The following are previews with betting tips for Round 18 of the 2018 NRL season.
Panthers v Sharks
Fri, Jul 13, 6:00pm
The Sharks have a golden opportunity to put themselves right in the frame for a top-four berth with a massive game against Penrith this Friday night. The Panthers made a massive statement to the competition with a huge 36-4 win over the Warriors last week – showcasing their depth without their Blues representative trio, particularly in the halves. Cronulla will be fresh from a bye after notching a narrow win over the Warriors in their last game and will be gunning for two premiership points.
Penrith have named Caleb Aekins to make his NRL debut at fullback in place of the injured Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in an otherwise unchanged squad. Blues trio Nathan Cleary, James Maloney and Tyrone Peachey have been named in the reserves and could back up despite the short turnaround. The Sharks have similarly named only one change with Valentine Holmes set to back-up from Origin III and Wade Graham returning from injury.
Penrith produced a mammoth effort without the representative stars last week and their absence will see Cronulla installed as favourites. This one could go either way but if Penrith are at their best, they should get the points.
Betting Tip: Panthers Head to Head @ $2.05 (Ladbrokes)
Knights v Eels
Fri, Jul 13, 7:50pm
While each team taking the field has a slim to naught chance of making the play-offs, both respective coaches are under pressure and will be eager to find top form before the season’s end. Backing up from a bye and with limited Origin representation, expect a physical contest between two teams facing big roster changes next year.
After their disappointing last-start loss to the Bulldogs, Newcastle will welcome back Mitchell Pearce in a big boost for the club. Nick Meaney will make his NRL debut at fullback for the injured Kayln Ponga with Nathan Ross and Daniel Saifiti joining the team on the bench and in the front-row respectively. The Eels have made only one change as Tepai Moeroa displaces Will Smith on the interchange.
Parramatta last pushed the Dragons to the edge in an agonizing two-point loss. That form will see them enter the match as narrow favourites. This one could go either way but expect the return of Pearce to buoy the Novacastrians to a win.
Betting Tip: Knights +1.5 @ $1.92 (Neds)
Bulldogs v Rabbitohs
Sat, Jul 14, 3:00pm
After conceding a heart-breaking last-minute loss to the Raiders last week, Canterbury face a huge test as they take on the competition leading Rabbitohs this Saturday afternoon. Souths have been building into form and backing up from a bye they will be looking for consistency in the post-Origin period.
The Bulldogs’ sole change comes as Blues prop David Klemmer joins the starting side. For the Rabbitohs, Dane Gagai, Damien Cook and Angus Crichton will come into the squad after their defeat to the Maroons in Origin III. Hymel Hunt will also join the squad in the centres to cover injured captain Greg Inglis.
The Rabbitohs will go into the match as heavy favourites given their form and ladder position. They have focused their game-style on dominance through the middle of the field, an area the ‘Dogs will hope to challenge – boasting their own intimidating forward rotation. Unless Origin fatigue plays a big role expect South Sydney to get the win.
Betting Tip: Bulldogs +10.5 @ $1.92 (Crownbet)
Sea Eagles v Storm
Sat, Jul 14, 5:30pm
Despite their struggle for form throughout 2018, Manly reignited their bitter rivalry with the Storm after a humbling 24-4 loss in round 11. The Victorian club has since clawed their way back into the top four and will be looking for revenge. The Sea Eagles should enter the match with confidence after an encouraging win over the Panthers in their last match but the Storm also de-throned former competition leaders in the Dragons last week in a classy 52-30 win without their representative stars.
Melbourne will welcome back all six of their Origin stars with Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi and Tim Glasby joining the squad. Jesse Bromwich will also join the side in a massive boost for the Victorians. Manly have named an unchanged squad from their last match with Daly Cherry-Evans and the Trbojevic brothers set to back up from Origin III.
The brutal contest of Origin III may have an impact on this match with nine players on the field backing up. With so many changes, the Storm may be clunky as they look to be returning to their full-strength squad but this one could go either way. Expect Melbourne to take the win in a high-scoring affair.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Over 41.5 @ $1.91 (Ladbrokes)
Raiders v Cowboys
Sat, Jul 14, 7:30pm
After producing a miraculous comeback against the Bulldogs last week, the Raiders are holding on to a slim hope of making the finals. They will face a North Queensland outfit who are now placed third-last after a heart-breaking field-goal loss to the Rabbitohs in round 16 saw them slump to their third consecutive defeat.
The Raiders will be without Brad Abbey and Shannon Boyd as Jordan Rapana and Josh Papalii join the side on the wing and at lock respectively. Luke Bateman will also return on the bench in place of Liam Knight. For the Cowboys, Maroons forwards Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess will return with John Asiata also joining the team in the front-row.
Despite their slim chance of breaking into the top-eight, the Raiders are specialists in a late-season surge into finals contention. Expect Ricky Stuart’s men to be switched on and fired up against a Cowboys side who have not found their groove this year. Raiders to get the points.
Betting Tip: Raiders -4.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Broncos v Warriors
Sun, Jul 15, 2:00pm
Brisbane showcased their enormous depth last week with a massive 34-0 win over the Titans without the Origin stars in good signs for the club’s future. Conversely, their opposition this week in the Warriors slumped to a disappointing 36-4 loss to a Panthers side missing their Origin stars in their last game. Both teams sit seventh and eighth on the competition ladder and on equal premiership points, this game is a must win for either team to make the top-four.
The Warriors are unaffected by State of Origin. A knee injury to Ken Maumalo will see Gerard Beale shift to the wing as Joseph Vuna and Anthony Gelling join the interchange. The Broncos have named their full representative quartet to return with Corey Oates, Andrew McCullough, Josh McGuire and James Roberts joining the starting side in an otherwise unchanged squad.
Both teams will be well aware of the importance of this match but recent form will see Brisbane installed as favourites. Do not discount the Warriors however with the Kiwi’s proving they respond well to big losses so far this year. It will be a massive game in the Queensland capital and while the match will likely be closer than the odds indicate, expect the Broncos to get the points.
Betting Tip: Broncos -2.0 @ $1.90 (Palmerbet)
Dragons v Tigers
Sun, Jul 15, 4:10pm
St George have produced an impressive season so far but have undoubtedly experienced a drop in form during the Origin series. While it is an encouraging sign they have managed so many wins through this period, coach Paul McGregor will be urging his troops to bounce back after a disappointing collapse against the Storm last week. Their opposition in the Tigers will be looking to make a desperate push for finals contention but sitting three wins outside the top eight, many fans will be resigned to accepting Wests’ vastly improved form and roster heading into season 2019.
The Dragons’ Origin contingent of Ben Hunt, Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims, Jack De Belin and Paul Vaughan will return in an otherwise unchanged squad. Meanwhile, the Tigers will replace the injured Josh Reynolds with Benji Marshall as Ben Matulino and David Nofoaluma join the side at prop and wing respectively.
The Tigers will hope to capitalize on their opposition’s representative fatigue, particularly in their pack with four of their starting forwards backing up from Origin III. Mid-season signings Moses Mbye and Robbie Farah will take time to warm into their new roles but even with their presence, the Dragons should get the points.
Betting Tip: Dragons -7.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Titans v Roosters
Sun, Jul 15, 6:30pm
The Titans’ finals hopes were dashed last week with a bitterly disappointing 34-0 loss to the Broncos – a result which typifies much of the Gold Coast club’s season. The Queensland club now sit four wins outside the top-eight but face a massive challenge in the Roosters this week with the ‘Chooks’ pushing hard for a top-four berth. The tri-colours enjoyed a bye last week and were impressive in a disappointing but narrow field-goal loss to Melbourne in their last match.
Blues and Roosters captain Boyd Corder has earned himself a rest after his mammoth effort during the Origin series while Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco are set to back-up. Victor Radley was named on Tuesday but has been suspended, with the club yet to name a replacement. Jared Waerea Hargreaves will also join the side for the injured Dylan Napa, while Mitchell Aubusson comes onto the bench.
For the Titans, Jack Stockwell will join the interchange to cover the injured Dale Copley with Maroons forwards Jarrod Wallace and Jai Arrow set to back up in an otherwise unchanged squad.
The Roosters will enter the match as firm favourites, despite their heavy Origin representation. While the Titans will undoubtedly respond to their poor performance against Brisbane last week, the classy Roosters should come away with the win.
Betting Tip: Roosters -7.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Panthers Head to Head @ $2.05 (Ladbrokes)
Knights +1.5 @ $1.92 (Neds)