The following are previews with betting tips for Round 21 of the 2018 NRL season.
Bulldogs v Broncos
Thu, Aug 2, 7:50pm
Brisbane’s gritty win over the Sharks last week has them on five wins from their last six matches as Wayne Bennett’s outfit look to be firing at the right stage of the season. They will face a Bulldogs outfit who are out of finals contention but managed to out-enthuse a Wests outfit with their season on the line in an encouraging display.
The Broncos have named an unchanged side for the clash, while Canterbury will draft in Chris Smith on the bench to cover the suspended David Klemmer as Danny Fualalo shifts to the starting side.
Brisbane should enter the match as firm favourites and will be looking to build consistent form heading into the finals. The ‘Dogs were courageous last week but the massive gaps in their playing roster leave them at a significant disadvantage. Wayne Bennett will be looking for improvement from his outfit every week, so expect a controlled performance from the Broncos to earn them to win.
Betting Tip: Broncos -9.5 @ $1.92 (Sportsbet)
Knights v Tigers
Fri, Aug 3, 6:00pm
Tigers fans were left bitterly disappointed after their club’s last start loss to the Bulldogs, despite consecutive victories against the highly rated Dragons and Rabbitohs in their previous two matches. Their opposition in the Knights were similarly heart-broken last week with a narrow loss to an underperforming Cowboys outfit coming after the Novacastrians took a 12-point lead into half-time.
The Tigers will replace Chris McQueen on the bench with Robbie Rochow in an otherwise unchanged squad. Newcastle have named Connor Watson to return from injury at five-eighth as Cory Denniss and JJ Felise join the squad at centre and on the bench respectively.
The biggest disappointment of the Tigers’ last start loss was their failure to compete to the level they are capable of. Coach Ivan Cleary pointed to fatigue as a factor after the match but unless Wests can find their desire again they may be in for a long night against an energetic Knights outfit. Newcastle have improved enormously with Mitchell Pearce back in the side and look to be finding better form with a more settled roster. Tough one to call but expect the Tigers to bounce back to take the win.
Betting Tip: Tigers -1.5 @ $1.92 (Unibet)
Rabbitohs v Storm
Fri, Aug 3, 7:50pm
The Rabbitohs will take on Melbourne in a massive Friday-night blockbuster clash between first and second on the competition ladder. Souths were well below their best against the Eels and will be looking for improvement against a red-hot Storm outfit whose massive 44-10 defeat of the Raiders last week saw them surge into top-spot on the competition ladder.
The Storm will welcome veteran Ryan Hoffman to make his injury return in the second-row in an otherwise unchanged side. South Sydney have elected to name an unchanged squad for the match.
Despite their late-surge to win the match, the Rabbitohs performed well below their best against the Eels last week and will need to lift against a Melbourne outfit hitting peak form at the perfect time of the year. With a number of rookie representative players South Sydney will need to work hard to prime themselves for the finals but it remains to be seen if the team has peaked too early in Anthony Seibold’s rookie coaching season. Expect a big contest in the forwards and between the two best hookers in the competition. Souths will not make it easy but expect Melbourne’s greater consistency across 80 minutes to get them the win.
Betting Tip: Storm -2.0 @ $1.91 (William Hill)
Dragons v Warriors
Sat, Aug 4, 3:00pm
The Dragons round-21 match against the Roosters was a golden opportunity for the club to confirm their status as a premiership contender, but instead the St George outfit conceded 36-points against a red-hot Roosters outfit in a concerning loss. They will face a Warriors outfit who were dominated by the rampant Titans last week as the New Zealand club’s form slide continues.
Isaac Luke and Tohu Harris will return from injury and Adam Blair from suspension in a massive boost for the Kiwis, while St George have named an unchanged squad for the game.
After producing wonderful form at the start of the year, both these teams are experiencing a massive slump leading into the finals. Each club’s respective coach will be losing sleep over their squad’s results but either side is also capable of returning to their early-season dominance if they can regain their form as individuals and as a team. Tough one to call but expect the Dragons to take the points in a narrow contest.
Betting Tip: Warriors +7.5 @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Eels v Titans
Sat, Aug 4, 5:30pm
Despite their poor season overall, there are some extremely encouraging signs from Garth Brennan’s young Titans squad, many of which were on display last week in a dominant 36-12 win over the Warriors. Their opposition this week will be an Eels outfit left bitterly disappointed after failing to suppress a Rabbitohs comeback in their last match.
Parramatta will welcome George Jennings on the wing as Jarryd Hayne shifts back to the centres. Jaeman Salmon and Kane Evans have been included on the interchanged, with the former making his NRL debut.
Despite recent form, the Eels will enter the match as favourites. The Gold Coast have an extremely talented spine and look dangerous when they can build momentum and cohesion. Both teams struggle to perform consistently across 80 minutes of football and each club’s respective coach should be looking to build a foundation of discipline heading into season 2019. Tough one to call but expect the Titans to get the points.
Betting Tip: Titans Head to Head @ $2.22 (Bet365)
Roosters v Cowboys
Sat, Aug 4, 7:30pm
Alongside the Storm, the Roosters are head and shoulders above the competition on form but, ominously, coach Trent Robinson predicts more improvement to come from his outfit despite an impressive 36-18 win over the Dragons last week. They will face a Cowboys outfit who managed just their fifth win of the season last week against an improving Newcastle squad.
North Queensland have named an unchanged line-up for the clash. For the tri-colours, Ryan Matterson shifts to five-eighth to cover the injured Luke Keary with Kurt Baptiste and Dylan Napa also joining the bench.
The Roosters will enter the contest as firm favourites and will be confident of matching the Cowboys across the park. The North Queenslanders will be looking to compete hard in the middle of the field with their preferred starting middle-forward trio of Matt Scott, McLean and Taumalolo reunited in a big boost for the club. Expect the class and discipline of the Roosters to prove the difference as the Cowboys struggle to crack their brick-wall defense.
Betting Tip: Roosters -12.0 @ $1.91 (William Hill)
Sharks v Sea Eagles
Sun, Aug 5, 2:00pm
After a heart-breaking narrow loss to the Broncos last week, Cronulla will be looking to bounce back while they’re still in the running for the top-four. They will face a Manly outfit who produced a woeful performance against Penrith who managed to score three tries in the last 15 minutes of the game to steal the win.
Wade Graham will return to the Sharks’ second-row, adding more starch to an already intimidating defensive line. Josh Dugan may also be a chance to make his injury return. Manly have swapped Martin Taupau with Taniela Paseka between the interchange and front-row in an otherwise unchanged squad.
Cronulla will be bitterly disappointed with their loss last week as a win would have put them two points clear of the Broncos and Panthers and equal third on the competition ladder. Meanwhile, Manly will need to address their discipline after a second half fadeout last week. Both teams lack execution and will be looking for major improvement but expect the class within the Cronulla’s squad to get them the win.
Betting Tip: Sharks -8.5 @ $1.91 (William Hill)
Panthers v Raiders
Sun, Aug 5, 4:10pm
Penrith enjoyed a stunning come-from-behind victory against Manly last week in a result that was the latest comeback win in NRL history after the Penrith club scored three tries in the last 15 minutes of play. Their opposition in the Raiders were all but ruled out of finals contention after a devastating 44-10 loss to the Storm in another season Ricky Stuart’s troops have failed to reach their potential.
The Panthers have named an unchanged squad, with Tyrone Peachey retaining the fullback jersey. Canberra will welcome Aiden Sezer back to the halves as Blake Austin shifts to the centres and Shannon Boyd making his injury return on the interchange.
Despite notching a win, the Panthers performance last week was poor. Inconsistency and failure to build pressure continue to be a problem for Anthony Griffin’s troops and they will need to recover quickly if they are any hope of making the top-four. The Raiders will also be looking to improve but expect a sloppy encounter between two sides who lack discipline. Panthers to get the win.
Betting Tip: Raiders +8.0 @ $1.92 (Neds)
Titans Head to Head @ $2.22 (Bet365)
Raiders +8.0 @ $1.92 (Neds)