The following are previews with betting tips for Round 21 of the 2017 NRL season.
Panthers v Bulldogs
Thu July 27, 7:50 pm, Pepper Stadium
The Bulldogs premiership hopes were cruelly dashed in their capitulation against the Broncos last week, but their Penrith counterparts will be desperate for premiership points – sitting only one win outside the top eight. The Panthers were unconvincing in their last-start win over a struggling Titans outfit, but will channel their inner underdog in the hope of sneaking into the top eight.
James Graham returns in a big boost for the Bulldogs, while the Panthers will replace the injured Matt Moylan with Tyrone May coming into the halves.
Both sides have struggled to produce consistent football this year, putting major dents in their respective premiership campaigns. The Panthers will go into this match as heavy favourites against a Bulldogs outfit who practice an outdated play-style. Expect Penrith to employ a loose style of play with lots of ball-movement to tire out their larger opposition, but with one of the worst error-rates in the competition this could be a high-risk strategy. Panthers to get the win in a high-scoring affair.
Betting Tip: Panthers -7.5 @ $1.95 (William Hill)
Warriors v Sharks
Fri July 28, 6:00 pm, Mt Smart Stadium
The Sharks will head into their round 21 clash with the Warriors this Friday night hoping to start a run of form to carry them to consecutive grand finals after a number of unconvincing performances. The Cronulla club has been hampered by injuries and their massive Origin representation in recent times, and their opposition in the Warriors will be hoping for an upset after a disappointing loss to the Panthers last week put their finals aspirations on life-support.
James Maloney was injured in a massive blow to the reigning premiers as Fa’amanu Brown moves to the halves and Jack Bird returns at centre, while the Warriors have named an unchanged side from their last-start loss to the Panthers.
Cronulla will go into the contest as favourites, despite the Warriors enjoying a home-ground advantage. Coach Shane Flanagan will hope to build consistency and defensive reliability in his Sharks outfit heading into the finals and while the Warriors are likely to put on a show, expect Cronulla to get the win.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Under 38.0 @ $1.88 (William Hill)
Eels v Broncos
Fri July 28, 7:50 pm, ANZ Stadium
The Eels’ premiership hopes were dealt a cruel blow last week after star fullback Clint Gutherson was ruled out for the season with a knee injury, but a gusty Parramatta squad will be eager to produce an upset against a Broncos outfit well positioned for the top four. Brisbane were impressive against the Bulldogs last week but their opposition are also building form after a Corey Norman field-goal handed them their third consecutive win.
Brisbane will welcome back captain Darius Boyd this week in a massive boost for the club that sees the reformation of the Broncos’ 2015 grand-final spine. Josh Hoffman will join the return on the wing for the Eels with Bevan French shifting to fullback.
The Broncos will enter the match as favourites but with the Brisbane side yet to hit top form the Eels will be confident they can produce an upset. Expect high completion rates and good execution with both teams fielding potent halves combinations. If the Eels can play no-mistake football they certainly have a chance but Darius Boyd’s return should see his side get the points.
Betting Tip: Broncos -6.5 @ $1.94 (Topbetta)
Knights v Dragons
Sat July 29, 3:00 pm, McDonald Jones Stadium
The Dragons made a massive statement to the competition with their 30-point drubbing of the highly-rated Sea Eagles outfit last week giving their finals aspirations a much-needed boost. Their opposition in the Knights were poor against the Roosters in their last game and the Dragons will view this match as an important opportunity to build a late-season surge.
Ken Sio will make his return on the wing in Newcastle’s only change, while the Dragons will bring Josh Dugan back into the centres with last-start debutant Matt Dufty holding the fullback position. Joel Thompson will also return for St George in the back-row at the expense of Blake Lawrie.
The Dragons will be desperate to hold their position in the top-eight with heavy pressure from the Panthers on the competition ladder. The Knights have been serial underdogs throughout the 2017 season and expect that trend to continue with the Dragons to get the win.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Over 44.5 @ $1.91 (Bet365)
Rabbitohs v Raiders
Sat July 29, 5:30 pm, ANZ Stadium
The Raiders are barely clinging to hopes of making the finals with their top-eight chances put in jeopardy after a disappointing loss to the Storm last week. Showing the potential that saw them installed as competition favourites in the pre-season, the Raiders’ form against Melbourne is too-little, too-late as they face a lowly Rabbitohs outfit who slumped to their third consecutive loss against the Sharks last week.
It has been a difficult season for both clubs, and Souths will shift Alex Johnston to fullback with Cody Walker returning to the halves in a massive backline re-shuffle. Hymel Hunt will return at centre in the Rabbitohs’ new-look backline and Cameron Murray joins the interchange. For the Raiders, Michael Oldfield joins the wing with Jeff Lima coming onto the bench in Ricky Stuart’s only changes.
The Raiders will go into the match as favourites but if the Rabbitohs’ reshuffle pays dividends the result could go either way. Both teams have struggled to reach their potential this year, but will hope to finish the season well to build momentum for their 2018 seasons. Raiders to get the points in a tight contest.
Betting Tip: Raiders -3.5 @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Roosters v Cowboys
Sat July 29, 7:30 pm, Allianz Stadium
Saturday night will see two depleted juggernauts face off in a contest which could prove instrumental to the make-up of the top four. The second placed Roosters will take on the Cowboys – who sit equal third on the competition ladder – in the hopes of consolidating their ladder position, while the Queenslanders will be desperate to leapfrog the Sharks and Broncos to take a top-four berth.
For the Roosters, Joseph Manu returns in the centres, while the Cowboys will welcome back Antonio Winterstein in the only change for both clubs.
The Roosters enjoyed a big win over a lowly Newcastle outfit last week but will be wary after their last game against a top-eight side resulted in a 32-point drubbing at the hands of the Sharks. In contrast, the Cowboys are enjoying a run of fantastic form, but face a huge test against a top four side without stars Jonathan Thurston and Matt Scott. The Queensland outfit will be eager to prove they can match it with the competitions best but with the Roosters still missing Jake Friend and Michael Gordon the Roosters will be well below their best. It could go either way but expect the Roosters to get the win in a tight contest.
Betting Tip: Roosters -3.5 @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Storm v Sea Eagles
Sun July 30, 2:00 pm, AAMI Park
2017 has been a year of ‘firsts’ for Trent Barrett’s Sea Eagles outfit. Their loss to the Dragons last week was the first time since 2005 that Manly have conceded 50 points in a concerning sign for the Sea Eagles’ top four aspirations. Their opposition in the Storm have been competition standouts this year and this clash shapes as an interesting insight into Manly’s premiership chances.
Billy Slater and Cameron Smith were injured in the Storm’s win over the Raiders last week as Cameron Munster shifts to fullback and Ryley Jacks joins the halves. Cameron Smith was named despite his injury, but could be a late omission from the game.
The Storm will enter the contest as favourites but if both Smith and Slater are missing, an upset could be on the cards. Manly will be highly motivated to get their season back on track with so poor a loss a concerning sign in the late stage of the season but expect Melbourne’s rookies to stand up to give the Storm the win.
Betting Tip: Melbourne -4.5 @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Titans v Tigers
Sun July 30, 4:00 pm, CBus Super Stadium
Tigers’ fans endured insult alongside injury last week with former Wests half Mitchell Moses instrumental in the Eels’ field-goal victory. It was a bitter result for the Tigers, who have endured a difficult season in Ivan Cleary’s first year as head coach, but his squad will look to restore pride against a Titans outfit holding out hope of making the top eight.
Chris Lawrence returns in the back-row alongside Suausa Sue on the bench in the Tigers only changes. The Titans have also made two changes with John Olive and Karl Lawton coming into the side.
The Titans will go into the match as favourites against the struggling Tigers. Both teams have struggled to produce consistent football so expect a sloppy contest but the potency in the Titans’ spine should prove the difference. The Titans will be better able to execute their game-plan and with a far more established spine combination expect the Gold Coast to get the win.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Under 44.5 @ $1.97 (Bet365)