Can any rugby club keep up with Panthers?

By Luke Slater  () 

St. George Illawarra Dragons vs. Sydney Roosters

5:50 a.m. ET Thursday, WIN Stadium, Wollongong

Dragons + 12.5 (-120) Roosters -12.5 (-105)

Over/Under 40.5

Dragons players and fans are kicking themselves after last week’s loss to the Rabbitohs. The Dragons were up 16-0 after less than 20 minutes only to finish as 32-24 losers. That made back-to-back losses for the Dragons, whose hopes of finishing in the top eight are fading. On the bright side, the Dragons’ attack has been much improved in the last four games, averaging 27.5 points. The Dragons will need this attacking flair against the Roosters this week.

The Roosters were not at their best last week against the Titans but walked away with an 18-12 win. They failed to cover the -19.5 spread, which makes them 0-3 ATS in the last three games. The Roosters hope captain Boyd Cordner will return this week, which would be a boost for them.  

Tip: The Roosters will most likely win. But the 12.5 spread seems too close to call. With the Roosters’ impressive defense, I’m leaning toward the Under 40.5.

Manly Sea Eagles vs. New Zealand Warriors

4 a.m. ET Friday, Lottoland, Sydney 

Manly -12.0 (-110) Warriors + 12.0 (-110)

Over/Under 36.5

Even with Manly’s home-ground advantage last week, the Panthers rolled to a 42-12 victory. Manly was blown out early, conceding four early tries before scoring. The Panthers are the No. 1 team in the competition right now, but Manly was expected to put up more resistance. Not only that, the Eagles’ Dylan Walker and Brad Parker were injured and will not face the Warriors.

Meanwhile, the Warriors continued to show determination, considering the uphill battles of being away from home for three months. As + 13.5 underdogs last week against the Tigers, they managed a 26-20 victory. In an interesting midseason signing, playmaker Blake Green has departed the Warriors and signed with the Knights effective immediately.  

Tip: I was keen on the Warriors’ moneyline (+ 360) until the news on Green. Going with the Warriors + 12.0 instead.

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Brisbane Broncos

5:55 a.m. ET Friday, ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Rabbitohs -9.5 (-115) Broncos + 9.5 (-110)

Over/Under 38.5

The Rabbitohs started slowly last week against the Dragons, trailing early and watching playmaker Adam Reynolds leave due to injury. But the team, in particular Cody Walker, stepped up for an impressive victory. The return of Latrell Mitchell helped the Rabbitohs score their highest total in six games. They will look to extend their high-scoring ways this week against the league’s worst defense, Brisbane.

The Broncos were up by eight with 10 minutes left against the Sharks last week. But the Sharks scored 18 unanswered points to secure a 10-point win. This pretty much sums up the season for Brisbane — the defense costing any chance to win a game. The Broncos have won only one of their last 10, though one of their three wins this season came against the Rabbitohs.

Tip: Over 38.5 and Rabbitohs -9.5.

Melbourne Storm vs. Canterbury Bulldogs

1 a.m. ET Saturday, Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast

Storm -15.5 (-110) Bulldogs + 15.5 (-110)

Over/Under 41.5

The Storm continued their roll with a 10-point win over Newcastle last week, making it six in a row. They have been clinical largely due to veteran Cameron Smith, who will miss two to three weeks with a shoulder injury. The Storm have the luxury of viable replacements, but that replacement will have big boots to fill. 

The Bulldogs put in a solid effort last week against the Eels, almost winning despite being + 16.5 dogs. Their biggest issue is their lack of scoring, as they sit dead last in points per game with 12.5. Compared with the Storm’s 25.8 points per game, it is an uphill battle for the Bulldogs. Not only that, the Storm have won the last four matches against the Bulldogs. 

Tip: I expect the Storm to win and cover -15.5.

Newcastle Knights vs. Wests Tigers

3:30 a.m. ET Saturday, McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle 

Knights -3.5 (-110) Tigers + 3.5 (-110)

Over/Under 36.5

While the Knights improved on their efforts against the Bulldogs two weeks ago, they still fell to the Storm 26-16 last week. I’m willing to excuse the Knights, as the Storm are one of the elite sides and the Knights were not embarrassed. They have a strong chance to win this week against a continually disappointing Tigers side.

The Tigers just do not know how to win close games. Their last six losses have been by 10 or fewer points. The Tigers think they should have won several of those games. They have shown they can compete, but they cannot close out. That was very evident in last week’s 26-20 loss to the Warriors, despite being 13.5-point favorites. I have lost all trust with the Tigers and expect them to continue the season of close losses.

Tip: Knights -3.5 and Over 36.5.

Penrith Panthers vs. Canberra Raiders

5:35 a.m. ET Saturday, Panthers Stadium, Penrith 

Penrith -4.5 (-115) Raiders + 4.5 (-110)

Over/Under 34.5

The Panthers stamped themselves as the team to beat last week with an impressive victory over Manly, making it seven wins in a row and 10 wins, one draw and one loss for the season. A significant driver of their success has been ball control. They lead the league in competition percentage at 83% and time in possession with 55%.

Canberra has strung together three wins despite its injury toll. Last week’s 14-12 win over the Cowboys, however, was the least impressive of the three. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart even conceded the team was “lucky to win.” The Panthers are the hottest team in the competition, so the Raiders will need a lot more than luck for a fourth straight win. The Raiders hope Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad can return from a broken finger to spark some energy.

Tip: The Panthers are too in form to bet against. Taking Panthers -4.5.

Gold Coast Titans vs. North Queensland Cowboys

Midnight ET Saturday, Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast

Titans + 2.0 (-110) Cowboys -2.0 (-110)

Over/Under 42.5

Not the most exciting game on paper, but it will likely be a close contest. The Titans are coming off three straight losses, though all were against top-four teams. The last two matches, the Titans have been competitive, losing by an average of only seven points and covering the spread each time. 

The Cowboys have also been struggling, losing their last five. But three losses also were against teams in the top four. The Cowboys beat the Titans 36-6 in May.

Tip: Leaning toward the Titans + 2.0 with home-ground advantage, Under 42.5.

Cronulla Sharks vs. Parramatta Eels

2:05 a.m. ET Sunday, Jubilee Stadium, Sydney

Sharks + 7.5 (-110) Eels -7.5 (-115)

Over/Under 39.5

The Sharks trailed late against the Broncos but showed why they are second in points per game, scoring 18 in 10 minutes. It was not the most convincing win, but with injuries forcing a reshuffle in the lineup, they will be happy with it. The Sharks have won six of their last seven matches and are expecting several key players to return this week. 

The Eels were handed an ego check last weekend, narrowly avoiding an embarrassing loss to the bottom-feeding Bulldogs. The Eels had been riding high, but their last four games have not been overly impressive, despite going 3-1. 

Tip: Taking the Sharks + 7.5, Over 39.5.


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