Suspensions, injuries and big selection calls have clouded the make-up of NRL Round 21, which kicks off with a Top 8 blockbuster between the Roosters and Broncos.
Elsewhere, there’s plenty riding on the Manly-Parramatta and Cronulla-St George Illawarra grudge matches for all four clubs, Canberra will be aiming to take advantage of Penrith’s halves woes, and Canterbury has the opportunity to try out its revived offence on high-flying North Queensland
Thursday August 4, 7:50pm, SCG
Sydney Roosters are searching for four straight wins for the first time in 2022 and can consolidate their place in the Top 8 with a home win over wounded Brisbane. The Roosters demolished the Dragons and Knights back-to-back, before holding off the Sea Eagles 20-10 in last Thursday’s emotion-charged clash.
The massive metres and tryscoring threat provided by Joey Manu and Daniel Tupou again proved decisive at Brookvale, while Luke Keary is easing his way back into the line-up nicely and James Tedesco put his stamp on the contest as per usual.
The Broncos’ flat 32-18 home lost to struggling Wests Tigers – their worst performance by far since early-April – was hard to explain. They were out-enthused by ragtag team, while the defeat came at a huge cost with burgeoning middle forward Patrick Carrigan rubbed out for four weeks for a hip drop tackle.
Rhys Kennedy is Carrigan’s replacement in the Broncos’ 17, while Jake Turpin replaces Cory Paix on the bench. In a major positive, Selwyn Cobbo makes his return on the wing.
The Roosters also have some enforced changes to their pack with Lindsay Collins (concussion) and Egan Butcher (suspension) out. Matt Lodge will start with Terrell May and Ben Thomas joining the bench.
The Roosters have won four of their last five against the Broncos, but the then-lowly Broncos produced a stunning 34-16 upset at the SCG last season. The two encounters since – both in Brisbane – finished in the Roosters’ favour by margins of four points or less. The Roosters held on 24-20 at Suncorp in Round 5 this year.
Though he’s a big loss and has developed into a leader, Broncos have more than enough quality depth to counter Carrigan’s absence. With Adam Reynolds pulling the strings and Ezra Mam and Tesi Niu providing game-breaking options, the Broncos’ attack is among the NRL’s most dangerous when it clicks – and Cobbo is a huge in.
The fifth-placed Broncos are also on a three-match winning streak in NSW while the Roosters have dropped their last three at the SCG. The Broncos also boast an NRL-best 13-6 record against the line, while their over record is 13-5 – second-highest in the league.
But the key for the visitors is aiming up physically and stemming the bruising Tricolours pack’s roll – a big if. Second-gamer Deine Mariner will also have his hands full up against Manu.
Tip: Back the Roosters by 1-12 @ $2.85
SGM: ROOSTERS WIN / OVER 43.5 POINTS / COREY OATES ANYTIME TRY SCORER / JOSEPH MANU ANYTIME TRY SCORER @ $10.12
Gold Coast Titans
Friday August 5, 6:00pm, AAMI Park
Injury-ravaged Melbourne snapped a four-match losing streak in Round 20 by grinding out an unattractive – but super-important – 24-12 win over the Warriors in the unwelcoming surrounds of Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium. The Storm dominated the middle third battle but were regularly exposed down their right edge.
Craig Bellamy’s backline scenario just keeps getting worse. Justin Olam and Nick Meaney are both out injured. Tigers loaner David Nofoaluma comes straight in on a wing, with Grant Anderson moving to centre and Mr. Fix-it Tyran Wishart slotting in at fullback.
But Xavier Coates’ naming in the reserves is highly encouraging and Brandon Smith (suspension) is a big in.
Last-placed Gold Coast is meandering towards the end of the season, losing their last nine straight – though there were some positive signs in a 36-24 loss to Canberra last weekend after a dreadful start. But the inexperienced Titans have now conceded 30-plus points in seven of their last 11 games.
Jayden Campbell – who grabbed two tries off the interchange last week – returns to the starting fullback role, which sees AJ Brimson partner Tanah Boyd in the halves with Toby Sexton out. Greg Marzhew comes onto the bench.
The Storm boast an 18-6 record against the Titans since the latter’s 2007 arrival in the NRL, winning the last seven straight between the teams. Last season an under-strength Storm won a Round 13 clash 20-14 on the Sunshine Coast, before easing to a 34-20 victory in Round 23 on the Gold Coast.
This is a gift-wrapped opportunity for the Storm to go back-to-back for the first time since mid-June. Munster, Hughes, Grant and Smith will comfortably steer the home side to the two points, despite the patched-up backline outside them.
There’s still a fair bit of flair and firepower about the Titans, though, particularly with Campbell firing. The over shapes as a better play than taking on the big points starts the Storm are giving away, despite the Storm’s last four games have produced 36 points or less. The Titans’ over record is 11-8 with four of their last four six matches seeing 46-plus points scored.
Tip: Back Over 44.5 Points Total @ $1.90
SGM: STORM OVER 29.5 POINTS / TITANS OVER 12.5 POINTS / JAHROME HUGHES ANYTIME TRY SCORER / JOJO FIFITA ANYTIME TRY SCORER @ $15.23
Manly Sea Eagles
Friday August 5, 7:55pm, 4 Pines Park
After one of the most tumultuous week’s in the club’s history, all eyes are on Manly Sea Eagles to see how they regroup with the finals chances on the brink.
The 10th-placed Sea Eagles were brave in a 20-10 loss with seven top-liners missing, but there’s sure to still be a bit of tension in the ranks – and it will arguably take even more character this week to put up a strong showing.
Five of the players who stood down last week – Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Tolutau Koula, Haumole Olakau’atu and Toafofoa Sipley – return but Josh Schuster has been left out and Josh Aloiai is injured. Ben Trbojevic is back from a head knock.
Parramatta remain the NRL’s biggest puzzle, moving back up to sixth with a 34-10 win over a 12-man Penrith side a week after getting caned by Brisbane – keeping their record of not losing back-to-back in 2022 intact. Maika Sivo and Reed Mahoney picked up doubles but the Eels will be disappointed to go 43 minutes without scoring against a shorthanded opponent.
Meanwhile, linchpin Mitchell Moses is out for a month with a finger injury in what shapes as a big test of the flighty Eels’ cohesion. Moses has been replaced by maligned youngster Jake Arthur in the Eels’ only change.
Parramatta’s nerve-shredding 22-20 win at CommBank Stadium in Round 11 – with Moses burying a sideline conversion in the dying stages – ended a three-match losing streak against Manly. The Eels have not won at Brookvale since 2017.
This one’s a bit of a lottery, as indicated by the near-even head-to-head market. Under normal circumstances, you’d back Manly against a Moses-less Parramatta – but it has not been a normal couple of weeks on the northern beaches. Conversely, the Eels are an unknown quantity going in without their No.7 for the first time this year.
Parramatta matches have gone an NRL-high 15-4 to the over, while Manly’s over record is 11-8 after a couple of low-scorers in the past fortnight. Expect another down-to-the-wire thriller that should sneak over the total points line.
Tip: Back Over 41.5 Points @ $1.90
SGM: EITHER TEAM BY UNDER 6.5 POINTS / SEA EAGLES OVER 20.5 POINTS / EELS OVER 18.5 POINTS / MAIKA SIVO ANYTIME TRY SCORER / HAUMOLE OLAKAU’ATU ANYTIME TRYSCORER @ $23.60
South Sydney Rabbitohs
New Zealand Warriors
Saturday August 6, 3:00pm, Sunshine Coast Stadium
The Saturday line-up gets underway on the Sunshine Coast with South Sydney aiming to get back on track from a golden point heart-breaker with a win over the also-ran Warriors. The Rabbitohs had their chances against Cronulla in extra-time but sunk to a 21-20 defeat following Tom Burgess’ send-off.
The defeat ended Souths’ four-match winning streak and leaves them vulnerable in seventh, just a win ahead of the Roosters and Raiders. Taane Milne comes in for the injured Jed Cartwright at centre this week, while Mark Nicholls replaces the suspended Burgess and Blake Taafe is on the bench with Kodi Nikorima out.
The Warriors’ 24-12 loss to the Storm in Auckland last Friday was their 10th in 11 games and – despite a hat-trick from winger Ed Kosi and some nice touches from makeshift five-eighth Wayde Egan – underlined their attacking deficiencies. They have shown genuine defensive fight against good teams in recent weeks, however.
Chanel Harris-Tavita and Jazz Tevaga were casualties from the Storm loss. Despite myriad more conventional options, Egan will play five-eighth after filling in admirably last week with Freddy Lussick to start at hooker and Taniela Otukolo joining the interchange. Euan Aitken reverts to centre for Adam Pompey and Aaron Pene and Jack Murchie come into the pack.
Souths’ 32-30 win over the Warriors in Magic Round – clocking off after racing to a 26-point lead – was their sixth straight in the rivalry and 12th from the teams’ last 13 encounters. The Rabbitohs have scored 28-plus points in 11 of their last 12 against the Warriors.
Souths are 3-0 at Sunshine Coast Stadium while the Warriors are 0-3. The Rabbitohs have clocked up 88 points to 44 in these clubs’ two previous clashes at the venue, including a 60-20 shellacking last season.
This is simply too important for the Rabbitohs to lose and there is a big gulf between the teams in terms of firepower and recent form. On a dry, warm Saturday afternoon this could be blowout.
Tip: Back the Rabbitohs to Cover the Line (-17.5 Points) @ $1.90
SGM: RABBITOHS BY 21-30 / OVER 45.5 POINTS / ALEX JOHNSTON TO SCORE 2 OR MORE TRIES @ $17.63
Saturday August 6, 5:30pm, GIO Stadium
Penrith is six points clear of the field with just two losses against its name. But last Friday’s 34-10 defeat to Parramatta came at a significant cost, Nathan Cleary banned for five weeks after being sent off to join injured halves partner Jarome Luai on the sidelines until the finals.
Jaeman Salmon and Sean O’Sullivan are set to be the Panthers’ halves pairing for the run home. The premiers have been boosted by the return of Stephen Crichton and Mitch Kenny.
Canberra is gamely staying the finals race, holding a share of eighth spot after winning its last three against Melbourne (20-16), the Warriors (26-14) and Gold Coast (36-24). Despite the disruption of injuries and suspensions, the Raiders’ young backline is humming and Nick Cotric and Sebastian Kris finished with doubles against the Titans.
Meanwhile, Jack Wighton is on an absolute tear and finished with three line-break assists on top of 124 running metres last week following his game-turning display against the Warriors in Round 19.
Winger Jordan Rapana comes back from suspension at Albert Hopoate’s expense in the Raiders’ only change this week.
Penrith has won seven of its last nine against Penrith, with the current three-match winning streak all consisting of victories by 16-plus margins. The Panthers pumped the Raiders 36-6 at home in Round 7, though the visitors were gutsier than the scoreline suggested. This is the teams’ first encounter at GIO Stadium since 2018.
Despite the Panthers’ absent linchpins, they are $1.72 favourites on the road – they have lost back-to-back just once since 2019 and certainly won’t roll over. But I’m willing to back the in-form Raiders in here. Wighton and Fogarty are building a strong combination and give the hosts enough of an advantage to get on board with here.
Tip: Back the Raiders to Win @ $2.15
SGM: RAIDERS +2.5 / RAIDERS OVER 17.5 POINTS / TAYLAN MAY ANYTIME TRY SCORER / JORDAN RAPANA ANYTIME TRYSCORER @ $10.53
St George-Illawarra Dragons
Saturday August 6, 7:35pm, Shark Park
The latest instalment of the fiery southern Sydney derby shapes as make or break for St George Illawarra, while Cronulla can further entrench itself in the Top 4.
The Sharks outlasted the in-form Rabbitohs 21-20 in a golden point classic last Saturday, Nicho Hynes the hero as he capped a stellar performance with the winning field goal. It was their seventh win from eight games in the Shire this season.
In a tough setback for the Sharks, fullback Will Kennedy is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with Kade Dykes named to debut in his place. Braydon Trindall joins the bench with Royce Hunt out.
The Dragons sit two points outside the Top 8 after three losses from their last four games. Following an impressive, Ben Hunt-led 20-6 win over Manly in Round 19, they fell away badly in a 34-8 home defeat to North Queensland last Sunday.
The Saints are unchanged this week but are far too reliant on Hunt – they’d be in the bottom four if the halfback wasn’t having a career-best season.
The Sharks have won the six of the last seven southern Sydney derbies, including a 36-12 beatdown in Wollongong in Round 3 this season. The Dragons’ last win in the Shire was back in early-2018.
This match will say plenty about St George Illawarra’s resolve and the spirit in Anthony Griffin’s camp, which is fraying if the whispers are to be believed. Cronulla will be determined to maintain the momentum its built recently and should comfortably notch a seventh win in eight games.
Tip: Back the Sharks to Win by 13+ @ $2.30
SGM: SHARKS -9.5 / DRAGONS UNDER 15.5 POINTS / JESSE RAMIEN ANYTIME TRY SCORER / CONNOR TRACEY ANYTIME TRY SCORER @ $10.19
North Queensland Cowboys
Sunday August 7, 2:00pm, Salter Oval
Canterbury’s late-season joyride has garnered four wins in its last six matches. The Bulldogs probably didn’t go on with the job as expected in a 24-10 defeat of the lowly Knights last Sunday, but it was nevertheless the seventh time in nine games under Mick Potter they’ve topped 20 points after failing to do so in 10 games under Trent Barret.
Matt Burton and Josh Addo-Carr are on fire, with young three-quarters Jacob Kiraz and Aaron Schoupp following their lead. Kyle Flanagan has quietly put together a fine renaissance in a confident team.
Second-placed North Queensland responded to a controversial escape against Wests Tigers with an authoritative 34-8 thrashing of St George Illawarra in Sydney in Round 20.
After four straight games conceding exactly 26 points (winning three of those), it was a return to the defensive commitment that has underpinned their rise. Back-rower Jeremiah Nanai starred yet again with two tries and a bust to set up another, while Jason Taumalolo and Scott Drinkwater were also outstanding.
The Bulldogs are unchanged, while the Cowboys have the luxury of bringing Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow onto the wing for Kyle Feldt (hamstring) with Jake Granville promoted to the bench.
The Cowboys have won eight of their last 11 against the Bulldogs, but the blue-and-whites grabbed a 6-4 win in a dour Round 1 encounter in Townsville five months ago. Both teams seem a long way removed from that match – very much for the better.
The Bulldogs have pulled the inconsistent Eels’ pants down since turning their season around, but they haven’t quite had the class to foot it with the NRL’s other big guns. Todd Payten will have done his homework on how to limit Burton’s and Addo-Carr’s impact, while the forward pack mismatch here will proved decisive.
Tip: Back the Cowboys to Cover the Line (-9.5 Points) @ $1.90
SGM: COWBOYS OVER 26.5 POINTS / JEREMIAH ANYTIME TRY SCORER / JOSH ADDO-CARR FIRST BULLDOGS TRY SCORER @ $17.01
Sunday August 7, 4:05pm, Campbelltown Sports Stadium
A bit of a fizzer to close out Round 21, with second-last Wests Tigers hosting 14th-placed Newcastle Knights. But it is a huge opportunity for both clubs to all but extricate themselves from wooden spoon danger.
The Tigers are on an upswing, following up the disappointment of their shockingly unfortunate after-the-siren loss in Townsville with a magnificent 32-18 victory in Brisbane. The performance of new halves pairing Adam Doueihi and Jock Madden has negated the injury impact of losing Luke Brooks and Jackson Hastings.
Fonua Pole will wear the No.13 jersey vacated by Hastings with Tom Freebairn becoming the Tigers’ sixth NRL debutant of 2022 from the bench.
The Knights are a shambles and have conceded 148 points in losing their last four games to regain the worst defensive record in the NRL. Kalyn Ponga is likely done for the season and there’s little to get excited about in the Newcastle line-up. The pressure certainly appears to be getting to coach Adam O’Brien.
David Klemmer has been dumped for disciplinary reasons, which makes Jacob Saifiti’s return very timely. Bradman Best is also back for the Knights, which sees Enari Tuala shift to the wing and Simi Sasagi to the bench.
The Knights carved out a 26-4 win over the Tigers in Round 2 – but their season unravelled from that point. Newcastle has won three of the teams’ last five clashes, including the most recent meeting in Sydney in 2020, but the Tigers have won last the two at Campbelltown.
Follow the formlines here: Doueihi is a special player and the Tigers have their tails up. The only resistance the Knights have shown in recent months has been against teams battling a crisis of confidence – but right now, no team in the comp is grappling with a lack of conviction more than the Novocastrians.
Tip: Back the Tigers to Cover the Line (-4.5 Points) @ $1.90
SGM: TIGERS BY 11-20 / OVER 41.5 POINTS / KEN MAUMALO ANYTIME TRY SCORER @ $11.50
The NRL remains stationed in Queensland for another week, only this time around all eight games will be played behind closed doors.
There’s no denying the absence of fans will be felt, but that doesn’t take away from a huge round of footy that features three top six blockbusters.
The Eels and the Rabbitohs headline a massive Friday night of football when they meet on the Gold Coast, followed by a scintillating double-header on Saturday with the Roosters and Panthers battling at Suncorp before Manly and Melbourne butt heads not long after.
This is also a crucial weekend for the likes of the Knights, Raiders, Dragons and Titans as they look to keep their finals hopes alive.
For our thoughts on all eight games, check out our 2021 NRL Round 21 Preview here!
Thursday August 5, 7:50pm, Sunshine Coast Stadium
The Knights would have hoped to have been higher on the ladder by this point in the season, but Adam O’Brien’s side still has to feel pretty good about the fact they remain a chance to play finals with give games remaining.
Last week’s 34-24 win over the Raiders could turn out to be a season-defining win for Newcastle as they now set their sights on the bottom-feeding Broncos.
Enari Tuala led the way last week with a hat-trick, but O’Brien has to be impressed with the way his side came together to limit Canberra’s opportunities.
Brisbane, meanwhile, will fancy themselves a chance at picking up two straight wins following their blowout victory over the Cowboys last week.
The Broncos did extremely well to inflict most of the damage in the first half, but they now find themselves at a serious disadvantage with Katoni Staggs ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
For Newcastle, there’s finally some positive news on the injury front with Mitchell Pearce set to rejoin Kalyn Ponga and Bradman Best for a very favourable run home.
The Knights face the Sharks, Bulldogs and Titans before another clash against the Broncos in Round 25 – a welcome sign for Newcastle fans after enduring so much heartache this season.
With their stars fit and the top eight in reach, a Knights victory looks likely.
Tip: Back the Knights to Cover the Line (-10.5 Points) @ $2.00
St George-Illawarra Dragons
Friday August 6, 6:00pm, CBUS Super Stadium
As far as the finals are concerned, this could be a make-or-break game on Friday night between ninth and tenth.
The Raiders appeared well on their way towards another finals berth a week ago before they ran into the full force of the Knights last Sunday at Suncorp.
Missed tackles and penalties cost Canberra big time in the 10-point loss, but they do have a prime opportunity to atone against a Dragons outfit that has spiraled out of the eight.
St George suffered its third consecutive loss last week in a 50-14 defeat at the hands of South Sydney, while things only look to get worse with Ben Hunt suffering a fractured arm.
The Dragons have failed to score more than 20 points in their last four contests, and while the Raiders gave up plenty to the Knights last week, they do deserve a mulligan after holding Parramatta to only 10 the week before.
With some tough games coming up against the Storm, Manly and the Roosters, Ricky Stuart’s side should sense the importance of a win here and take full advantage of the wounded Saints.
Tip: Back the Raiders to Win & Under 50.5 Total Points @ $2.40
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday August 6, 8:05pm, CBUS Super Stadium
The battle for fourth is one of the most intriguing storylines to watch as we head into the final month of the season.
Parramatta made things even more interesting with a shutout loss to the Roosters last week, a result that has left the Bunnies now sitting six points clear in third.
The Eels will be keen to bounce-back and distance themselves from the red-hot Chooks, but this does look a difficult assignment for them with an injury cloud hanging overhead.
While Mitchell Moses is set to return from a back injury, Waqa Blake and Reagan Campbell-Gillard both remain in some doubt.
The Rabbitohs, meanwhile, remain one of the healthiest sides in the competition and they are only about to get stronger with Campbell Graham a chance at playing.
Souths had no trouble scoring points against the Eels in their 18-point victory back in May and given the workout they’ve given the scoreboard in recent weeks; a similar result looks likely.
Tip: Back the Rabbitohs to Cover the Line (-8.5 Points) @ $2.00
New Zealand Warriors
Saturday August 7, 3:00pm, Suncorp Stadium
Sharks coach Josh Hannay will be stressing the importance of a win this week with his side desperately clinging to a spot inside the eight.
Cronulla has managed only two wins from its last five games as they look to forget all about last week’s ugly loss to Manly at Suncorp.
The Warriors are still a mathematical chance at playing finals thanks to a narrow win over the Tigers, while they’ll also be out for some revenge after losing by eight points to Cronulla when they met earlier in the year.
Winning back-to-back games has proven a problem for New Zealand, but this is a very winnable game with some reinforcements returning.
Addin Fonua-Blake, Chad Townsend and Chanel Tavita-Harris are all a chance at playing this week, and the trio will no doubt have plenty of opportunities against a Sharks outfit that has conceded more points than it’s scored.
Sporting a 5-3 record as the line underdog at home this year, the Warriors look a much better chance than the double-digit spread suggests.
Tip: Back the Warriors to Cover the Line (+10.5 Points) @ $1.90
Saturday August 7, 5:30pm, Suncorp Stadium
The top of the table is again in focus on Saturday night with the Roosters and Panthers squaring off at Suncorp.
The tri-colours edged their way into the top four last week with a gutsy shutout victory over the Eels, while the Panthers suffered a humbling loss at the hands of the Storm that has left last year’s runner-ups with plenty to think about heading towards the finals.
The Roosters have spent most of the season overcoming injury and they’ll need to do that again with Josh Morris likely to miss the next month.
The Panthers also look likely to spend another week without Nathan Cleary, although there is some positive news on the Isaah Yeo front.
Aside from the scoreboard, Penrith was no match for the Storm defensively last week missing 39 tackles in the loss.
There’s no question Ivan Cleary will be asking more from his side, but it’s also tough to read too much into one game against the current premiership favourites.
If Morris was playing, the current double-digit line would probably be slimmer, but with the Roosters missing one of their key on-field leaders, this does look Penrith’s game to lose.
Tip: Back the Panthers to Cover the Line (-10 Points) @ $1.90
Manly Sea Eagles
Saturday August 7, 7:35pm, Suncorp Stadium
The Storm will be looking to add to their amazing 16-game winning streak on Saturday with the scalp of another genuine premiership contender.
If they weren’t already, Melbourne earned their spot as the rightful premiership favourite last week with a blowout win over Penrith, extending their record at Suncorp to 24 wins from 28 games.
Manly won’t be an easy out this week after stringing together three consecutive wins over the Dragons, Tigers, and Sharks, but it’s fair to say this a big step up in class for a side that is still vying for a top four spot.
Head to head, Melbourne has won their last three games over Manly and outscored them 84-30 during that time frame.
The current form of Tom Trbojevic is enough to keep this game close, while the fact Justin Olam has scored two hat-tricks against Manly makes for an interesting battle down he middle.
The current double-digit line is a little nerve-racking when you consider how well the Sea Eagles have been playing, but given the Storm have gone 16-3 at the line this year, I think we could see a sneaky backdoor cover late in the game.
Tip: Back the Storm to Cover the Line (-12.5 Points) @ $1.90
Sunday August 8, 2:00pm, Moreton Daily Stadium
Bragging rights are on the line on Sunday between the Bulldogs and Tigers.
Canterbury has now lost six straight games following last week’s 34-6 defeat against the Titans, a disappointing performance from Trent Barrett’s men after two honourable losses to the Sharks and Rabbitohs.
The Tigers, meanwhile, will be eager to make up for last week’s loss to the Warriors that saw them squander a 10-point lead.
As far as the wooden spoon race is concerned, the Bulldogs should also sense the importance of this game after the Broncos drew six points clear with a win over the Cowboys last week.
On the injury front, Moses Mbye is shifting to fullback in place of the injured Daine Laurie, while Bailey Biondi-Odo will make his debut for the Bulldogs after Kyle Flanagan was dropped.
In terms of trends, the Tigers have won their last two meetings against the Bulldogs, while they’ve also managed to score 29 points or more in both contests.
It’s difficult to feel overly confident in either side head-to-head, but with the Bulldogs leading the lead in points against, the Over on the Tigers looks profitable.
Tip: Tigers Over 28.5 Total Points @ $1.88
Gold Coast Titans
North Queensland Cowboys
Sunday August 8, 4:05pm, CBUS Super Stadium
The Titans find themselves back in the eight following a 28-point win over the Bulldogs last week, but the job is far from over with the Raiders, Dragons and Knights all breathing down their neck.
Gold Coast faces a tough run home with games against the Rabbitohs, Storm and Knights ahead, making a win over the Cowboys vitally important this week for Justin Holbrook’s side with time running out.
Todd Payten, meanwhile, will be hoping to spoil the Titans’ party, but it’s fair to say the Cowboys won’t hold particularly fond memories of the Gold Coast after they were walloped 44-8 when they met back in March.
Following a similar script, the Cowboys have lost four of their last five games by double digits, although there might be some reprieve on the horizon with Valentine Holmes set to play his first game in over a month.
Even with Holmes in the lineup, the Titans should win this game if they can keep their defensive errors to a minimum and also stick the majority of their tackles – two things they did well last week against the Dogs.
There’s no denying the fact these two sides rank second and sixth respectively in points against though, so the Winner/Total Points double is a very appealing play.
Tip: Back the Titans to Win & Over 55.5 Total Points @ $2.60
There’s a serious dose of Sunday footy to look forward to this week as the top four sides square off in a big afternoon double-header.
Six of the eight favourites got up last week, but time is starting to run out for a handful of teams still fighting for a finals spot.
With the ladder far from set, expect plenty of upsets, all of which can be found in our 2019 NRL Round 21 Preview below.
North Queensland Cowboys
Thursday August 8, 7:50pm, 1300Smiles Stadium
Anthony Seibold’s side will be hoping to put last week’s horror show behind them with a chance at playing finals still on the cards.
The Broncos mustered only four points in a blowout loss to the Storm, but after winning two of their last three games on the road, Brisbane has to feel confident ahead of Thursday night’s trip up north.
The Cowboys also fell in similar fashion to the Tigers last week. North Queensland has little to play for with the season winding down, although the Cowboys will be hungry to make up for their Round 2 loss to the Broncos at Suncorp earlier in the year.
The market for this game offers tremendous value on either side. Brisbane owns a poor 4-6 record away from home this year, but their 4-1 record as the favourite on the road against the Cowboys makes them hard to bet against.
Mentally, this is a huge challenge for the Broncos, but it might just be the perfect bounce-back game to help Brisbane turn its season around.
The Cowboys have won only three of the nine games at home this year, and also rank seventh in missed tackles.
Four of the last five games between these two sides have been decided by 1-12 points, so if the Broncos can start fast and get the monkey of last week’s blowout off their back, they should win this one.
Tip: Back the Broncos to Win @ $1.80
New Zealand Warriors
Manly Sea Eagles
Friday August 9, 6:00pm, Mt Smart Stadium
The Warriors were sent packing last week at home to the Raiders, both on the scoreboard and on the ladder.
New Zealand was one win away from rejoining the top eight, but they’ve since slumped all the way down to 12th on the ladder with the season quickly running out.
Manly, on the other hand, are in the drivers’ seat for a spot inside the top four. The Sea Eagles have now won three straight games following last week’s demolition over the Knights, and after pinching an overtime victory over the Warriors last time they travelled to Auckland back in 2017, Manly should feel confident as the favourites this week.
These two sides have met once already this year, although you could hardly call it a game. Manly won comfortably 46-12 at Brookvale as both Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans enjoyed a pair of tries each.
Neither coach will read too much into their Round 3 meeting, but the Sea Eagles will be aware of New Zealand’s horror run at home of late. The Warriors have lost six straight games at Mt. Smart Stadium and are 1-2 as the home underdog against Manly.
There’s no doubt the Sea Eagles are a genuine premiership contender now, and while they should win this game, there’s nothing to say the Warriors can’t keep it close, though.
New Zealand is 2-1 as the line underdog at home to Manly, and after last week’s lacklustre effort, you can expect the Warriors to show some fight in the early goings. Considering the Kiwis lead the league in post-contact meters and also rank second in tackles, back the Warriors to keep this close.
Tip: Back the Warriors to Cover the Line (+7.5) @ $2.00
Friday August 9, 7:55pm, Panthers Stadium
You can expect plenty of fight in this Friday night thriller.
Cronulla’s win over the Rabbitohs last week was enough to earn the Sharks a spot back inside the eight, but it also knocked Penrith out in the process as the Panthers are now left scrambling for answers.
Ivan Cleary’s side looked flat in their 16-8 loss to the Bulldogs, and it’s now up to Penrith to respond with their season on the line.
The Panthers weren’t exactly dominated by the Sharks when they met back in Round 6, but it was evident Penrith’s forward line struggled to cope with Cronulla’s strong defensive pressure.
Home-field advantage should play a big part in this game if Panthers fans turn out in full force. The Sharks have been terrible on the road this year, winning only three of their 10-games away from home.
With that in mind though, Cronulla has won seven straight games against the Panthers dating back to 2015. The Sharks tend to save their best footy for this time of year, and with Penrith sporting a 3-6 record on the back of a loss this season, it’s worth backing Cronulla straight-up.
Tip: Back the Sharks to Win @ $1.65
St George-Illawarra Dragons
Gold Coast Titans
Saturday August 10, 3:00pm, Jubilee Stadium
The understrength Dragons fought gallantly last week against the Eels, only to walk away with their fifth straight loss.
The same can’t be said for the Titans, who found themselves trailing 28-0 at halftime against the Roosters in Sydney.
This now shapes up as a bit of a nothing game between two sides fighting for little more than bragging rights. A win for the Titans could make the wooden spoon picture very interesting, but after losing 54-8 against St. George last year, it’s tough to find any confidence in Gold Coast right now.
Despite the recent trend of high-scoring games between these two, the Unders looks to be the safest play on Saturday.
Not surprisingly, both sides rank bottom five in points scored this year, and while the Dragons’ defence held firm against the Eels last week, St. George has suddenly hit a bit of a scoring drought.
Tip: Under 41.5 Total Match Points @ $1.88
Saturday August 10, 5:30pm, Western Sydney Stadium
Maika Sivo and Dylan Brown proved the difference makers for the Eels last week in their not-so thrilling 12-4 win over the Dragons.
Despite the low score, it was a much-needed win for Parramatta as Brad Arthur’s side finds themselves four points clear of the ninth-place Panthers.
Things aren’t quite so clear cut for the Knights right now. Newcastle was torn apart by Manly at Brookvale last week – their fifth straight loss since a brilliant run of midseason form.
Even with all the off-field distractions, the Knights still find themselves in a position to play finals. With only two points separating Newcastle from the seventh-place Sharks, a win this weekend could move the Knights one step closer to a top-eight berth.
Fortunately for the Knights, form is on their side. Newcastle has won four straight games over the Eels dating back to 2017, while the Knights also hold a 3-1 record as the away underdog against Parramatta.
This is a huge test for Newcastle’s two biggest leaders Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce. There’s plenty going on off the field, but if the Knights can limit Mitch Moses and challenge the Eels’ questionable defence, they loom as a huge upset chance.
Tip: Back the Knights to Win @ $2.24
Saturday August 10, 7:35pm, ANZ Stadium
This should be a huge test of the Tigers’ maturity on the heels of last week’s 28-4 thumping over the Cowboys.
Michael Maguire’s side is in the eight for now, but with the Sharks and Panthers also tied on points, Wests needs to win out from here to ensure they make the finals.
The Bulldogs stand in the way, a side fresh from a huge upset over the Panthers last week. On their day, Canterbury is capable of beating any of the top sides, especially with Reimis Smith and Will Hopoate leading the charge.
Canterbury made short work of the Tigers back in Round 3 winning 22-8 in Campbelltown. The Bulldogs are 2-1 as the home underdog against Wests, and although last week’s win was a huge boost, Canterbury’s lack of possession was of major concern.
This game is one you’re best off staying away from, especially considering the Tigers haven’t won three games in a row since last season.
Tip: No Bet
Sunday August 11, 2:00pm, GIO Stadium
If this game turns out anything like their Round 9 clash we should be in for a real treat.
While you can’t read too much into their 58-6 win over the Titans last week, the Roosters look back to their best having now won three straight games.
The Raiders have been equally impressive over the last month, particularly on the road last week in Auckland. Canberra wasted no time scoring two tries inside the opening 20-minutes, eventually winning 46-10 to draw even on points with the second-place Roosters.
One of these sides will move into outright second on the ladder, and as the odds suggest, it’s a very tough call.
The Roosters won 30-24 when these sides met during Magic Round at Suncorp, but keep in mind, they haven’t won in Canberra since 2010.
You can expect Canberrans to turn out in full force for this game and make life tough for the visitors. The Roosters haven’t travelled outside of Sydney in over a month, and after losing 14-12 in Adelaide against the Storm back in June, the Chooks recent road form is questionable.
The Raiders are 6-2 as the home favourite over the last 12 months, and if Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad can win the battle against James Tedesco, Canberra should go a long way towards winning this.
The Green Machine also ranks top five in points, tries, possession and set completion, leaving the Roosters with plenty of work to do on the road.
Tip: Back the Raiders to Win @ $2.00
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Sunday August 11, 4:05pm, Central Coast Stadium
As expected, the Storm bounced back from their Round 19 loss to Manly to win comfortably against the Broncos at Suncorp last week.
Melbourne’s road trip continues on Sunday as they head to Gosford to face the Rabbitohs, but on a ground that should favour the Bunnies, it’s safe to say the Storm look a little under the odds at this price.
It’s been nearly 12 months since these two met during Week 1 of the finals last season – a game the Rabbitohs lost in heartbreaking fashion 29-28 at AAMI Park.
That’s a long time to stew on revenge, and while three of the last four games between these two sides have been decided by 1-12 points, Souths might be in for another dose of disappointment on Sunday.
There’s nothing stopping the Bunnies from keeping this close, but they might shoot themselves in the foot again with sloppy errors, much like they did last week against the Sharks.
South Sydney are 2-3 on the back of a loss this season, which doesn’t bode well against a Storm side that leads the league in just about every offensive statistical category.
Tip: Half-Time/Full-Time: South Sydney Rabbitohs/Melbourne Storm @ $7.00
There were a handful of upsets last week, but would you believe it, life inside the Top 8 of the NRL ladder has remained relatively unchanged.
The Cowboys, Bulldogs and Titans all surprised last week, but while the bottom dwellers earned some much needed points, all eyes are on the Tigers, Warriors and Sharks ahead of Round 21.
Picking winners has never been tougher, but with just five rounds left until finals, make sure you check out all of our 2018 NRL Round 21 tips in our preview below!
Thursday 2 August, 7:50pm, ANZ Stadium
For the second week in a row the Broncos open the round, and on the back of a resounding home win over the Sharks last week, it looks as though Brisbane are primed to stay in the Top 8.
The Broncos opened last week’s blockbuster with intent, and were too strong for Cronulla in the end. The Sharks dominated in the possession count, but Brisbane capitalised on Cronulla’s errors and wayward penalties.
After playing three straight at Suncorp, the Broncos now head down to Sydney, and unlike the Tigers last week, Brisbane needs to be wary of this young Bulldogs team.
Canterbury stunned everyone with a big 16-4 win over Wests last Friday night. The Dogs, just like the Broncos, saw two tries from one of their star players in Kerrod Holland, while Cantebury’s defence resembled an effort we haven’t seen all year.
Not surprisingly, the Broncos have won three of their last five over the Bulldogs, and are also 4-2 as the away favourite over the last 12 months. What was a surprise though was Round 9’s narrow two-point win over the Dogs, a game that came down to a Moses Mbye missed penalty shot.
Sometimes the past is meaningless, but in this instance, it’s a good reminder of what the Broncos need to do on Thursday night. Brisbane dominated possession the last time these two met, but their never-break defence around the try line last week against the Sharks was something we haven’t seen from the Broncos all season.
Brisbane have yet to put up convincing stretches of footy, but this is their chance to really rise up the ladder and build on last weeks performance. The Broncos’ 5-4 record on the road isn’t great, but it’s hard to see them not taking full advantage of his opportunity.
Tip: Back Brisbane Broncos 13+ @ $2.60
Same Game Multi: Broncos 13+, Anthony Milford Anytime Try Scorer ($2.60)
Friday 3 August, 6:00pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
Both of these sides were left reeling after double disappointment last Friday night, so it’s only fitting the Knights and the Tigers kick us off on prime-time once again.
Newcastle were in the game last week, at least up until half time. The Knights jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the opening 10-minutes against the Cowboys, but failed to hold down Jonathan Thurston and Gavin Cooper in the second half.
The result, a narrow two-point loss, the Knights’ 11th of the year. Newcastle are still an outside shot at finals from here, but it will take a big win over the Tigers, a team also in the finals hunt.
Speaking of Wests, last weeks loss to the Dogs was nothing short of a disaster. With a much more talented side on the park – and not to mention two straight wins over the Dragons and Rabbitohs – everyone expected the Tigers to get the job done. But alas, Wests struggled from the opening kickoff, notching just one try in the game.
Despite their shortcomings, the Tigers still come in at the shorter odds. That’s hardly good news for punters though – Wests have an ugly 0-3 record as the away favourite this season.
Of course, you can’t say much more for the Knights. Newcastle are 2-7 as the home underdog over the last 12 months, setting us up for what could be quite the scrappy and ugly affair.
The Knights showed a lot more fight last week, but their 4-6 record at home has to make you nervous.
With the Warriors also slipping down the ladder, the Tigers now need to realise the importance of a win here on Friday. Let’s just hope last week was a minor hiccup.
Tip: Back Wests Tigers To Beat The Line (-1.5 Points) @ $1.92
Same Game Multi: Tigers To Win, Moses Mbye First Try Scorer ($13)
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday 3 August, 7:55pm, ANZ Stadium
We speak so much of Grand Final previews, and often they fail to live up to the hype.
This one, though? Well this should be fun.
The Rabbitohs looked far and away the premiership favourites two weeks ago, but wouldn’t you know it, the Storm had something to say. Sitting atop the ladder for the third week in a row, the Storm enter as the favourite, but with both sides tied on points, this is a huge opportunity for either team to claim the outright lead.
To rewind, the Rabbits got the job done last week, but it wasn’t as convincing as you might have hoped. The Eels have hardly been easy-beats over the last month and a half, but the fact they scored three tries on what has otherwise been a pretty relentless Rabbitohs defence has to come as a concern to coach Anthony Seibold.
Meanwhile, back in Melbourne, the Storm are just going along at their own pace. After a couple of narrow wins, Craig Bellamy’s side handed it to the Raiders last Saturday, piling on the points in a 44-10 victory.
So what does that leave us with?
The stats say the Storm are 3-1 as the away favourite against the Rabbitohs, and let’s just say, Melbourne’s 7-3 record on the road this season is equally as convincing.
To make matters worse, the Storm have also won five straight against Souths, which doesn’t spell good news for the Bunnies top of the ladder hopes.
If Souths are to win this game, they’ll have to accomplish what just about every other team has failed at – shutdown the Storms’ playmakers. Josh Addo-Carr had a quiet one by his standards last week, but the thing about this Melbourne side is there are so many other names that can sting you.
Felise Kaufusi scored a try in the win agaisnt Canberra, but also racked up 36 tackles. Melbourne are firing on all cylinders right now, and since the Rabbitohs have struggled to contain the Tigers and Eels in recent weeks, this game looks a bit beyond them.
Tip: Back Melbourne Storm 13+ @ $3.75
Same Game Multi: Under 36.5 Points, Suliasi Vunivalu Anytime Try Scorer ($2.08)
St. George Dragons
New Zealand Warriors
Saturday 4 August, 3:00pm, WIN Stadium
The Dragons and Warriors looked primed for big things in the finals, but after big losses in Round 20, now it’s hard to tell.
Let’s start with New Zealand. Last Sunday’s efforts against the Titans was hardly what we’ve come to expect from this side on the road, and after such great success two weeks prior in Brisbane, a blowout loss to the Titans sees the Warriors in danger of slipping out of the eight.
The Dragons, well they are anyone’s guess. St. George were seriously outclassed by a much stronger Roosters team last week, a game that shaped up as a finals preview. Ben Hunt was great on the day scoring two tries, but it appeared even the Dragons’ best wasn’t enough to stop the likes of Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco.
For the record, the Dragons have won three of the last five games they’ve played against the Warriors, but St. George are far from a guarantee. Paul McGregor’s side has now lost three of their last four, and despite winning the possession battle last week, it appears the Dragons’ defence just isn’t up to scratch.
It’s safe to say the Warriors have the talent to get the job done this week, but it’s hard to put much faith in New Zealand’s 5-4 record as the away underdog. The Warriors inability to stay composed during the big “momentum moments” of the game last week cost them, and if they fail to stay calm on defence this week, they too will struggle.
Points won’t be coming at a premium this week, but after losing back-to-back games for the first time this season, the Warriors are a great chance to bounce-back at some handy upset odds.
Tip: Back New Zealand Warriors To Win @ $2.80
Same Game Multi: Warriors To Win By 3+ Points, Solomone Kata First Try Scorer
Gold Coast Titans
Saturday 4 August, 5:30pm, ANZ Stadium
The Eels nearly pinched the chocolates last week, while the Titans went all the way.
This might look like nothing more than a game between two cellar dwellers, but rest assured, this match up should hold plenty of fireworks.
The Titans’ 36-12 victory over the Warriors last week was Gold Coast’s biggest ever victory over New Zealand, while the Eels will take plenty away from last weeks close call against the Rabbitohs.
Head-to-head, the Titans have won three of the last five encounters between these two, but Gold Coast surprisingly come in as the away underdog this week.
Fortunately for punters, that’s good news, because the Eels own an ugly 3-5 record as the home favourite, which is just one game worse than the Eels’ overall home record of 4-5 on the season.
The Titans have been a frustrating watch for fans, and a frustrating side for punters, but Gold Coast have strung together back-to-back wins on two separate occasions this season.
Gold Coast were unlucky two weeks ago against the Knights, but it was nice to see Garth Brennan’s side back their efforts up with a win last week.
This one figures to be close, but if the Titans can keep the ball in Phillip Sami’s hands, it should be theirs for the taking.
Tip: Back Gold Coast Titans To Win @$2.10
Same Game Multi: Titans To Win, Anthony Don First Try Scorer ($5.25)
North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 4 August, 7:35pm, Allianz Stadium
Forget sleepers, the Roosters are right back in the NRL Premiership mix.
All the talk is around the Rabbitohs and the Storm, but how about Sydney stringing together three straight?
The Roosters were dominant last week against the Dragons, and it’s been nice to see Latrell Mitchell continue his strong Origin form in the second half of the season.
For the Cowboys, there’s probably no worse sign than the chooks right now.
North Queensland pinched a win at home last week against the Knights in what was a nice early swansong for Jonathan Thurston, but it’s going to take something extraordinary for the Cowboys to win here on Saturday.
The odds don’t lie, the Cowboys are hardly a chance.
The bookies had North Queensland at $4.50 when the market opened up, and with a 5-12 record as the underdog over the last 12 months, it’s tough to predict any kind of upset this week.
The Roosters look to be in cruise control right now, but you can’t discredit the individual performances.
James Tedesco ran for 220 metres last week, completely outclassing Matt Dufty, while Mitchell and Cooper Cronk just continue to click.
Sydney are 7-3 at home this season, and with the chance to jump up to second on the ladder with both the Storm and Rabbitohs squaring off, this should be a big Roosters win.
Tip: Back Sydney Roosters To Beat The Line (-11.5 Points @ $1.91)
Same Game Multi: Roosters To Win, Cooper Cronk Anytime Try Scorer ($3.00)
Manly Sea Eagles
Sunday 5 August, 2:00pm, Southern Cross Group Stadium
The Sharks came so close against the Broncos last week in Brisbane, but crucial errors and a lack of attack outside of Valentine Holmes ultimately cost Cronulla in the end.
In similar fashion, the Sea Eagles also came close against the Panthers, only to come undone in the 73rd minute as Nathan Cleary crossed the line.
It’s been a tough season for Manly, who now sit 14th on the ladder.
The Sea Eagles won their most recent outing against the Sharks last season, but in case you’ve missed it, this is a completely different Cronulla side.
If it wasn’t for sloppy penalties last week, the Sharks probably have the points right now.
Their offense has been electric all year, and despite the lack of scoring last week, Cronulla’s offloading ability and prowess in the air still makes them a serious premiership threat.
History shows the Sharks are 1-2 as the home favourite against Manly, but the Sea Eagles’ shocking 2-7 record on the road this year tells the full story.
Winning the possession battle but falling apart with the ball in hand has been the story for Manly this year.
The Sea Eagles had every chance last week against Penrith, but 13 errors and 19 ineffective tackles cost them.
Against a Sharks lineup with so much firepower, that kind of play won’t cut it.
Tip: Back Cronulla Sharks 1-12 @ $2.88
Same Game Multi: Sharks 1-12, Over 42.5 Total Match Points
Sunday 5 August, 4:10pm, Panthers Stadium
It might not seem it, but this could actually be the game of the round.
A loss to close out Round 21 could see the Panthers fall down to eighth on the ladder, while a win for the Raiders would (once again) put them back in the talk for finals.
Penrith’s fall from grace has been extraordinary, but last weeks win over Manly had to have felt good.
Nathan Cleary was outstanding all game, scoring the game-winning try in the 73rd minute and slotting four of his five conversion attempts.
Canberra, well the same can’t be said.
The Raiders have flirted with the Top 8 for the last six weeks, but their less than convincing 34-point loss against the Storm just doesn’t cut it.
Fast forward to Sunday, and we could be in for quite the shootout.
The Panthers have won four of their last five encounters against Canberra, but the last three games have been decided by four points or less.
The Raiders don’t come into this one as favourites, and as their 1-7 record as the away underdog suggests, they are a tough back for punters.
On the other hand, Penrith’s glaring inconsistencies from week-to-week hardly make them a trustworthy bet either, and since their last home game saw the Panthers fall to the Sharks, it’s probably safer to avoid this one entirely.
Tip: No Bet
There are plenty of big games in the NRL this weekend and a number of Premiership contenders will do battle in finals previews.
The Parramatta Eels have the chance to keep themselves in the top four conversation when they host the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night, while the North Queensland Cowboys will face their biggest challenge in over a month when they face the Sydney Roosters.
There is betting interest in each and every game this weekend and our complete 2017 NRL Round 21 tips can be found below.
Thursday 27 July, 7.50pm, Pepper Stadium
Penrith Panthers 16 - Canterbury Bulldogs 8
The Penrith Panthers have recorded three wins on the trot and they will go into this clash with the Canterbury Bulldogs as clear favourites.
Penrith were solid enough against the Gold Coast Titans and they simply need to keep on winning to have any chance of jumping into the top eight.
The Panthers have now won nine of their past 11 games as home favourites for a clear profit and even more impressively they are 9-2 against the line in this scenario.
Canterbury produced another putrid performance against the Brisbane Broncos and there has been more speculation about the coaching future of Des Hasler.
The Bulldogs have lost their past nine games as away underdogs and they are a poor 3-5 against the line in this scenario.
This is a game that Penrith really should win comfortably and they are an excellent bet to cover the line with a start of 8.5 points.
Back Penrith To Beat The Line (-8.5 Points)
New Zealand Warriors
Friday 28 July, 6.00pm, Mt Smart Stadium
New Zealand Warriors 12 - Cronulla Sharks 26
The New Zealand Warriors were not disgraced without Shaun Johnson last weekend, but they will still go into this clash with the Cronulla Sharks as underdogs.
New Zealand have failed to turn Mt Smart Stadium into a fortress in 2017 and they have won only seven of their past 13 games as home favourites for a loss, while they are an extremely poor 4-9 against the line in this scenario.
Cronulla returned to winning form against the South Sydney Rabbitohs last Friday night and they are chasing their first back-to-back wins since May.
The Sharks have won only two of their past six games as away favourites for a clear loss and they are a disappointing 1-5 against the line in this scenario.
The one betting play that does standout in this clash is the Under in the Total Points betting market.
Backing the Under in Sharks games has been a profitable play all season long and the Under has saluted in five of the past six games played between these two sides.
This game should be a grind and the Under really does look like the right bet.
Back Under 39.5 Points
Friday 28 July, 7.50pm, ANZ Stadium
Parramatta Eels 28 - Brisbane Broncos 14
The Parramatta Eels have won four games on the trot, but the Brisbane Broncos are the toughest test that they have faced in some time.
A late Corey Norman field goal got the Eels home against the Wests Tigers, but they will clearly need to improve on that performance to have any chance against the Broncos.
The Eels have won only two of their past five games as home underdogs for a narrow loss and they have the same record against the line in this scenario.
A very strong second-half saw the Brisbane Broncos record a big win over the Canterbury Bulldogs and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Broncos have found their best form at the right time of the season.
Brisbane have won five of their past six games as away favourites for a profit and they are 3-3 against the line in this scenario.
This is a game that the Broncos should win, but there is no real value at their current price and this is a clash that I am happy to stay out of from a betting perspective.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Saturday 29 July, 3.00pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
Newcastle Knights 21 - St George Illawarra Dragons 14
The St George Illawarra Dragons returned to winning form in emphatic fashion and they are dominant favourites to account for the Newcastle Knights in this clash.
St George could hardly have been more impressive against Manly and the fact that they were able to score 52 points is a testament to how their attack has improved in 2017.
The problem for the The Dragons is that they don’t have a great record as away favourites – they have won only one of their past three games in this scenario.
Newcastle were no match for the Sydney Roosters last weekend and they have shown a truly remarkable inability to string together a pair of positive performances.
The Knights have won only two of their past 11 games as home underdogs for a loss and they are a very poor 3-8 against the line in this scenario.
This is another game where the only value is in the Total Points betting market and once again lies with the Under.
The Under has saluted in seven of the past 11 away games played by the Dragons and has also been a profitable betting play in Knights’ games this season.
Back Under 42.5 Points
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Saturday 29 July, 5.30pm, ANZ Stadium
South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 - Canberra Raiders 32
Both these teams are all but certainly out of finals calculations and it will be interesting to see how they finish the season.
It is the Canberra Raiders that will go into this clash as favourites and it really is tough to trust a team that has lost five out of their past six games.
Canberra have won five of their past eight games as away favourites for a loss, but they are 5-3 against the line in this scenario.
South Sydney sunk to their third loss on the trot when they went down to the Cronulla Sharks last weekend and it has been another season of disappointment for the Rabbitohs.
The Rabbitohs have won only two of their past eight games as home underdogs and they are a lacklustre 4-4 against the line in this situation.
This is a game that Canberra really should win and they can cover the line against South Sydney in the process.
Back Canberra To Beat The Line (-6.5 Points)
North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 29 July, 7.30pm, Allianz Stadium
Sydney Roosters 22 - North Queensland Cowboys 16
This is one of the biggest games of the weekend and will be a true test of where both these teams stand at this stage of the season.
The Sydney Roosters have won five of their past six games and they will go into this clash as clear favourites.
The Roosters have won seven of their past nine games as home favourites for a profit, but they are only 3-6 against the line in this scenario for a big loss.
North Queensland made it four wins on the trot with a professional performance against the New Zealand Warriors and they have handled the loss of Johnathan Thurston extremely well.
This is the toughest test that the Cowboys have faced since Thurston was ruled out for the rest of the season and their record away from home has been strong.
The Cowboys have won three of their past seven games as away underdogs for a profit and they are a most impressive 6-1 against the line in this scenario.
There really is not a great deal between these two teams and the Cowboys are a good bet to cover the line with a start 3.5 points.
Back North Queensland Cowboys To Beat The Line (+3.5 Points)
Manly Sea Eagles
Sunday 30 July, 2.00pm, AAMI Park
Melbourne Storm 40 - Manly Sea Eagles 6
The rivalry between the Melbourne Storm and the Manly Sea Eagles is not as intense as it once was, but this is still one of the most interesting games of the weekend.
There are queries over the fitness of both Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, but the Storm are still set to go into this clash as favourites.
Melbourne have not been as impressive at home as they have been on the road this season and they have won nine of their past 13 games as home favourites, while they are 4-9 against the line in this scenario.
Manly produced arguably their worst performance of the season to go down to the St George Illawarra Dragons last weekend and it will be interesting to see how they bounce back from that heavy defeat.
The Sea Eagles have won five of their past nine games as away underdogs for a big profit and they are 6-3 against the line in this scenario.
There is never much between these two sides and Manly are a good bet to cover the line with a start of 3.5 points.
Back Manly To Beat The Line (+3.5 Points)
Gold Coast Titans
Sunday 30 July, 4.00pm, Cbus Super Stadium
Gold Coast Titans 4 - Wests Tigers 26
The Gold Coast Titans had their winning streak ended by the Penrith Panthers last weekend and they will need to win just about every game left this season to have any chance of playing finals football.
The Titans will start this clash as favourites, but this is a scenario that they have struggled with badly this season and their record at Cbus Super Stadium is particularly poor.
Gold Coast have won only one of their past five games as home favourites for a huge loss and this is the sort of game that they have struggled with this season.
The Tigers produced an improved effort against the Parramatta Eels last weekend, but they were still unable to come away with the two points.
Wests have won four of their past 11 games as away underdogs and they are a profitable 7-1-3 against the line in this scenario.
There is nowhere near as much between these two teams as the current betting market suggests and the Tigers are an excellent bet to cover the line with a big start.
Back Wests To Beat The Line (+9.5 Points)
The NRL has now determined the calendar for the rest of the NRL season and the schedule has not been optimized so that the most exciting fixtures will take place during prime time.
Round 21 of the 2016 NRL season is clearly highlighted by two preliminary final rematches, with the North Queensland Cowboys set to host the Melbourne Storm at 1300 Smiles Stadium and the Sydney Roosters poised to face the Brisbane Broncos.
Thursday 28 July, 7:50pm, Allianz Stadium
Sydney Roosters 32 - Brisbane Broncos 16
The Brisbane Broncos suffered their sixth loss in their past eight games against the Penrith Panthers last weekend, but they will still start this clash with the Sydney Roosters as favourites.
There is clearly something going wrong at the Broncos and their defence has proven to be a very big liability, while the Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt are not playing at anywhere near their best.
The Broncos once reliable betting record is long gone and they have won just five of their past nine games as away favourites, while they are 4-5 against the line in this scenario.
The Sydney Roosters’ woes continued with their loss to the Melbourne Storm last weekend and they have not won a single game since they beat the Wests Tigers on June 5.
Scoring points has not been a problem for the Roosters, but their defence has been very poor in recent weeks and they have lost their past six games as home underdogs, with a very poor 1-1-4 against the line.
I have no interest whatsoever in backing either of these two sides in their current form, but with their defensive liabilities the Over in the total points betting market looks like a simply outstanding bet.
Recommended Bet: Back The Over (41.5 Points)
St George Dragons
Friday 29 July, 7:50pm, ANZ Stadium
Canterbury Bulldogs 13 - St George Illawarra Dragons 10
The Canterbury Bulldogs suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the North Queensland Cowboys last weekend, but they are still clear favourites to return to winning form against a struggling St George Illawarra.
The Bulldogs never showed up against the Cowboys and Des Hasler would have left no stone un-turned this week in order to help his side bounce back from their worst performance of the season to date.
The good news for Bulldogs fans is that their record on the back of a loss is 7-2 and they have the same record as home favourites, while they are only 3-6 against the line in this scenario.
The St George Illawarra Dragons have really felt the loss of Josh Dugan to injury and they go into this clash on the back of two losses to the Gold Coast Titans and the Wests Tigers.
St George have a very poor 1-8 record as away underdogs and they are 3-6 against the line in this situation.
The Canterbury Bulldogs are clearly the team to beat in this contest, but there is no value at their current price and I am happy to stay out of this game from a betting perspective.
Recommended Bet: No Bet
New Zealand Warriors
Saturday 30 July, 7:50pm, Mt Smart Stadium
New Zealand Warriors 20 - Penrith Panthers 16
This is a crucial game for both sides as the New Zealand Warriors can leapfrog the Penrith Panthers to move into the top eight with a victory this weekend.
The New Zealand Warriors will go into this clash on the back of a pair of golden point losses to the Manly Sea Eagles and Canberra Raiders and they will still start this clash as favourites with the benefit of the home ground advantage.
This has been a position in which they have struggled in the past 12 months – they have won just three of their past six game as home favourites and they are 1-5 against the line in this situation.
Penrith produced one of the best performances of their season to date to record a resounding victory over the Brisbane Broncos last weekend and they will go into this clash with plenty of confidence.
Young halfback Nathan Cleary has proven to be a revelation for the Panthers and they have only won two of their past eight games as away underdogs, but they are 5-3 against the line.
The Panthers are more than capable of getting the job done this weekend and I am very keen to back them with the insurance of the 3.5 points start.
Recommended Bet: Back The Panthers To Beat The Line (+3.5 Points)
Saturday 30 July, 5:30pm, ANZ Stadium
Parramatta Eels 8 - Wests Tigers 23
Off-field turmoil has finally caught up with the Parramatta Eels and they will go into this clash against the Wests Tigers as clear underdogs.
The Eels were competitive against the Penrith Panthers, but they gave up the fight very quickly against the Gold Coast Titans.
There is some data to suggest that the Eels are capable of recording an upset victory – they have won nine of their past 16 games as underdogs – but it is tough to trust this side from a betting perspective.
Jason Taylor’s decision to drop Robbie Farah was justified somewhat when the Wests Tigers recorded a comfortable victory over St George Illawarra Dragons last weekend and he has left him out of the team once again.
The Tigers are sure to take plenty of confidence from their performance against the Dragons, but they are just 3-7 on the back of a win and their record as favourites is far from convincing.
I am willing to give the Eels the chance to return to winning form this weekend and they are a good bet to cover the line with a start of 7.5 points.
Recommended Bet: Back The Parramatta Eels To Beat The Line (+7.5 Points)
North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday 30 July, 7:50pm, 1300Smiles Stadium
North Queensland Cowboys 8 - Melbourne Storm 16
This is likely to be a finals preview between two legitimate Premiership contenders, but this game has been soured somewhat by the fact that Johnathan Thurston will likely miss the fixture due to a hamstring injury.
There is no player in the NRL that is more important to their side than Thurston is to the North Queensland Cowboys and there is no doubt that his withdrawal has changed the complexion of this clash.
In saying that, the Cowboys were able to do the job comfortably in the second half against the Canterbury Bulldogs after Thurston went off due to injury and their record in front of their home fans is nothing short of outstanding – they have won 12 out of their past 13 games at the venue and they are 8-5 against the line.
The Melbourne Storm continued their stellar season with a professional performance against the Sydney Roosters and they can keep the pressure on the Cronulla Sharks at the top of the ladder with a victory over the Cowboys.
The Storm did beat the Cowboys 15-14 when they did battle at Suncorp Stadium earlier this season and their record as away favourites is nothing short of outstanding – they have won six of their past seven games in this situation and they are 4-2 against the line.
There is plenty to like about both these teams and I expect this to be a very exciting clash, but until Thurston is definitely ruled out of contention I am not willing to suggest any betting plays.
Recommended Bet: No Bet
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Sunday 31 July, 2:00pm, ANZ Stadium
South Sydney Rabbitohs 4 - Canberra Raiders 54
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have taken out six of the last eight games against Canberra, but it is the Raiders that will start this clash as clear favourites.
The Rabbitohs continued their horror run of form with a loss to the Manly Sea Eagles last Monday Night and they have now lost seven games on the trot.
South Sydney have now lost their past six games as home underdogs and almost unbelievably they have an identical record against the line.
Canberra survived another scare to claim a golden point victory over the New Zealand Warriors last weekend and they have now won seven of their past eight games.
The problem for the Raiders in this clash is that their record as away favourites is very underwhelming – they have won just one of their past four games in this situation and their record against the line is also very poor.
The one betting market that does stand out is the total points betting markets as both these teams are better with the ball in hand than they are defensively.
The over has saluted in eight of the past 13 home games played by the South Sydney Rabbitohs, while the over has been a profitable betting play in Raiders games this weekend.
Recommended Bet: Back Over 45.5 Points
Manly Sea Eagles
Sunday 31 July, 4:00pm, Brookvale Oval
Manly Sea Eagles 36 - Newcastle Knights 16
The Manly Sea Eagles made it three wins on the trot with their victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Monday night and they have an excellent chance to score a fourth straight win when they face the Newcastle Knights on Sunday.
Manly’s record at Brookvale Oval has been very poor in the past 12 months and they have won just two of their past five games as home favourites, while they have an identical record against the line.
The Knights took a step backwards against the Cronulla Sharks following two tough efforts against the Canberra Raiders and the Melbourne Storm.
It is tough to see the Knights turning around their form at this stage of the season and they have won just two of their past 12 games as away underdogs, while they are 4-8 against the line in this scenario.
This really is Manly’s game to win, but there is no value at their current odds and the line of 17.5 points does seem excessive for a side that has struggled to score points during the 2016 NRL season.
Recommended Bet: No Bet
Gold Coast Titans
Monday 1 August, 7:00pm, Cbus Super Stadium
The Cronulla Sharks continued their stellar winning streak with an entertaining victory over the Newcastle Knights last weekend and they can make it 16 wins in a row when they face the Gold Coast Titans on Monday night.
The pressure of the winning streak does not appear to be catching up with the Sharks and they have continued to play their surprisingly attacking style of rugby league in the past month.
There is no doubt that the Sharks are one of the best betting teams in the entire NRL and their record as away favourites is close to flawless – they have won their past six games in this scenario and they are 5-1 against the line.
Gold Coast solidified their place in the top eight with a comfortable win over the Parramatta last weekend and they now have an excellent chance of making a surprise finals appearance.
The Titans have proven to be a reliable betting proposition in front of their home fans and they have won three of their past six games as home underdogs, while they are 4-2 against the line.
While I have plenty of respect for the Titans, there is no stopping the Cronulla juggernaut and I don’t think that the line of six points will be anywhere near enough.
Recommended Bet: Back The Cronulla Sharks To Beat The Line (-6 Points)