Our league expert was on fire last week - can he carry that form into round 23?
CANTERBURY BANKSTOWN V MANLY Thursday night, ANZ Stadium
A classic case in point was last week when they blew a 14-2 lead against the Knights to find themselves locked up at 14-all with half an hour to play. They did kick back to win but did make heavy work of it.
As for the Sea Eagles their late charge towards the finals appears as though it will fall short after they were beaten by Parramatta by one point in the closing stages last week.
Canterbury won't get a better chance to pick up another vital two points than in this game. They've knocked off Manly in their last five clashes, with the latest of those being in Round one this year.
Manly's season-high four-game winning streak was stopped by Parramatta last Friday. One of the big reasons for their recent good form has been their defence which has conceded an average of 11.6ppg in the last five weeks.
This has the potential to be a real ugly game. Canterbury's attack has struggled to kick into top gear of late and with Manly's defence being solid we see this being a close one.
We'll take the Dogs ($1.47 UNIBET) to win. Value betting will rest in the Total Match Points. Go the Unders with the Line ($1.90 Ladbrokes) sitting at 39.5 with most bookies.
BRISBANE V PARRAMATTA Friday night, Suncorp Stadium
Parramatta fans can only imagine what could have been had their season not turned so dramatically a little over three months ago. If they hadn't had their points taken away for salary cap breaches they would find themselves entrenched in the Top 8. Furthermore, if playmakers Corey Norman and Kieran Foran hadn't had their lives off the field take a dramatic twist then we would be seeing a genuine premiership threat.
The Broncos have dropped several notches from their form earlier in the season and a return to Suncorp could be the tonic they need to find form again. One of their biggest problems has been an impotent attack. They are averaging a measly 11.2ppg over the last five weeks and that simply isn't enough when you are leaking nearly 30 points a match over that period.
The Eels showed once again they are willing to turn up and give it their all despite suffering a season from hell. A gritty 10-9 win over Manly saw them break a three-match losing run but even taking that into account, Parramatta has won five of their last nine games.
Put simply Brisbane has plenty to play for and we think the loss of Beau Scott for the Eels has tipped the balance of power to the home side.
Definitely consider Parramatta at the +12 line ($1.93 UNIBET) as they will put up a big fight and won't fear heading to Suncorp where they have won three of their last four.
WESTS TIGERS V GOLD COAST Saturday afternoon, Campbelltown Stadium
Wests Tigers have now won three straight which is a season best for them with the defending premiers the latest of those scalps. Needless to say they will be chock full of confidence to head to a packed Campbelltown Sports Ground to make it four on the trot.
Standing in their way will be Jarryd Hayne and the Titans who lost out to the Warriors for the 11th time in 12 outings last week.
HAYNE THE X-FACTOR
Jarryd Hayne’s first game back in the NRL may have ended in a loss but his influence on the field didn’t go unnoticed. He pulled off a try-saving tackle while also causing a few headaches in attack for the opposition. With that run under his belt, coach Neil Henry has named him to start at five-eighth which will give the Titans an extra attacking dimension.
STARTING TO ROAR
Jason Taylor’s side have won five of their last seven and in each of those games they have scored at least 20 points. That ultimately means the Titans defence will be tested and considering they are leaking over 19 ppg over the last five weeks, they need to be better if they are a chance here.
Although the Gold Coast have surprised many we couldn’t have been more impressed with the way the Tigers ($1.96 UNIBET) handled the Cowboys last week. They only have to play up to that standard to get the job done here.
WARRIORS V RABBITOHS Saturday afternoon, MT Smart Stadium
That said they almost caused one of the great upsets of all-time when pushing the Storm to Golden Point last week, only to fall to a Cameron Smith field goal. The Warriors are starting to loom ominously and swept aside the Titans on the Gold Coast last week to record their sixth win in nine outings.
WARRIORS BY NAME, WARRIORS BY NATURE
The kiwis haven't been beaten in regulation since Round 11. During that time they have only lost three games, all in Golden Point, but go into this aiming for three straight wins for just the second time this season.
MADGE NEED SOME MAGIC
Coach Michael Maguire will be scratching his head wondering where his side has gone wrong. Winners of just two of their last 15 games, Souths defence has been a real let down (barring last week) but their attack has also gone missing in recent times. They are averaging 13.3ppg in their nine-match skid.
HOW IT PANS OUT
Souths have won four straight against the Warriors but the problem is that three of those have been at nib Stadium (Perth) where the kiwis are legless. At Mt Smart, the bunnies did win last start but dropped the previous three.
Although brave in defeat last week against Melbourne, we can't see Souths causing an upset here. The Warriors have plenty to play for as they currently sit in eighth spot and need to keep winning in order to play finals footy.
Looking for value? Go for a Warriors 13+ (#2.30 Bet365) win as traditionally games between these sides have averaged a margin of 20.1ppg in the last five years.
STGEORGE ILLAWARRA V CRONULLA Saturday night, Jubilee Oval
The Dragons host premiership heavyweights Cronulla in an interesting match on Saturday night. Cronulla’s unbeaten streak was halted at 16 thanks to a rampant Canberra outfit. The Sharks looked off the pace in the second half despite playing at home and could it be that the State Of Origin period has finally caught up with them?
As for their rivals Stgeorge Illawarra, they have put up good defensive efforts in recent weeks but come away with nothing against the Bulldogs and Broncos.
The Dragons season has been punctuated with one major factor and that is their inability to score points. At present they are the second-worst in attacking (12.85ppg) and have only scored two more points than the lowly Knights for the entire season! That doesn’t look good when you go up against the competition’s third-best defence.
Cronulla held the Dragons tryless when they met earlier in the season at Shark Park and will be looking for three straight against them for the first time since 2008.
HOW IT PANS OUT
There were reports throughout the week that a stomach bug went through the Cronulla team. They will get back Michael Ennis, who missed last week’s game, which is a big bonus but will the team be 100 percent?
The Dragons boast a strong record over the Sharks at Jubilee Oval with six wins in seven against the boys from the Shire. In fact, their only defeat since 2003 at the venue against their neighbours was in 2007. It must be said that only seven games have been played there during that time.
Expect the Dragons to give the Sharks a run for their money especially since they welcome back Tyson Frizell, Josh Dugan and Joel Thompson. That said it is difficult to see the Red V scoring enough points to trouble the Sharks for the victory. You might consider taking the Dragons with a generous start of 11.5 ($1.91 Sportsbet)
Those looking for a bit of value could do worse than picking Dragons winger Kurt Mann ($14 Sportsbet) to open the scoring or to Score A Try ($2.70 Sportsbet). He has eight tries in nine games.
NEWCASTLE V PENRITH Sunday afternoon, Hunter Stadium
The Panthers demolished the Roosters in Monday Night Football to make it three wins from their past four starts. The only loss during this time has been to the Warriors in Golden Point and that form has proven to be very strong.
Newcastle are suffering big time down the bottom of the ladder with just one win this season and riding a 14-game losing streak. In quite a few of their recent games the effort has been there, however, execution and experience have let them down.
While Penrith are hot favourites here they will have to overcome somewhat of a hoodoo against the Knights. They have won just three of their last nine against them while they only have five wins from the last 16 visits to Hunter Stadium.
HOW IT PANS OUT
All the stats suggest this is going to be another long afternoon for the Newcastle faithful. Penrith were simply brilliant at times under the guidance of boom rookie Nathan Clearly on Monday night. Another display like that here could result in yet another big score.
While Newcastle played well in patches against the Bulldogs, scoring two quick tries to level the scores early in the second half, they need to put together 80 minutes and at the moment they don’t look capable of doing that.
We can’t see anything but a big victory to Penrith here. If they are serious about making finals then they need to open up here and do some damage. Take them conceding the 14 start ($1.92 UNIBET)
Want a bit of value? Have a crack at Josh Mansour as First Tryscorer ($8.50 Bet365) as he has five tries in four games at the Knights.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS V COWBOYS Sunday afternoon, Allianz Stadium
Currently the Cowboys sit in fifth spot, however, they’re one win behind the Bulldogs and under the current finals format no team has come from outside the Top 4 to win the title.
They go into this off back-to-back losses which could be a worrying sign for coach Paul Green as it’s the first time the champs have lost consecutive matches in 2016.
For the Roosters there is a lot to like about this week’s contest as they welcome back Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who will make a big difference to their line-up.
HOME SWEET HOME
Although the Roosters have had a wretched season, three of their four wins have come at home and the latest of those was a ripper. A fortnight ago at this very ground, they trampled the Broncos 32-16 to snap six-game losing streak.
North Queensland suffered their first home loss of the season a fortnight ago, 16-8 to Melbourne, minus Johnathan Thurston. While their home form has been near faultless, the fact they have won just three from 10 away from Townsville is worrying to say the least.
HOW IT PANS OUT
The Roosters have struggled against North Queensland for the better part of seven years, winning just four of 11 games which is the fewest against any opponent during that time.
Thurston will be keen to get his side back on track and with a team boasting the third-best attack and second-best defence, they appear too strong for the tricolours.
It’s hard seeing the Cowboys ($1.51 UNIBET) drop three-in-a-row so on that basis we are picking them to pick up just their fourth win on the road in 2016.
Let’s have a look at the 1st Score Type and it wouldn’t surprise to see a Roosters Try ($2.75 William Hill) salute. They have the first four-pointer in six of their last seven games.
CANBERRA V MELBOURNE Monday night, GIO Stadium
Monday night footy sees the Raiders take on the Storm in a battle of third versus first. Canberra are one of the hottest teams in the competition at the moment and were responsible for ending Cronulla’s 16-game unbeaten run last week. For their part, Melbourne have hardly missed a beat either and sit atop the NRL ladder after putting together 13 wins from their last 14 starts.
ATTACK V DEFENCE
This game serves up the best attacking team in the competition (Canberra, 271.ppg) up against the Storm’s league-leading defence (11.5ppg).
Canberra notched up 30 points in beating the Sharks by 14 last week, which is the ninth time in their last 10 outings that they have scored 20 points or more. During that run they’ve scored 30 points or more six times.
Melbourne’s position at the top of the ladder has been built off a brick wall defence which hasn’t conceded more than 20 points against any team this season.
HOW IT PANS OUT
History suggests the Storm will be winning this one as they have the wood on the Raiders. Melbourne has 26 wins in 36 games against the Green Machine. On top of that, five of their last six at GIO have resulted in wins.
Ricky Stuart has the Raiders firing on all cylinders with nine wins in their last 10 games. During that run they have knocked over premiership contenders Cronulla, North Queensland, New Zealand and the Bulldogs among others.
Melbourne haven’t really been ultra impressive over the last four weeks despite winning, especially when you consider they needed Golden Point to beat Souths last week.
At this stage of the Round we are preferring to go with the value and are picking Canberra ($2.18 UNIBET) to score the upset.