The Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels headline another big week for the Australian National Rugby League.
Wests Tigers vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs
5:50 a.m. ET Thursday, Sydney
Tigers + 7.5 (-110) Rabbitohs -7.5 (-115)
The Tigers recorded arguably the most exciting win of 2020, scoring 16 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes to steal a victory from Manly. This has gone against a season-long trend for the Tigers, who generally fall asleep for 10 to 20 minutes and end up losing. It was the first time the Tigers had covered the spread in the last seven games. Could this be the win that sparks a late-season charge to the finals? The Tigers must win all three games of the regular season to have a chance of playing the finals.
The Rabbitohs played their first game since star fullback Latrell Mitchell suffered a season-ending injury. They were brave in their 22-16 loss to a very good Storm side last week. Ball-handling let down the Rabbitohs, who recorded 15 errors to the Storm’s nine. The Rabbitohs will be boosted with winger-center Dane Gagai returning from injury.
Tip: Tigers have everything to play for, but still keen on Rabbitohs -7.5.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs. Manly Sea Eagles
4 a.m. ET Friday, Sydney
Bulldogs + 6.5 (-120) Sea Eagles -6.5 (-110)
Both teams have lost their last six games. The Bulldogs have the better form, losing to solid teams and falling by more than 14 points only once. Manly, meanwhile, has recorded losses by margins of 24, 40 and 30 points. The Bulldogs will be forced to play without playmaker Kieran Foran and key forward Dylan Napa, both out for the season with injuries.
Manly was hoping Tom Trbojevic, one of the league’s best fullbacks, would be fit to return, but it appears he is at least another week off. This appears to be a chance for Manly to break its losing streak, even with the finals out of contention.
Tip: Manly moneyline -230 and Under 42.5.
Penrith Panthers vs. Parramatta Eels
5:55 a.m. ET Friday, Penrith
Panthers -8.0 (-110) Eels + 8.0 (-110)
This looks to be the game of the round, as the first-place Panthers host third-place Parramatta. The Panthers’ only loss of the season (15-1-1) came to the Eels in Week 5. It’s now Week 18, and the Panthers are on a 12-game winning streak. They will also welcome back Isaah Yeo from injury, and he has quietly been one of their best achievers.
The Eels suffered another injury to a key player when Reed Mahoney hurt his shoulder last week. The Eels have been unimpressive in the last six weeks, covering the spread only once and with three victories of just two points.
Tip: Panthers will be keen for revenge on a tiring Eels team. Panthers -8.0, Under 36.5.
St. George Illawarra Dragons vs. Canberra Raiders
1 a.m. ET Saturday, Wollongong
Dragons + 6.5 (-120) Raiders -6.5 (-110)
The Dragons were extra-time losers last week against the North Queensland Cowboys, which makes back-to-back losses against teams below them on the competition ladder. Some clarity in the team’s future has been announced, with Anthony Griffin confirmed as the coach for 2021. With Griffin watching intently, the Dragons will be keen to impress.
Meanwhile, the Raiders were kept to only six points in last week’s loss to the Roosters. The Raiders had been happy with their offense, scoring 30+ points in each of the three previous games. The Roosters are tied for third in points allowed for the season, so the Raiders should not be too concerned.
Tip: Raiders -6.5 and Over 42.5.
Gold Coast Titans vs. Brisbane Broncos
3:30 a.m. ET Saturday, Gold Coast
Titans -2.5 (-110) Broncos + 2.5 (-115)
The Titans recorded their first back-to-back wins of the season with last week’s victory over the Bulldogs. It did come at a cost, with two injuries forcing lineup changes for this week’s clash against the Broncos. The Titans will be feeling confident, having beaten the Broncos 30-12 previously this year. But for the superstitious, the Titans have never beaten the Broncos twice in the same season. In 2018 and ’19, the Titans won the first meeting, only for the Broncos to win the second leg.
The Broncos were respectable 25-12 losers to the Panthers last week, easily covering the + 22.5 spread. After failing to cover the spread in five consecutive games, the Broncos have covered in two of the last three.
Tip: Broncos + 2.5.
Sydney Roosters vs. Newcastle Knights
5:35 a.m. ET Saturday, Sydney
Roosters -16.5 (-115) Knights + 16.5 (-110)
Last week the Roosters welcomed back several key players from injury. Luke Keary and Boyd Cordner played the full 80 minutes and were solid, though still finding their fitness from an extended period on the sidelines. They will be fitter for the Knights clash and should expect pre-injury form, when Keary in particular was red hot.
The Knights’ up-and-down season continued last week with a big 38-10 win over the Cronulla Sharks. This was only one week after losing to the Warriors 36-6 while starting as -6.5 favorites. Kalyn Ponga, one of the most electric players in the competition and a key player for the Knights, could be rested after a head knock in the Sharks game. With the spread at nearly three tries (-16.5 points), the market has priced in Ponga missing this game.
Tip: Under 45.5.
Melbourne Storm vs. North Queensland Cowboys
2:05 a.m. ET Sunday, Sunshine Coast
Storm -18.5 (-110) Cowboys + 18.5 (-115)
The Storm were solid in last week’s 22-16 win over the Rabbitohs. They will be happy about keeping the Rabbitohs to 16 points, well below their season average of 24.7. The Storm’s defense is rated No. 1 in the competition. In stark contrast, the Cowboys are ranked 15th in defense, allowing an average of 25.6 points per game. Look for the Storm to pile on the points and take advantage of a leaky defense.
The Cowboys were stoked with their one-point extra-time win over the Dragons last week. This stopped a nine-week losing streak. But they play the second-place Storm this week and the first-place Panthers next week.
Tip: Storm -18.5 and Over 46.5.
Cronulla Sharks vs. New Zealand Warriors
4:05 a.m. ET Sunday, Sydney
Sharks -5.5 (-110) Warriors + 5.5 (-115)
The Sharks were embarrassed last week, losing to the Knights 38-10. They have really struggled against top-eight teams, failing to record one win against a team in the top half of the ladder. The loss to the Knights also resulted in several players being suspended for the Warriors game. They will, however, be keen for Shaun Johnson’s return. He is leading the competition in try assists with 20, five more than the next best.
The Warriors were close to an upset win over the third-place Eels last week, going down 24-18. The Warriors continue to exceed expectations, making it seven games in a row in which they have covered the spread.
Tip: Warriors moneyline + 165 and over 43.5.