Bulldogs v Sea Eagles
Fri 4 Jul, 7:45pm, ANZ Stadium
Bulldogs: 1. Mitch Brown 2. Corey Thompson 3. Krisnan Inu 4. Tim Lafai 5. Drury Low 6. Josh Jackson 7. Michael Ennis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Damien Cook 10. James Graham 11. Greg Eastwood 12. Tony Williams 13. Dale Finucane
The short odds for the Sea Eagles ($1.36) in this match don’t have a lot to do with the fact that the Bulldogs have lost three of their last four matches but more so the glaring omissions of halves pairing Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson.
The two have featured heavily in NSW’s State of Origin series victory and obviously got the call back into camp for an attempt at the clean sweep.
Their absence leaves the Bulldogs’ roster crippled and ripe for the taking by a Manly side that broke into clear air on the top of premiership table after Round 16 with a very impressive win over the Roosters on Friday night.
The victory saw Manly rocket into deserved premiership favouritism thanks to their forwards beating the Roosters’ hard men in the centre-field arm wrestle and their backs proving to be too hard to catch with Brett Stewart at the forefront. Stewart showed glimpses of the past form that he is renowned for and once again has become a strike weapon that opponents won’t be able to let out of their sight for a single minute if they are to keep him away from their try line.
I can’t give the Bulldogs much hope here with Josh Jackson named at five-eighth next to Michael Ennis at 7. Manly should win and the question is ‘by how much?’
Early in the week, from Tuesday to Wednesday, the money has actually come for the Bulldogs with a 10 and 10.5 start which has now seen the line drop consistently to 9.5 across most of the bookmakers.
I’ll be jumping at that -9.5 line knowing a 10 point + victory is certainly not out of reach of Manly despite being without Daly Cherry-Evans and Anthony Watmough.
Mike’s Tip: Sea Eagles
Mike’s Best Bet: Manly -8.5 @ $1.92 (Luxbet)
Dragons v Cowboys
Sat 5 Jul, 5:30pm, WIN Jubilee Oval
Dragons: 1. Adam Quinlan 2. Charly Runciman 14. Peter Mata’utia 4. Gerard Beale 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Benji Marshall 8. Ben Creagh (c) 9. Mitch Rein 10. Mike Cooper 11. Leeson Ah Mau 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin.
Who would have thunk it? As we progress through the 17th round of the year, both of these sides sit one win outside the top 8.
It’s strange to many who had touted the Cowboys as potential top 4 contenders in the preseason.
It’s strange to many of the same people who only a month ago would have rated the Dragons as nothing more than wooden spoon contenders.
Assuming all the favourites win in the NRL this week (which is very likely having looked at some of the depleted teams this round) there will be a huge crunch of sides in positions around the lower half of the top 8 and amazingly the Dragons will be just two wins away from 3rd place on the ladder.
I see this match as a near certain win for the Dragons taking on the Cowboys who are not only without Origin representatives, including none other than Johnathan Thurston, but also have an extended casualty list containing the likes of Cooper, Scott, Tate and Thompson.
The Dragons have brought a simple game plan to the table in each match under new coach Paul McGregor and it’s the halves Widdop and Marshall leading the way.
Benji Marshall’s adjustment back into the NRL seems to be complete and the calmness he now applies to his, and his team’s game is steadily reaping rewards.
It has been somewhat refreshing in the last few weeks seeing Marshall opting to put many of his 6th tackle kicks over the sideline to slow the game down. Beginning defensive sets with a set line at the scrum is working great for the Dragons and is making them compete better with their opposition in situations where it’s fair to say they lack the flair and sometimes the cohesion to compete with the best sides.
Marshall’s kicking game is a reminiscent throw back to the early 90’s when the likes of Stuart, Langer and Alexander would earn their teams plenty of beneficial field position off the back of pin point touch finders on the last tackle.
His calm demeanour no doubt comes from being put in his place by a forgettable stint in Super Rugby and Marshall is a better player for keeping his ego in check and the Dragons are the ones set to reap the rewards.
Mike’s Tip: Dragons
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Mike’s Casual Bet: Dragons -9.5 @ $1.92 (Sportsbet)
Roosters v Sharks
Sat 5 Jul, 7:30pm, Allianz Stadium
Roosters: 1. Anthony Minichiello 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Mitchell Aubusson 4. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 5. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 6. James Maloney 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Sam Moa 11. Dylan Napa 12. Sonny Bill Williams 13. Frank-Paul Nu’uausala
The Cronulla Sharks Football Club is a shambles right now and are no doubt ripe for the picking, or pecking if you like, for a Roosters side reeling from a loss against the Sea Eagles on Friday.
Todd Carney won’t be playing for the Sharks, ever again, for reasons that if you aren’t aware of then you’re probably not familiar with the internet and therefore aren’t reading this in the first place!
Without Carney the side loses a lot of its attacking potency and compounding the issue is the NSW Origin side borrowing Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis off the Sharks, leaving them in all sorts for this game.
Some bookies are offering odds of over $10 for the Sharks and their current points start sits at 23.5 but personally I think they’ll need more against the Chooks.
The Roosters were playing some of their best footy last week despite losing to Manly and this time around I’m sure they can beat the Sharks in second gear although Coach Trent Robinson will be asking plenty of his troops in order to keep momentum up for his side’s run towards the finals.
I can’t say I’ll be knocked off my feet if the tri-colours win by 50 but I’ll reel in any wild predictions and just stick with the Roosters to cover the line in a game that will most likely be a one sided, dour affair.
Mike’s Tip: Roosters
Mike’s Best Bet: Roosters -23.5 @ $1.92 (Sportsbet)
Tigers v Panthers
Sun 6 Jul, 3:00pm, Leichhardt Oval
Tigers: 1. Blake Austin 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Keith Lulia 4. Chris Lawrence 5. Pat Richards 6. Braith Anasta 7. Luke Brooks 8. Martin Taupau 9. Joel Luani 10. Keith Galloway 11. Curtis Sironen 12. Bodene Thompson 13. Adam Blair
A massive bonus presents itself here for the Panthers who once again suffer no losses to State of Origin whereas their opponents the Tigers have had their line up decimated by representative selections and injuries.
The game is played at the Balmain Tigers’ spiritual home of Leichhardt Oval but I’m not sure if the crowd will be able to influence the referees with any great benefit. Even the Tigers recent record of 7 wins from the last 7 games against the Panthers won’t play much of a part in helping them get on top of a Panthers side who have been given an opportunity to get back to equal first on the ladder thanks to Manly’s loss on Friday night.
The Tigers struggle simply when Robbie Farah is out of the team, so when he is joined on the sidelines by Woods, Sue, Fulton and Tedesco, then things start looking pretty dire.
The Panthers will be looking to bounce back from their loss to the Warriors in New Zealand last week and hopefully for them, having a second away game won’t have taken too much out of them especially following a return plane trip over the Tasman.
The line is out to 9.5 in betting currently which is probably spot on for this contest. The Panthers don’t have fantastic away statistics and have to play on one of the real fortresses of the modern game. If you want to have a punt it might be safer to just opt for the Panthers 1-12.
Mike’s Tip: Panthers
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Mike’s Casual Bet: Panthers 1-12
Rabbitohs v Titans
Mon 7 Jul, 7:00pm, ANZ Stadium
Rabbitohs: 1. Nathan Merritt 2. Alex Johnston 3. Kyle Turner 4. Bryson Goodwin 5. Joel Reddy 6. John Sutton 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. David Tyrrell 11. Sam Burgess 12. Ben Lowe 13. Jason Clark
One would expect that the Rabbitohs will be more than good enough to beat a depleted Titans side at ANZ Stadium this week and they will have extra motivation to win as they look to bounce back from a bit of a surprise loss to the Cowboys last week.
The Rabbitohs turned up in Townsville, took the field and lost the game in the first 10 minutes when for the rest of the match they showed enough fight to prove they would have been good enough to win had it not been for an early lapse in concentration.
Coach Michael Maguire would have no doubt been seething over his side’s apathetic start and would be threatening his players with heads on the chopping block if it happens two weeks in a row.
With the Roosters suffering a jaw dropping loss to the Sharks on Saturday night, this match presents the Rabbitohs an opportunity to consolidate their place in the top 4 but with a handy gap between them and 5th position.
The Titans aren’t really in any position to be taking on top teams even when they are at full strength, so to be on the road without their State of Origin stars leads me to a succinct analysis that they will not win this.
There are plenty of motivating factors in this game for the Rabbitohs and not having Greg Inglis in the team should be nothing more than a blip on the radar against a Titans team playing away from home as they continue a harrowing downward slide on the premiership ladder.
Mike’s Tip: Rabbitohs
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Mike’s Casual Bet: Rabbitohs -14.5 @ $1.93 Bet365
Mike’s Best Bet: None