points in their loss to the Raiders last week, they rattled off three tries in the final nine minutes to tie the game and send it to extra-time. Their last five games have seen the average margin at 3.4 ppg.
YOUNG GUNS WON'T QUIT
It has been said that the Panthers are building for the future with plenty of youth in their side, however, they still find themselves a chance of playing finals footy.
The last 10 weeks has seen them go on somewhat of an interesting pattern of two wins, two losses, two wins, two losses and now two wins.
They come into this off the back of an impressive 31-12 win over the Broncos at Suncorp and are aiming for their third win in four starts at Mt Smart Stadium.
HOW IT PANS OUT
Penrith have the wood on the Kiwis with six wins from their last seven games. That said, New Zealand has been a difficult nut to crack of late and if they can put together a full 80 minutes then they will win. Their last two losses have seen them have a costly lapse in concentration for 10 minutes that has seen them concede two tries (twice against the Raiders) each time it’s happened.
We are going for the Warriors ($1.79 UNIBET) to finally get over the line and put their recent troubles behind them. Their defence has been solid and the flamboyant nature of their attack could be enough to get them home.
Warriors - 1pt @ 1.79
PARRAMATTA V WESTS TIGERS Saturday afternoon, ANZ Stadium
The Tigers will be out to avoid three straight losses to the Eels when they clash this weekend. Having won eight of 10 between the teams before their most recent losses, the Tigers have generally had the better of Parramatta for the most part since 2009.
They won't get a better chance to continue their playoff push against an Eels outfit that is now officially out of the race for the finals.
LATE SEASON SURGE
After suffering a six-game losing streak earlier in the season, Wests Tigers have since won six of their 10 games to sit one win outside the Top 8.
They head into this off the back of a 25-12 win over the Dragons last week but have been strong in recent defeats to premiership contenders the Bulldogs and Storm as well. Attack has been one of the keys to their revival as they're averaging a little under four converted tries per match in their last eight outings.
All things being equal this could have been the year the Eels broke their premiership drought, however, salary cap issues and a string of off-field issues have derailed their campaign.
Even with their points deduction the blue and golds still had a chance of playing finals footy but that is now gone following consecutive losses.
Last week they never looked likely against the Titans and that is probably the first time anyone can say that. All the issues seem to have finally taken their toll.
HOW IT PANS OUT
Put simply the Tigers ($1.44 Bet365) are playing for their lives and should be too strong for an Eels outfit that really doesn't have anything left to play for.
Looking for value? Go for the Tigers to Score 20+ Points ($1.39 Sportsbet) as their attack, despite missing Robbie Farah at hooker, seems to be clicking into gear at the right time.
Tigers - 1pt @ 1.44
Tigers 20+ Points - 1pt @ 1.39
NORTH QUEENSLAND V MELBOURNE Saturday night, 1300Smiles Stadium
This is definitely the match of the round as the Cowboys take on the Storm this Saturday night. Two of the best teams all season, the Cowboys and Storm could possibly meet in the NRL Grand Final in the first week of October.
Back in Round 10 these teams served up an absolute cracker at Suncorp Stadium where the Storm came out one-point winners 15-14. North Queensland has only lost three times since then and two of those were when their team was depleted because of State Of Origin duties.
Melbourne have won 11 of their past 12 games with their only loss coming to the Dragons during the Origin period.
With chief playmaker Johnathan Thurston out of action due to a hamstring injury, the pendulum swings in favour of the visitors here. Thurston is instrumental to the Cowboys' chances and although Ray Thompson will fill in valiantly, he is no JT!
Offsetting that loss to some extent will be the Cowboys tremendous record in Townsville in recent years which reads 11 straight and 34 from their last 39.
Much of Melbourne's success this season boils down to their defence. The Storm boast easily the best defence in the NRL, averaging 11.5 points per game.
While points haven't been an issue either (fourth best in the comp), it's keeping teams at bay which has been the cornerstone of their success. No team has scored more than 20 points on them yet in 2016.
If JT were playing then we'd definitely tip the Cowboys, however, his absence is too big a factor to ignore.
Go for a Melbourne ($1.77 Sportsbet) win in this. If you're looking for a bit more value then the 1-12 Winning Margin ($3 William Hill) is the pick as there's been just 7.5 points separating them on average in their last four clashes.
Storm - 1pt @ 1.77
SOUTH SYDNEY V CANBERRA Sunday afternoon, ANZ Stadium
This game offers up an intriguing contest for the Raiders as they travel to ANZ Stadium to take on the Rabbitohs. Canberra have established themselves as the team most likely to test top three - Cronulla, Melbourne and North Queensland - but how they handle the Bunnies could go a long way to determining if they're serious or not.
Souths are down having lost 13 matches this season and 11 of their last 13 games overall. They are desperate and want to save face and in front of 'The Burrow' on Sunday and could be the banana peel that the Raiders slip on.
Canberra have always promised so much but failed to deliver but this season it's different. They've won seven of their past eight but barring the Round 12 win against the Dogs, they've all been games they were expected to win.
Even though they are favourites here they have to overcome a bogey as Souths have beaten them in six of their last eight encounters. On top of that their record at ANZ Stadium is poor (four losses from five starts).
HOW IT PANS OUT
We can't see the Rabbitohs turning things around here especially when they've been conceding 26.7 points per game during their seven-game skid. Back Canberra to win but we think the 1-12 Margin ($3.30 Bet365) is the way to go. Jarrod Croker is a logical pick to Score A Try ($1.91 Bet365) having crossed the line 14 times including a hat-trick against the Warriors last week.
Raiders 1-12 - 1pt @ 3.30
MANLY V NEWCASTLE Sunday afternoon, Brookvale Oval
Remarkably this game throws up the best bet of the weekend.
We say remarkably because it features one side that has lost 11 games and another that has 16 defeats.
For Manly fans though there has been some great signs in recent weeks with their side notching three straight wins for the first time this season.
Just when 2016 looked dead and buried they've come out and beaten the Dragons, Warriors and Rabbitohs. Although they face an uphill battle to make the Top 8, they sit just two wins outside the finals race and have to keep on winning to give themselves every chance of success.
The Sea Eagles had lost seven straight prior to notching a hat-trick of wins and the key to their fortunes has been a solid defence. In their three wins they've conceded an average of just 10.6 points - a season low for them!
A SEASON TO FORGET
Newcastle will be out to avoid equalling their worst ever run of 13 straight losses but will be up against it. Although brave for most of the opening 40 minutes against the Sharks, the wheels fell off and subsequently led to a 32-point loss. Making things worse is that they sustained injuries to playmaker Jarrod Mullen while Mitch Barnett is suspended.
With Manly boasting the wood on their rivals in recent years (nine wins from 11 games) and the fact the Knights haven't won at Brookvale since 2006, it looks a gimme for the home side.
The value will sit with Jorge Taufua ($9 Bet365) and Tom Trbojevic ($9 William Hill) good selections in 1st and Last Tryscorer options.
Taufua First TS - 1pt @ 9.00
T Trbojevic Last TS - 1pt @ 9.00
GOLD COAST V CRONULLA Monday night, Cbus Super Stadium
Could this be the game that finally snaps Cronulla's 15-game winning streak?
Funnily enough from a historical perspective it may very well be the case as the Titans have always proved to be a hurdle for the Sharks.
Going back through their last seven games and the average margin between the sides has been a measly 4.28 points.
Adding a bit more weight to the Titans' argument is that they've won two straight and will be aiming for a hat-trick for just the second time this season. They head into this off two 20-point wins against the Dragons and Eels.
UP, UP CRONULLA
What else can you say about the Sharkies? They're going for 16 straight wins and know how to blow teams off the park but also how to grind out wins too. Playing at Cbus Super Stadium won't worry them either as their previous visit there, in Round 10 last year, yielded a one-point win.
HOW IT PANS OUT
Both teams get some valuable experience back for this with Greg Bird (Titans) and James Maloney (Sharks) returning for their respective outfits. Expect a fast start from the Gold Coast as it's been a trait of Neil Henry's side for the past two months.
That should play nicely in their favour as the Sharks, despite losing just twice all season, haven't been the quickest of beginners during that same period.
This should be a cracker and although the Titans will push the Sharks to the limits, expect Shane Flanagan's men to continue leading the NRL ladder after this one.
It will be tight though so go the Sharks 1-12 Winning Margin ($3.10 William Hill) while 1st Tryscorer bets should include Anthony Don ($12 Bet365) and Nene Macdonald ($13 Bet365) for the Titans.
For something a little different, look to the Gold Coast to Score First ($2.30 UNIBET) either through a Try or Penalty Goal.
Sharks 1-12 - 1pt @ 3.10
Don First TS - 1pt @ 12.00
MacDonald First TS - 1pt @ 13.00
Titans Score First - 1pt @ 2.30