CANTERBURY V NORTH QUEENSLAND Thursday night, Belmore Sports Ground

The Bulldogs will be out for a bit of revenge when they host the Cowboys on Thursday night. Just five weeks ago the defending premiers put on a clinic in Townsville, dusting up the doggies 36-0.

Since then their form has dipped dramatically but that was righted in some ways against the Warriors last week.

As for Canterbury they are on a decent run themselves with last week's loss to the Broncos, coupled with that heavy defeat to the Cowboys, being their only defeats in the past nine weeks.

AWAY CONCERNS
North Queensland's biggest hurdle has always been travelling but that appeared a thing of the past in 2015 and ultimately helped them lift the trophy at ANZ Stadium. This season they've won just three of 11 on their travels but lost all five in Sydney.

This will be the first time the Cowboys have played at Belmore with Johnathan Thurston having some experience playing at the ground during his days with the Blue and Whites.

GET SQUARE
Canterbury has struggled against the Cowboys in recent games, winning just once in their last five clashes. Their heavy defeat a few weeks ago will still be fresh in their minds so you would expect them to be fired up for this one.

HOW IT PANS OUT
The Bulldogs will be without Sam Kasiano who is suspended for two matches which is a big blow for the home side. After dropping a 20-10 result to the Broncos last week their attacking woes were again there for all to see. If they are to win this game they need to be doing better than 17.7 points per game, which is what they have been registering over the past month.

THE VERDICT
North Queensland were ultra impressive in disposing of the Warriors last week by 28 points. They bullied the Kiwi forwards out of the contest and without Kasiano to worry about, a similar thing could happen here.

That said we feel the Dogs represent value in this one on the score of them returning to Belmore along with the Cowboys poor away record.

Back the Dogs to win here ($2.30 Bet365) and remember there is more on the line than just the two points. Both sides are fighting for a spot in the Top 4!
Bulldogs - 1pt @ 2.30

MELBOURNE V BRISBANE Friday night, AAMI Park

Melbourne can wrap up the Minor Premiership by defeating the Broncos in Friday night footy.

The Storm have been sensational for most of the season, winning 18 and losing just four to sit on 40 competition points which is three clear of Cronulla.

That record has been built off the back of the competition's best defence that is conceding a miserly 12.2 points per game.

Standing in their way will be improving Broncos who have put behind them a mid-season slump to notch three straight wins and give themselves a sniff of a Top 4 spot.

DOMINATION
It isn't too often you hear of a Broncos outfit being handled by a particular team but that is certainly the case when it comes to Melbourne.

The Storm has owned the Queenslanders in recent years and have won 10 of the last 11 between the sides. Their most recent clash back in Round 17 saw Melbourne go to Suncorp and humiliate Wayne Bennett's side, posting a 48-6 triumph.

CRONK OR NO CRONK?
Rumours floating around during the week suggested that Craig Bellamy could rest halfback Cooper Cronk for this game. While we think it’s a bit of gamesmanship on the part of the Storm, we feel that he will play.

Not only does he direct traffic for Melbourne but he is also a prolific tryscorer himself, crossing the line on 11 occasions in 2016.

HOW IT PANS OUT
Melbourne are one of the hottest teams in the competition at the moment and that means they will be very hard to stop. Brisbane, while on a three-game winning streak, haven't been overly impressive and will need to overcome their bogey team to score the upset.

Brisbane did win their last encounter at AAMI Park (14-12) but that was their first win at the venue in five years.

THE VERDICT
We think the Storm ($1.50 Bet365) are close to a good thing. It has been a rare occurrence that they've played poorly and they showed how resilient they can be by beating Manly last week just five days after dropping their Monday night footy encounter with Canberra.

The value will be in Margin betting and we are recommending taking the 13+ ($2.80 William Hill) option. The last six games between these teams have been determined by an average margin of nearly 20 points.
Storm - 1pt @ 1.50
Storm 13+ - 1pt @ 2.80

MANLY v CANBERRA Saturday afternoon, Brookvale Oval

The hottest team in the league at the moment rolls into Brookvale Oval to take on Manly this Saturday afternoon. Suburban ground footy on a Saturday arvo - is there anything better than that?

The Sea Eagles have nothing left to play for but will be fired up to send captain Jamie Lyon out on a high. Lyon will be missing due to a hamstring injury but being his last game at Brookie, the boys will be going all out to ensure they make this game a memorable one.

HODGSON RETURNS
Canberra became just the second team in 30 years to beat the league leaders in consecutive weeks. They were very sluggish last week against Parramatta, giving up a big lead before turning it around in the second half. No doubt they missed the influence of Josh Hodgson at hooker through suspension, however, they will get him back here. His impact on this side cannot be underestimated.

HOW IT PANS OUT
Ricky Stuart has the Green Machine firing on all cylinders and primed to secure another two points here. Their record against the Northern Beaches outfit isn't great (losing six of eight), however, they have won two of the last three including a 12-point result back in Round 13.

Go for a Raiders win but Margin players should take the 1-12 the Raiders ($3.30 Bet365) for better value. Canberra has a poor record at Brookie and haven't won there since 2010 so Manly should give them a real fright here.
Raiders 1-12 - 1pt @ 3.30

GOLD COAST V PENRITH Saturday afternoon, Cbus Super Stadium

Both teams are agonisingly close to locking in a finals appearance so there will be plenty of emotion going into this game on Saturday.

Penrith has been in sensational form and head into this one in season-best form off the back of a hat-trick of wins while Gold Coast are aiming to register a hat-trick of their own for just the second time in 2016.

FRENZIED ATTACK
Penrith's surge towards the finals has coincided with their attacking clicking into gear at the right time. Their last three wins has seen them average 40.6 points per game - a league best in the last three weeks!

OVERACHIEVERS
Not many people thought the Titans were a chance at making the Top 8 but they have proved their critics wrong. They need to win either this week or next week to secure a berth, however, the way they are playing you can't deny them.

They have been in form over the last two months with just one loss coming in their last six games.

HOW IT PANS OUT
The way the young Panthers ($2.23 UNIBET) are playing we are leaning towards them in what should be one of the games of the round. Their attack is sublime at the moment and their confidence just continues to grow.

Gold Coast will switch Jarryd Hayne to fullback which should give him more opportunity to break his tryscoring drought since returning to the NRL. Maybe this is the week to back Hayne to Score A Try ($2.20 UNIBET)?
Panthers - 1pt @ 2.23
Hayne Anytime TS - 1pt @ 2.20

CRONULLA V SYDNEY ROOSTERS Saturday night, Southern Cross Group Stadium

Cronulla head back home searching for answers when they host one of the form teams of the competition this Saturday night.

The Sharkies are now winless in a month after notching 15-straight wins and go into this off the back of a 12-6 defeat to Souths last Monday.

Although it’s been a season to forget for the Roosters they have notched three wins from their last four starts and are already looking dangerous for 2017.

GETTING THE WOBBLES
Cronulla has struggled in the last month but one of the positives is that captain Paul Gallen makes his return after missing the last two games. Injuries and illness has cost the boys from the Shire of late and they are still missing Sam Tagataese.

ROOSTERS RISING
The chooks had won just three games prior to their recent upsurge in form. These latest triumphs have coincided with the return of their star players Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. In their last three wins they have averaged over 30 points a game which is well clear of their season average.

HOW IT PANS OUT
This represents a danger game for the Sharks. In their final home game before the finals series, they are down on confidence facing a team with nothing to lose. Expect some free flowing footy.

THE VERDICT
One of things in the favour of the Sharkies is their strong record over the Sydney Roosters - they have won five of six clashes against them.

If Cronulla is going to get their finals charge back into gear then this will be the game that does it. They have won 10 of 11 at home this season; it's their final home game; and the Roosters have won just once in six years at the venue.

Go for a Sharkies ($1.62 Bet365) win.

Value rests with Margin bettors so go for the 1-12 Margin ($3.10 Bet365).
Sharks - 1pt @ 1.62
Sharks 1-12 - 1pt @ 3.10

NEW ZEALAND V WESTS TIGERS Sunday afternoon, Mt Smart Stadium

The Warriors will be aiming to keep their season alive when they hosts the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

Back-to-back losses have put the Kiwis on the brink of finals elimination, with those two defeats somewhat negating their previous run of good form that included six wins in nine games.

Wests Tigers are pretty much out of the running for the Top 8 after being pounded by the Panthers last week.

LAST CHANCE SALOON
A worrying trend for the Warriors is that after working their way into finals contention, their defence has dropped off alarmingly in their last two games. Losses to Souths and North Queensland has seen the previously steely defence leak an average of 37.5ppg in the last fortnight.

TIGERS FALL FLAT
Jason Taylor’s side is another that overcame a slow start to the season to put themselves back into the finals mix. The narrow loss to the Titans a fortnight ago, which also saw them lose gun fullback James Tedesco, coupled with the 30-point defeat last week to Penrith has pretty much seen their season go to mud.

HOW IT PANS OUT
The Warriors still have something to play for if the Titans don’t beat the Panthers on Saturday. Once again the problem in 2016 has been consistency for the Kiwis who have looked brilliant on occasions and downright terrible on others.

THE VERDICT
Tedesco is still missing for the Tigers and the way they gave up last week against the Panthers is concerning. Injuries have played their part while the Robbie Farah saga must be taking a toll on the squad.

Dare we say it but we are tipping the Warriors in this – but don’t hold your breath and we won’t bet on that….because you can never back the Warriors at short odds. It just doesn’t work.

Looking for something outside the head-to-head market? Then the 1st Tryscorer is the way to go and the return of Solomone Kata ($10 Bet365) to the home side makes him a logical bet. He has 14 tries in 20 games this season and crossed the line first against Souths at this venue a fortnight ago.
Kata First TS - 1pt @ 10.00

NEWCASTLE V SOUTH SYDNEY Sunday afternoon, Hunter Stadium

This shapes as an interesting battle between two sides who are wishing the season had already finished.

Expectations were low at Newcastle this season but even they would be disappointed with just three competition points at this stage of their campaign.

Souths, on the other hand, have notched back-to-back wins but have lost 15 games in 2016 which is definitely disappointing for the premiers of two seasons ago.

BUNNY HOPPING
Souths have shown big improvement in the last three weeks and nearly knocked off Melbourne at AAMI Park back in Round 22. They will go into this having beaten the Sharks in Monday Night Football while they have notched six straight wins against Newcastle.

OLD BOYS DAY
It will be Old Boys Day up at Newcastle this week and that means players, past and present, will gather at Hunter Stadium to be honoured by the club. The day always attracts a bumper crowd and the Knights always lift for this day.

HOW IT PANS OUT
Newcastle will welcome back a few key cogs to their arsenal including playmaker Jarrod Mullen. Combine that with Souths’ poor record at Hunter Stadium which reads just two wins in 15 years and the home side are definitely a chance.

Although we can’t tip Newcastle with confidence we will predict that they will be up for Old Boys Day. Take them at the +12 Line ($1.92 UNIBET) as we think they will give the bunnies something to think about for most of the afternoon.
Knights +12 - 1pt @ 1.92

PARRAMATTA V ST GEORGE-ILLAWARRA Monday night, Pirtek Stadium

This game will mark the last at Parramatta Stadium in its current form with Pirtek to be demolished very shortly.

Parramatta will be keen to send the ‘old girl’ out a winner just as they did on its opening back in 1986. Ironically, that victory was over the Dragons by a score of 36-6.

The Eels have been brave all season and if there’s anything left in the tank, they will lift one final time to give their fans something to cheer about in their final home appearance.

As for the Dragons they are coming off their worse loss of the season, a 42-6 hiding at the hands of the Roosters which is the most points they have conceded in nine years.

WINNING STREAK
Parramatta has notched three straight wins over the Dragons with the last two being at Pirtek. Prior to this run of success over their opponents it had been a seven-game barren run when facing the Red V.

BENJI DROPPED
Coach Paul McGregor has decided to drop misfiring halfback Benji Marshall from the line-up this week. It is all too little too late for the Dragons faithful who have seen their side drop six of their last seven games. Drew Hutchinson has been named to come up from NSW Cup to take Marshall’s place.

HOW IT PANS OUT
This game will also be the final Monday Night fixture for the foreseeable future which is something Dragons fans will be happy about. For some reason the fixture is a bogey for their side that has yielded just nine wins in 31 appearances (since 2007) AND that includes seven straight losses.

THE VERDICT
St George-Illawarra has struggled for points all year (13.4ppg average) and their defence was ripped apart by the Roosters last week. Parramatta has had little to play for in the back half of 2016 but they have turned up to play every week. Getting out to an 18-4 half-time lead against the Raiders last week, they compounded in the second 40 mins under great Canberra play but beside that the Eels still showed they had spark.

That’s enough for us to tip the Eels ($1.57 Bet365) to win their final game at Pirtek Stadium. Considering the trouble the Dragons have had against them of late, and their dislike for Monday nights, go for a 13+ ($3 Bet365) Margin.
Eels - 1pt @ 1.57
Eels 13+ - 1pt @ 3.00