Aussie rugby finals race begins to heat up

By Luke Slater  () 

Brisbane Broncos vs. Penrith Panthers

5:50 a.m. ET Thursday, Brisbane

Broncos + 22.5 (-115) Panthers -22.5 (-115)

Over-Under 48.5

Another week, another loss for the Broncos, who were smashed by the Roosters 58-12. The Broncos, trending toward a historically bad season on defense, are dead last in that category, allowing 32.7 points per game. 

The Panthers continue to expand their winning streak, which is now at 11. Last week they took care of a poor Tigers side 30-6. Conceding only the one try will please the Panthers, as they have the second-best defense in the competition at 13.3 points per game. The Broncos will be lucky to score a point, given their recent performances. 

Tip: Even with a spread of 22.5, I cannot back the Broncos here. Panthers -22.5 and Over 43.5.

Newcastle Knights vs. Cronulla Sharks

4 a.m. ET Friday, Newcastle  

Knights + 1.5 (-105) Sharks -1.5 (-125)

Over-Under 42.5

Newcastle was upset by the Warriors last week, and it wasn’t close. The Warriors covered the + 6.5 easily, defeating the Knights 36-6. The Knights started slowly and never gained momentum due to poor discipline: The 8-2 penalty count, 64:36 time of possession and 11-7 error count all favored the Warriors. In early August, the Knights beat the Tigers 44-4 and looked to have found their groove. Since then they have recorded narrow wins over two below-average teams before losing last week, when they were -6.5 favorites. 

Meanwhile, the Sharks’ less experienced lineup managed a comfortable 28-12 victory over the struggling Cowboys. The Sharks have been blessed with one of the easier schedules, facing more bad teams than most. Against the 12 worst teams, the Sharks have nine wins and two losses. Against the top six teams, they have zero wins and three losses.

Tip: The Sharks are too good against a weaker side. Taking Sharks -1.5 and Over 42.5.

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Melbourne Storm

5:55 a.m. ET Friday, Sydney 

Rabbitohs + 4.5 (-120) Storm -4.5 (-105)

Over-Under 40.5

The Rabbitohs continued their attacking form, embarrassing the Eels 38-0 last week. They have been red hot over the last five weeks, averaging 37 points per game. Their defense was highly impressive, keeping a strong attacking side scoreless. The major concern is the season-ending injury to Latrell Mitchell. When he missed two games earlier in the season, the Rabbitohs lost both, failing to cover the spread and averaging 14 points per game.

The Storm continued to win despite not being at full strength. Last week’s 30-6 win over Manly makes it 3-1-0 ATS for the previous four games. The Storm will continue to improve as players return from injury and regain match fitness.

Tip: Very confident on Storm -4.5.

Canterbury Bulldogs vs. Gold Coast Titans

1 a.m. ET Saturday, Sydney

Bulldogs + 1.5 (-125) Titans -1.5 (even)

Over-Under 42.5

This is potentially the least exciting fixture this week, as both teams have struggled all season. The Titans sit 13th on the competition ladder, with the Bulldogs dead last. Despite five losses in a row, the Bulldogs have outperformed, going 5-2-0 ATS in the last seven games. 

The Titans are coming off a solid 14-10 win over the Dragons. The Titans were + 9.5 and managed to seal the victory in the final 10 minutes. The issue has been the Titans’ consistency. They have failed to record two wins in a row all season yet have beaten middle-of-the-pack teams like the Warriors, the Dragons and the Tigers.

Tip: Two struggling teams, so it will be hard to have faith in either. Taking Under 42.5 points. 

Manly Sea Eagles vs. Wests Tigers

3:30 a.m. ET Saturday, Manly  

Sea Eagles -4.5 (-110) Tigers + 4.5 (-115)

Over-Under 42.5

Manly has been close to the coldest team over the last two months. Last week’s big loss to the Storm means the Sea Eagles are 3-7-0 ATS in the last 10 games. They have had to deal with several key injuries, and last week was no different, with Reuben Garrick suffering AC joint damage. 

The Tigers continued to slide out of finals contention with their fifth loss in six games. Remarkably, they have failed to cover the spread in their previous six games and are 1-8-0 ATS in the last nine.

Tip: Can’t trust either team, but I like Over 42.5 for two teams that struggle on defense.

Canberra Raiders vs. Sydney Roosters

5:35 a.m. ET Saturday, Canberra

Raiders + 5.5 (-110) Roosters -5.5 (-115)

Over-Under 44.5

Canberra was down 20-12 at halftime last week against the bottom-of-the-table Bulldogs. The Raiders outscored the Bulldogs 22-0 in the second half to claim victory, but some glaring signs of weakness emerged. The Raiders have a habit of starting slowly, scoring the first try in only six of 16 games. Look for the Roosters to get in front early.

The Roosters appear to have found their form again. They embarrassed a weak Brisbane side 58-12 last week and have covered the spread in three of the last four games. The Raiders got a surprise victory over the Roosters in mid-July, but injuries mean this rematch will see some different faces.

Tip: Keen on Roosters -5.5.

New Zealand Warriors vs. Parramatta Eels

2:05 a.m. ET Sunday, Central Coast

Warriors + 8.0 (-110) Eels -8.0 (-110)

Over-Under 38.5

The Warriors will be very pleased with last week’s effort against the Knights. They kept the opposition under 10 points for only the second time this season and the first time since May 29. The Warriors have been on fire in covering the spread, having done so in six consecutive games. They are finding their form and could make the finals, considered a long shot only a month ago.

In contrast, the Eels continue their poor form and are in danger of falling out of the top three on the competition ladder. They were handed a lesson by the Rabbitohs, going down 38-0. I’ve stated previously that the Eels might have been getting ahead of themselves, forgetting what is needed to win the competition, not just midseason games. This can be excused as the Eels are the team with the longest active premiership drought, and this looks set to continue.

Tip: Warriors moneyline + 235. 

North Queensland Cowboys vs. St. George Illawarra Dragons

4:05 a.m. ET Sunday, North Queensland

Cowboys + 3.5 (-115) Dragons -3.5 (-110)

Over-Under 41.5

Both teams have struggled all season: The Cowboys have only three wins, the Dragons just six. The Cowboys were blown away by a young Sharks side last week, going down 28-12. The Cowboys haven’t tasted victory in nine games.

The Dragons were also poor last week, losing to the 13th-place Titans at home. They are now 1-6-0 ATS in the last seven games. This is really a tough game for bettors, with neither team impressive over the last two months. 

Tip: Cowboys + 130 is my value tip.

 

 

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