It has been a stunning start to the 2018 NRL season and the first two rounds have been packed full of upsets.
Round 3 gets underway with a NRL Grand Final rematch between the Melbourne Storm and the North Cowboys and that is clearly the highlight of the round, but there are a host of big games spread right across the weekend.
We have analysed all eight games set to take place this weekend and our 2018 NRL Round 3 tips can be found below!
Melbourne Storm Vs North Queensland Cowboys
Thursday 22 March, 8:05pm, AAMI Park
The Grand Final rematch between the Melbourne Storm and the North Queensland Cowboys is easily the highlight of another massive weekend in the NRL.
The Storm suffered a shock loss at the hands of the Wests Tigers, but they have not lost back-to-back games since 2015 and they will start this clash as favourites.
Melbourne were far too good for the Cowboys in the 2017 NRL Grand Final and they have won 11 of their 14 games as home favourites, while they are only a middling 7-7 against the line in this situation.
The Cowboys were unlucky not to beat the Brisbane Broncos last weekend – Scott Bolton was denied the match-winning try by the goalpoast – and the question is how they will back-up after two tough games to start the season.
North Queensland were excellent on the road last season and they won five of their 11 games as away underdogs, while they were 8-3 against the line in that scenario.
There really isn’t a great deal between these two teams this should be another tight affair.
Back North Queensland Cowboys To Cover The Line (+2.5 Points)
Canterbury Bulldogs Vs Penrith Panthers
Friday 23 March, 6:00pm, ANZ Stadium
The Penrith Panthers have come from behind in both their games this season and they will go into this clash with the Canterbury Bulldogs as favourites.
Penrith have been slow out of the blocks against both the Parramatta Eels and the South Sydney Rabbitohs, but they have been able to finish over the top of their rivals.
The Panthers have won their past three games against the Bulldogs and their record against their rivals when favourites is nothing short of sensational – they have won their past six games against the Bulldogs as favourites and they are 5-1 against the line.
It has been a tough start for the Bulldogs and they were very poor against the Sydney Roosters last weekend.
The Bulldogs have been a tough side to trust from a betting perspective over the past 12 months and their recent record against the Panthers is poor.
Penrith should be able to take their record to 3-0 and they can cover the line in the process.
Back Penrith Panthers To Cover The Line (-4.5 Points)
Wests Tigers Vs Brisbane Broncos
Friday 23 March, 8:05pm, Campbelltown Stadium
The Wests Tigers have made a stunning start to the 2018 NRL season, but it is still the Brisbane Broncos that will start this clash as favourites.
Brisbane overcame a week of off-field controversy and a shocking performance in their season opener to record a narrow win over the North Queensland Cowboys.
The Broncos won five of their seven games as away favourites last season and they were a profitable 4-3 against the line, while they have lost only two games at Campbelltown Stadium in their history.
No team has made a better start to the season than the Tigers.
The Tigers were expected to suffer a pair of heavy defeats in their opening two games of the season, but instead they take a 2-0 record into this clash following their brave wins over both the Sydney Roosters and the Melbourne Storm.
Whether the Tigers can maintain that level is a genuine question and their record at home last season was poor – they won only three of their 11 games as home underdogs and their record against the line wasn’t much better.
I think that the market has overreacted to the strong start from the Tigers and I am more than happy to take them on in this clash.
Back Brisbane Broncos To Beat The Line (-3.5 Points)
Canberra Raiders Vs New Zealand Warriors
Saturday 24 March, 3:00pm, GIO Stadium
The Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors are two of the most unpredictable sides in the NRL and this is a tough game to analyse from a betting perspective.
Canberra have lost both their games so far this season 30-28 and their defence – especially at the tail-end of games – has been very poor.
The Raiders have won only five of their past ten games as home favourites and they are a poor 3-7 against the line in this scenario.
New Zealand have made a very promising start to the NRL season and they were surprisingly professional against the Gold Coast Titans last weekend.
In saying that, they are still a tough side to trust from a betting perspective.
They have won only two of their past 12 games as away underdogs and their record against the line isn’t much better.
It is impossible to have any faith in either of these two sides and this is a game that I am more than happy to stay out of.
South Sydney Rabbitohs Vs Manly Sea Eagles
Saturday 24 March, 5:30pm, ANZ Stadium
The Manly Sea Eagles were nothing short of dominant against the Parramatta Eels last weekend and they will start this clash as favourites.
Daly Cherry-Evans responded to the question of whether he can fire without Blake Green in the most emphatic of fashion and he will once again be key for Manly in this clash.
The Sea Eagles have won nine of their past 13 games as favourites, but they are a poor 5-8 against the line in this scenario.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs ran out of steam late against the Penrith Panthers last weekend, but there were still some positives to take from the performance and Greg Inglis will likely be clear to played after he was forced from the field with a concussion.
South Sydney have won only three of their past 13 games as underdogs, but they are 8-5 against the line over the past 12 months when being given a start.
This should be another close encounter and the Rabbitohs can cover the line with the start of 3.5 points.
Back South Sydney Rabbitohs To Beat The Line (+3.5 Points)
Parramatta Eels Vs Cronulla Sharks
Saturday 24 March, 7:35pm, ANZ Stadium
This is a huge game for both the Parramatta Eels and the Cronulla Sharks.
The Eels were nothing short of pathetic against the Manly Sea Eagles last weekend, but they will still go into this clash as narrow favourites.
Parramatta have won six of their past nine games as home favourites last season for a small loss and they were 3-1-5 against the line in that scenario.
The Cronulla Sharks have not been disgraced in either of their games this season, but sloppy errors from the likes of Valentine Holmes and Matt Moylan has cost them dearly.
Winning away from home was a huge strength for the Sharks last season and they have won four of their past six games as away underdogs for a big positive.
It is impossible to back the Eels off the back of their last start effort and it is the Sharks that represent serious value in this clash.
Back Cronulla Sharks To Win @ $2
Gold Coast Titans Vs St George Illawarra Dragons
Sunday 25 March, 4:10pm, Clive Berghofer Stadium
The St George Illawarra Dragons have been one of the most impressive teams in the opening fortnight of the NRL season and they will start this clash as favourites.
St George Illawarra came from behind to beat the Cronulla Sharks last weekend and their new halves combination of Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop has clicked nicely.
Winning away from home was something of an issue for the Dragons last season and they won only one of their past four games as away favourites last season for a clear loss.
The Gold Coast Titans were excellent in the opening round of the season against the Canberra Raiders, but they were never able to get into their clash with the New Zealand Warriors last week.
Gold Coast have taken this home game to Clive Berghofer Stadium in Toowoomba and they are a side that generally do produce their best football in Queensland.
The Titans have won three of their past five games as home underdogs and they have won two of their past three games against the Dragons.
This will not be an easy game for the Dragons and the Titans do appeal at the line with a start of 5.5 points.
Back Gold Coast Titans To Beat The Line (+5.5 Points)
Sydney Roosters Vs Newcastle Knights
Sunday 25 March, 6:30pm, Allianz Stadium
This is a huge game for the Newcastle Knights as the likes of Mitchell Pearce, Aidan Guerra and Shaun Kenny-Dowall return to Sydney for a clash with their old club.
The Sydney Roosters recorded their first win of the season with a comfortable victory over the Knights and they will go into this clash as clear favourites.
Sydney won ten of their 13 games as home favourites last season for a clear profit, but they were a poor 4-9 against the line in this scenario.
The Knights have showed plenty of fight to start their season with a pair of wins over the Manly Sea Eagles and the Canberra Raiders and they are a side that is playing with plenty of confidence.
Newcastle have still only won two of their past 11 games as away underdogs, but they are 6-5 against the line in this scenario and they have obviously improved this season.
Pearce and the Knights will have plenty to prove in this clash and they are capable of giving the Roosters a scare.
Back Newcastle Knights To Beat The Line (+8.5 Points)
2017 NRL Round 3 starts with a Thursday Night Blockbuster between the Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Brisbane Broncos before Jarryd Hayne and the Gold Coast Titans square-off against the Parramatta Eels in Adelaide.
The North Queensland Cowboys have the chance to extend their winning streak over the Manly Sea Eagles when they meet at 1300Smiles Stadium on Saturday night and the Cronulla Sharks and St George Illawarra Dragons will clash in the Battle Of The Shire on Sunday night.
As always there are a number of interesting games in the NRL this weekend and you can find our recommended betting plays for every single clash below.
Melbourne Storm Vs Brisbane Broncos
Thursday 16 March, 8:05pm, AAMI Park
This is an absolute blockbuster between two of the best teams in the NRL.
The Melbourne Storm have made a very strong start to the NRL season and they will go into this clash with the Brisbane Broncos as clear favourites.
Melbourne have won nine of their past 12 games as home favourites for a narrow profit, but they are 5-7 against the line in this scenario and have not beaten the Broncos at home since 2014.
The Broncos are on a six-day back-up following their golden point epic with the North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium last Friday night.
It is fair to say that the Broncos lost no admirers with their performance and their young forward pack has impressed in the opening two rounds of the season.
The Broncos have only won one of their past four games as away underdogs for a clear loss, but they are 2-1-1 against the line in this scenario.
This is a game that looms as another nail-biter and I really don’t think there will be a great deal in it, so the Broncos look like an excellent bet to cover the line with a start of 4.5 points.
Back The Broncos To Beat The Line (+4.5 Points)
Canterbury Bulldogs Vs New Zealand Warriors
Friday 17 March, 6:00pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
This is a crucial clash between two teams that have made a fairly poor start to the NRL season.
The New Zealand Warriors were no match for the Melbourne Storm last weekend, but they will still go into this clash as clear favourites.
New Zealand showed moments of brilliance against the Storm, but producing a complete 80 minute performance seems beyond them at this stage of the season.
This is technically a home game for the Bulldogs, but they have elected to take this game to Dundein and it is the Warriors that will have the majority of the support.
Canterbury went down to the Sydney Roosters last weekend in a thriller, but their were still some positives to take from the performance.
The kicking game of the Bulldogs continues to let them down and the fact that William Hopoate is also out of action is an issue.
Canterbury have won just one of their past 10 games as underdogs and their record against the line in this scenario is poor.
These are two teams that are almost impossible to trust from a betting perspective, but the Over in the Total Points betting market does stand out.
The Over has saluted in 14 of the past 25 games played by the Warriors and backing the over in Bulldogs games has also been a profitable betting play.
Back Over 41.5 Points
Gold Coast Titans Vs Parramatta Eels
Friday 17 March, 8:05pm, CBus Super Stadium
This match lost plenty of its spark when Jarryd Hayne was injured last weekend and he will not be in the Gold Coast Titans side this weekend.
It has been a very difficult start to the season for the Titans and they will go into this clash as clear underdogs.
They were their own worst enemies against the Newcastle Knights and there is clearly something not right with this side, but it actually would not surprise if they improved without Hayne in the side.
The Titans have won four of their past 14 games as underdogs for a narrow loss, but they are 9-5 against the line in this scenario.
Parramatta sit on top of the table after two impressive performances against Manly and St George Illawarra and they will go into this clash with plenty of confidence.
The Eels have won their past six games as favourites for a clear profit and they are an impressive 5-1 against the line in this scenario.
This is a game that the market looks to have got just about right and I am happy to stay out from a betting standpoint.
Newcastle Knights Vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Saturday 18 March, 4:30pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
The Newcastle Knights recorded their first win in almost 12 months last weekend, but it is still the South Sydney Rabbitohs that will go into this clash as favourites.
South Sydney were a different side with Adam Reynolds running the show last weekend against Manly and there was plenty to like about the way they bounced back from a very slow start.
The Rabbitohs have been tough to trust from a betting standpoint over the past 12 months and they have won only two of their past four games as away favourites, while they are 1-1-2 against the line in this scenario.
Newcastle were only narrowly beaten by the New Zealand Warriors in the opening round of the season and they scored a well-deserved victory over the Gold Coast Titans last weekend.
Whether they can reproduce that sort of every week is the big question for this young side and it has been a long time since they claimed back-to-back wins.
The Knights have won just two of their past 13 games as home underdogs and their record against the line in this scenario is also poor.
These are two sides that are very tough to trust from a betting standpoint and I am happy to stay out of this contest.
Penrith Panthers Vs Sydney Roosters
Saturday 18 March, 7:00pm, Pepper Stadium
This is set to be one of the matches of the round and the market has been unable to separate these two teams.
The Penrith Panthers were very poor in the opening round of the season against the St George Illawarra Dragons, but they bounced back to their best against the Tigers last weekend in emphatic fashion.
This is obviously a tougher challenge for the Panthers, but they fact this game is being played at Pepper Stadium does give them an advantage – they have won nine of their past 12 games at the venue.
The Sydney Roosters were touted by many experts to be the big improvers in 2017 and based on the opening two rounds of the season that definitely looks to be the case.
Sydney did beat the Titans away from home in the opening round of the season, but they have still only won two of their past 11 games away from home for a clear loss.
This is another game where the value looks to be in the Total Points betting market.
The Over has saluted in 15 of the past 23 games played by the Roosters and backing the Over in Panthers games has also been a winning betting play.
Back Over 37.5 Points
North Queensland Cowboys Vs Manly Sea Eagles
Saturday 18 March, 9:00pm, 1300Smiles Stadium
The North Queensland Cowboys have started the season with two golden-point thrillers and have given both their fans and coach Paul Green plenty of nervous moments over the past fortnight.
The Cowboys will go into this clash without Matt Scott, Antonio Winterstein, Lachlan Coote and Jason Taumalolo.
Winterstien and Coote can be replaced – the exciting Kalyn Ponga has been named at full-back – but the Cowboys forward pack does lack depth and they will sorely miss both Scott and Taumalolo.
They will still go into this clash as dominant favourites and it is easy to see why.
They have won their past 11 games as home favourites for a big profit and they are 7-1-3 against the line in this scenario.
Manly have been extremely poor in the opening two rounds of the season and it is fair to say that they will be in the battle for the wooden spoon, if they don’t improve.
The Sea Eagles lack quality right across the park and the way that they capitulated against the Rabbitohs last weekend is the sign of a side that is struggling mentally.
Manly have won just one of their past seven games as away underdogs for a clear loss, but they have been 4-3 against the line in this scenario.
The line is big, but a firing Cowboys outfit really should have no problem putting this Manly side to the sword.
Back North Queensland To Beat The Line (-10.5 Points)
Canberra Raiders Vs Wests Tigers
Sunday 19 March, 4:00pm, GIO Stadium
The Canberra Raiders are yet to win a game during the 2017 NRL season, but they will still go into this clash with the Wests Tigers as clear favourites.
Canberra were unlucky not to come away with the win when they took on North Queensland in round 1, but they were extremely poor against the Cronulla Sharks last weekend.
A lack of discipline was a massive problem for the Raiders last weekend and they will really need to improve on that to be any chance this weekend.
The Raiders have won eight of their past 11 games as home favourites, but they are only 5-6 against the line in this scenario.
Wests Tigers looked as though they had turned a corner with their excellent performance against South Sydney in round one, but they were absolutely played off the park by the Penrith Panthers last weekend.
Consistency continues to be an issue for the Tigers, but they do have a good record as away underdogs – they have won four of their past nine games in this scenario and they are 6-3 against the line.
There really isn’t as much between these two teams as the current betting market suggests and the Tigers are a great bet to beat the line with a start of 7.5 points.
Back Wests Tigers To Beat The Line (+7.5 Points)
Cronulla Sharks Vs St George Dragons
Sunday 19 March, 6:30pm, Southern Cross Group Stadium
There is no love lost between the Cronulla Sharks and the St George Illawarra Dragons and this is always one of the highlights of the NRL season.
The Sharks were simply outstanding against the Canberra Raiders last weekend and they should be even better with Valentine Holmes back in the side this weekend.
Cronulla have won eight of their past nine games as home favourites for a big profit, but they are only 4-5 against the line in this scenario.
The Dragons started their season with an impressive win over the Penrith Panthers, but they were poor against the Parramatta Eels last weekend.
St George Illawarra have struggled badly away from home in the past couple of seasons and they have won just one of their past eight games as away underdogs, while they are 2-6 against the line in this scenario.
The Sharks have won nine of their past 13 home games by a margin of between 1-12 and the $2.85 that is available for them to win by that margin again this weekend is genuine value.
Back The Sharks To Win By 1-12 @ $2.85
The North Queensland Cowboys started round 3 with an intriguing clash with the Sydney Rooster on Thursday before the Canterbury Bulldogs and Parramatta Eels do battle in front of what will likely be a big crowd at ANZ Stadium.
The highlight of the weekend will be on Sunday afternoon when St George Illawarra Dragons and South Sydney Rabbitohs celebrate the 50th anniversary of the thrilling 1965 NSWRFL Grand Final.
Another Grand Final rematch concludes the round when the Manly Sea Eagles take on the Cronulla Sharks in the battle of the beaches.
North Queensland Cowboys Vs Sydney Roosters
Thursday 17 March, 7:05pm, 1300 Smiles Stadium
The North Queensland Cowboys produced an absolute stinker of a performance against the Parramatta Eels last weekend and did not deserve to finish with a win, while the Sydney Roosters let slip a golden opportunity against the Canberra Raiders.
The Roosters produced a much improved effort in round 2, but their halves were unable to take control of the game when it counted and they really should have been able to secure the two points.
The Cowboys will be looking to put their horrible round performance behind and punters clearly have as they are start to take this game as dominant $1.23 favourites.
North Queensland are clearly the team to beat and they are 10-2 as home favourites in the past 12 months, but they are a poor 4-8 against the line in this situation.
In contrast, the Sydney Roosters have beaten the line in all three of their games as underdogs in the past 12 months and the current line of 12 points seem far too large – the Roosters remain a much better team than their early season form suggests.
Recommended Bet: Sydney Roosters To Beat The Line (+12 points)
Canterbury Bulldogs Vs Parramatta Eels
Friday 18 March, 7:05pm, ANZ Stadium
The Parramatta Eels and Canterbury Bulldogs head into their Friday Night Blockbuster on the back of hard-fought wins.
The Bulldogs started extremely slowly against the Penrith Panthers last Thursday Night, but some Moses Mybe magic in the final seconds got them across the line and proved their record to 2-0.
Parramatta were clearly keyed up for their round two clash with the North Queensland Cowboys and although it was clear that new captain and star recruit Kieran Foran was not at peak fitness they were still able to get the job done.
The Eels will be without Nathan Peats for this clash after he suffered a fractured arm last week and he is definitely a big loss, but they showed a toughness in their win last weekend that has been missing from the club for several years.
Canterbury are deserving favourites and they generally get the job done in this situation, but their record against the line as favourites is a poor 6-10 and they appear to have settled at their right price in head to head betting.
Recommended Bet: No Bet
Newcastle Knights Vs Canberra Raiders
Saturday 19 March, 4:30pm, Hunter Stadium Stadium
The Newcastle Knights are already being talked about as certainties for the wooden spoon after the started the season with two very poor performances against the Gold Coast Titans and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
In contrast, the Canberra Raiders have had their best start to the season for a number of years and they have played an exciting brand of rugby league in the process.
The Raiders are set to start this game as clear favourites and this is a scenario where they have struggled in recent years – they are 5-8 against the line as favourites and have won only 6 of their past 13 games as the punters elect.
However, the Newcastle Knights have a very poor record as underdogs and they are 5-9 against the line in this situation, while they have won just two of their past 13 games as underdogs.
After watching the Knights in action so far this season it is clear that it is going to be a very long year and the Raiders look like one of the best bets of the weekend.
Recommended Bet: Canberra Raiders To Beat The Line (-4.5 points)
Penrith Panthers Vs Brisbane Broncos
Saturday 19 March, 6:30pm, Pepper Stadium
The Penrith Panthers looked like the winners for 70 minutes of their round two clash with the Canterbury Bulldogs, but they tired badly in the final stages and gave away the two points with the final play of the game.
The Brisbane Broncos have not played particularly well in either of their games this season, but in saying that they have never really looked like losing and they have several gears of improvement left in them.
The Broncos will start this game as favourites and they are 11-7 against the line in this scenario, but the Panthers are 4-2 with a points start in front of their home fans.
The point start of -5.5 points seems just about right, but it is still hard to see the Broncos getting beaten and their is a small edge at their current quote of $1.50.
Recommended Bet: Back The Brisbane Broncos To Win @ $1.50
Gold Coast Titans Vs Wests Tigers
Saturday 19 March, 8:30pm, Cbus Super Stadium
The form of the Wests Tigers has been one of the biggest stories of the start of the NRL season – they are 2-0 and they have played some extremely attractive rugby league in doing so.
The Gold Coast Titans gave their suffering fans some hope with their impressive opening round effort against the Newcastle Knights and they were in the contest for a long stretch against the Melbourne Storm before they were blown out late.
The Tigers have been favourites on just seven occasions in the past 12 months and they have a shocking record – they are 2-5 in head to head betting and they have the exact same record against the line – so it is tough to trust them from a betting perspective and it would not surprise if some of their younger players like Mitchell Moses threw in a stinker following their strong start to the season.
The Titans are 4-3 against the line as home underdogs, but the spread of two and a half points seems just about right here and there is no real edge backing either team.
The market that does appeal is the Over 42.5 points. The over has saluted in 15 of the last 23 games played by both sides and I expect defense to not be the main priority for either side this weekend.
Reccomended Bet: Back The Over (42.5 points) in Over/Under Betting Markets
New Zealand Warriors Vs Melbourne Storm
Sunday 20 March, 1:00pm, Mt Smart Stadium
The New Zealand Warriors are 0-2 and are another loss would likely bring coach Andrew McFadden extremely close to the sack.
This is a big problem for the Warriors as they are not going to have an easy time of things against the Melbourne Storm.
The Storm will be without Billy Slater, but Cameron Munster is a more than able replacement at fullback and they still have plenty of talent spread right across their roster.
The absence of Slater has been overreacted to by bookmakers and there is no way that the Warriors should be favourites for this game.
The Warriors are a losing betting proposition as favourites over the past 12 months, while the Storm are 4-3 against the line as underdogs away from home.
I am happy to take on the Warriors all season long until they show some signs of life this season and the $2 available for the Storm to improve their record to 3-0 is the best bet of the weekend.
Recommended Bet: Back The Melbourne Storm To Win @ $2
St George Dragons Vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Sunday 20 March, 3:00pm, Sydney Cricket Ground
There is no love lost between these two sides and this is always an interesting clash, but the last start form of both sides could not be any different.
The St George Illawarra Dragons were locked at 2-2 after 30 minutes against the Cronulla Sharks last Sunday, but somehow they managed to lose 30-2.
Their performance was nothing short of putrid, but it has at least motivated coach Paul McGregor to make some changes and Josh Dugan will return to fullback, while Kurt Mann has been put out of his misery and dropped.
There was plenty of talk about off-field turmoil at the Rabbitohs before the start of the season, but if that was the case it has not affected their on-field performances as the Rabbitohs have been ruthless in their demolitions of both the Knights and the Roosters.
The Rabbitohs are deserving favourites, but there is cause for concern as they have been horrid against the line in the past 12 months – failing to cover in six of their past 18 games as favourites and they are 1-1-6 against the line as away favourites.
The Dragons are close to even as a betting proposition against the line as home underdogs, but after their last performance it is very tough to get excited.
South Sydney will come back to the field at some point and there really isn’t any value in the current market unless you believe they can continue to win their games in dominant fashion.
Reccomended Bet: No Bet
Manly Sea Eagles Vs Cronulla Sharks
Monday 21 March, 6:00pm, Brookvale Oval
It has not been an easy start to the First Grade coaching career of Trent Barrett and he is still chasing his first win as coach of the Manly Sea-Eagles following their disappointing losses to both the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Wests Tigers.
The Sharks played well without winning against the North Queensland Cowboys in week 1 and they actually played worse against the St George Illawarra Dragons, but were still able to record a big win over their local rivals.
Despite, their impressive last start win the Sharks are still set to start this game as underdogs and they really stand out from a betting perspective.
The Sharks have won 10 of their past 14 games as underdogs – an amazing stat – and they are 11-3 against the line in this scenario.
In contrast, Manly are 4-9 against the line as favourites in the past 12 months and they have won just three of their past nine games as favourites at Brookvale Oval.
Recommended Bet: Back The Cronulla Sharks To Win @ $1.92