NRL Round 17
Panthers v Rabbitohs
Fri 3 Jul, 7:45pm, Sportingbet Stadium
The Penrith Panthers will play the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Friday night as the reigning premiers flexed their muscle last week against the Sea Eagles. Buoyed by the return of Glenn Stewart, the Rabbitohs look to be in a good position to make a run to the finals with their preferred halves duo back on the park.
The Panthers continue to struggle with injury but proved they are still a danger with their big win over the Tigers last week, naming an unchanged side. For the Rabbitohs, Greg Inglis’ Origin absence will revert Alex Johnston to fullback with Joel Reddy coming onto the wing. Ben Lowe has also been shifted to the bench for Glenn Stewart.
The Rabbitohs are flying under the radar after their impressive start to the season was interrupted by a slew of injuries. Now approaching their first-choice 17, expect the Rabbitohs to impress during the back end of the season against an inconsistent Panthers outfit.
Ben’s Tip: Total Match Points Over 38.0 @ $1.90 (Luxbet)
Dragons v Cowboys
Sat 4 Jul, 7:30pm, WIN Stadium
The St George Illawarra Dragons will play the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday night in a clash that will make for an exciting match between two teams sitting 2nd and 4th on the competition ladder, despite the absence of their Origin stars. The Cowboys’ impressive streak of 11 consecutive victories was snapped by the Sharks last week as Ray Thompson, Robert Lui, Sam Hoare and Scott Bolton come into the side, while the Dragons face an injury crisis.
Kiti Glymin will make his debut for the Dragons on the wing for the injured Dylan Farrell as Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin are replaced by Jason Nightingale and Nathan Green. Mitch Rein returns to dummy-half, relegating Heath L’Estrange to the bench. Will Matthews and Jake Marketo also come into the backrow for the injured Tyson Frizell and Joel Thompson as George Rose and Rory O’Brien come onto the bench.
With the Dragons massive injury toll, expect the Cowboys to come out on top as the Dragons miss five regular first graders through Origin and injury. The Cowboys should be eager to make up for their disappointing loss against the Dragons last week, so expect them to come away with the points.
Ben’s Tip: Cowboys +6.0 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Sea Eagles v Sharks
Sun 5 Jul, 4:00pm, Brookvale Oval
The Manly Sea Eagles will take on the Cronulla Sharks on Sunday afternoon in the absence of their Origin stars as Michael Ennis shapes as the likely replacement for injured NSW rake Robbie Farrah despite being named. The Sharks have named an unchanged squad after their win over a high-flying Cowboys outfit last week, while the Sea Eagles are similarly unchanged following their disappointing loss against the Rabbitohs.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan looks to have finally got the best out of star off season recruit Ben Barba as he moves into an impact role off the bench.
Given that the Sea Eagles are anchored on the bottom of the ladder, their chances of making the finals are looking increasingly slim. The Sharks look to have overcome their early season slump to sit 9th on the competition ladder. Expect Daly Cherry-Evans to come out firing after his Origin omission, though the Sharks shape as the likely victors.
Ben’s Tip: Brett Stewart to Score a Try at Anytime @ $2.10 (Bet365)
Tigers v Eels
Mon 6 Jul, 7:00pm, ANZ Stadium
The Wests Tigers will play the Parramatta Eels on Monday night as the men in blue and yellow gave their fans some hope after a controversial period with an impressive win over the Dragons last week. Both teams in this clash have consistently come up with rocks and diamond performances as they struggle to adjust under their new coaches.
The Eels will again play Corey Norman at fullback with Bureta Faraimo coming in for Will Hopoate. The return of Manu Ma’u also relegates David Gower to the bench with Joseph Paulo dropping from the side. For the Tigers, Nathan Milone replaces the injured Tim Simona in the centres, while Manaia Cherrington and Dene Halatau come into the side to cover the Origin bound Aaron Woods and the injured Robbie Farrah.
It’s a difficult game to tip considering both sides’ volatile form this year, but the Eels will draw confidence from the knowledge the Kieran Foran will indeed be heading to Parramatta in 2016. Expect their confidence from their last win to get the better of the Tigers in a high scoring affair.
Ben’s Tip: Eels -3.5 @ $1.93 (Pinnacle Sports)