Hot Panthers seek rugby home-ground edge

By Luke Slater  () 

South Sydney Rabbitohs vs. Canterbury Bulldogs

5:50 a.m. ET Thursday, Sydney

Rabbitohs -16.5 (-110) Bulldogs + 16.5 (-120)

Over-Under 44.5

South Sydney was a 10.5-point favorite against a struggling Tigers team last week yet walked away with only a two-point win. Expectations this year have been high, yet the Rabbitohs have definitely failed to live up to them. With only two games left before the finals, the Rabbitohs should be finding their form, yet they are 2-3-0 ATS in the last five games. They did beat the Parramatta Eels 38-0, but that came with a season-ending injury to their best player, Latrell Mitchell.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have continued their losing ways. Last week’s loss to Manly extended their losing streak to seven. Of these, five games were within 12 points, so they aren’t getting blown away too often.

Tip: Bulldogs + 16.5 and Under 44.5.

North Queensland Cowboys vs. Penrith Panthers

4 a.m. ET Friday, North Queensland  

Cowboys + 15.5 (-115) Panthers -15.5 (-110)

Over-Under 42.5

Last week the Cowboys were under the pump early against the rugged Melbourne Storm. By halftime, the score was 24-4, with the Storm leaving plenty of points on the table. The Cowboys did fight back slightly, falling 36-20 and outscoring the Storm 16-12 for the final 40 minutes. 

The Panthers continue to set the benchmark, recording their 13th consecutive win. Last week’s 20-2 win over Parramatta sent a message that the Panthers’ defense is the real deal, currently second best in the competition. They will be hungry to secure the minor premiership and ensure home-ground advantage for the finals.

Tip: Keen on Under 42.5 and Panthers -15.5.

Parramatta Eels vs. Brisbane Broncos

5:55 a.m. ET Friday, Sydney 

Eels -14.5 (-110) Broncos + 14.5 (-115)

Over-Under 42.5

The Eels’ attacking woes continued last week, failing to score even one try against the league-leading Panthers. Over the last seven games, the Eels are averaging 12 points per game — well below their 18.8 season average and even below the league-worst Broncos at 13.3 ppg. They will have their best chance to regain scoring form with the Broncos recording the worst defense in the league by far, allowing 31.4 points per game. The Eels averaged 46 points in attack against the Broncos over their last two games.

The Broncos recorded their best defensive effort in nine games, keeping the Titans to 18 points. However, they managed only six points in their ninth consecutive loss. I took a chance on the Broncos to upset the Titans, and they showed they cannot be trusted. Over the losing streak they are 2-7-0 ATS. 

Tip: Eels to put some points on and cover -14.5.

Manly Sea Eagles vs. Gold Coast Titans

1 a.m. ET Saturday, Manly 

Sea Eagles -5.5 (-115) Titans + 5.5 (-115)

Over-Under 42.5

Manly finally stopped its losing streak with a 12-point win over Canterbury last week. It has been a rough run with injuries, but Manly still managed to lose games it should have won and has gone 2-5-0 ATS in the last seven matches. Some relief on the injury front is the pending return of all-star fullback Tom Trbojevic, expected to return this week.

The Titans have been impressive since coach Justin Holbrook came aboard. Since signing him, the Titans are 6-2-0 ATS while conceding an average of 17 points per game, well below their season average of 24.

Tip: Titans + 170 in an upset.

Melbourne Storm vs. Wests Tigers

3:30 a.m. ET Saturday, Sunshine Coast  

Storm -17.5 (-115) Tiger + 17.5 (-115)

Over-Under 44.5

The Storm had a comfortable 36-20 point victory last week over the Cowboys, though they will be disappointed in allowing four tries, including three in the second half. They will be keen to improve on this defensive effort leading into the finals, where defense is the key to winning.

The Tigers were officially eliminated from finals football with their loss to South Sydney. It’s been another season of mediocrity for the side, which looks to finish ninth on the ladder for the seventh time since 2004 and fourth time in five seasons. This week the Tigers will be without suspended halfback Luke Brooks. 

Tip: Under 44.5.

Sydney Roosters vs. Cronulla Sharks

5:35 a.m. ET Saturday, Sydney

Roosters -17.5 (-115) Sharks + 17.5 (-115)

Over-Under 44.5

The Roosters are finding their form at the right time, not surprising for a team that has won the competition the last two years. They are 5-1-0 ATS in the last six matches, scoring an average of 34 points over this period. Before that they had a three game stretch averaging 18 points, failing to cover the spread in all three games. 

The Sharks should be nervous. Their win over the Warriors last week secures their spot in the finals. However, they have not beaten a top-eight team all season. They allow over 22 points per game, well above any other team in the top eight. 

Tip: High-scoring affair, Over 44.5.

Canberra Raiders vs. New Zealand Warriors

2:05 a.m. ET Sunday, Canberra

Raiders -14.5 (-115) Warriors + 14.5 (-115)

Over-Under 42.5

Last week the Raiders were impressive in their 37-8 win over the Dragons, easily covering the -8.5 start. In the previous two games, the Raiders were unable to cover the spread. Despite a season of injuries, the Raiders have continued to play good football and will likely finish fifth on the ladder ahead of the finals.

The Warriors were eliminated from finals footy last week with their loss to the Sharks. They have really outperformed under very difficult circumstances. Last week’s loss was also the end to seven matches in a row in which the Warriors covered the spread. With no chance of finals football, it will be hard to predict how hard this team will play, but going off this season, the Warriors will want to finish off strong.

Tip: Warriors + 14.5, Under 42.5.

Newcastle Knights vs. St. George Illawarra Dragons

4:05 a.m. ET Sunday, Newcastle

Knights -8.5 (-110) Dragons + 8.5 (-115)

Over-Under 42.5

The Knights will be keen to finish the regular season strong and secure a home-ground finals game. They will need to win both remaining games and count on teams above them to lose. This week they have every chance to beat a struggling Dragons side. The Knights were demolished last week against the Roosters, falling 42-12. This week they will be looking to bounce back and prove they are contenders in the finals.

The Dragons, meanwhile, continued their poor finish, losing by 29 to the Raiders. Over the last nine games, the Dragons are 1-8-0 ATS. They are hoping for two key forwards to return from injury, but it seems unlikely the Dragons will force a return, considering the season is all but over.

Tip: Knights -8.5.

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