Last week’s National Rugby League games played out as I foresaw. I went 10-2-0 combined spread and Over/Under with my tips for the round. This week I see several tougher Over/Under lines, mainly due to the unpredictable weather expected, but also opportunity in the handicap spreads.
Sydney Roosters vs. Melbourne Storm
5:50 a.m. ET Thursday, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Roosters -8.0 (-110) Storm + 8.0 (-110)
The Roosters put away the Dragons last week 24-16. It was not overly convincing for a team many tipped to win the competition for a third straight year. But to the Roosters’ credit, they were down on troops due to injuries. They have a strong chance of several key players returning, and I think the spread of -8.0 has this priced in already.
Melbourne also is dealing with injuries to key players. Cameron Munster, the Storm’s impressive playmaker, will be out after last week’s knee injury. The Storm have the depth but will still be off their best. In the Storm’s favor will be their recent win over a much healthier Roosters side in early July.
Tip: The Storm have been impressive with seven consecutive wins, but I believe this week will end their run. Should still be a close game, however, so taking the Storm + 8.0 and Under 37.5.
New Zealand Warriors vs. Penrith Panthers
4 a.m. ET Friday, Central Coast Stadium, Central Coast
Warriors + 17.5 (even) Panthers -17.5 (-125)
The Warriors will be happy with last week’s upset win over Manly, which makes them 3-0 ATS for the last three games. One area for improvement, however, will be on defense, as they missed 31 tackles. The Panthers can exploit teams that miss tackles. When opponents miss more tackles than they do, the Panthers are 5-0 this year.
The Panthers have won eight in a row and sit atop the competition ladder. They recorded a very classy win over the Raiders, leading 24-0 at halftime and using game management to finish 28-12. Last time the Warriors and Panthers met, the Panthers posted a 26-0 rout in June. But this is a much-improved Warriors side.
Tip: The 17.5-point spread feels like a flip of a coin, but I will be taking Over 41.5.
Parramatta Eels vs. St. George Illawarra Dragons
5:55 a.m. ET Friday, Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Eels -10.5 (-110) Dragons + 10.5 (-115)
For multiple reasons, the Eels were lucky to walk away with a two-point victory over the Sharks last week in a torrential rain. The Eels seem to have plateaued after a strong start to the season, and they are 1-3 ATS in the last four games. The Eels do have a great record against the Dragons, winning nine of the last 10.
The Dragons’ players and staff will likely be focused on whom the next coach will be as Paul McGregor’s position is “under review.” This is an unwanted distraction to a team struggling to find consistency.
Tip: The Eels playing at home and the off-field problems for the Dragons will assist an Eels victory. Taking the Eels -10.5. Rain is expected Friday night in Sydney, so staying away from the Over/Under.
Cronulla Sharks vs. Gold Coast Titans
1 a.m. ET Saturday, Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
Sharks -10.0 (-110) Titans + 10.0 (-110)
The Sharks were unlucky last week against the Eels. They scored more tries, but repeated missed conversions cost them six additional points and the victory. A few 50/50 decisions also went the Eels’ way. I fully expect the Sharks to bounce back and will look to make it five wins in a row against the Titans.
The Titans equaled their best attacking efforts for the year last week against the Cowboys, scoring 30 points. They will also be pleased with keeping Cowboys to only 10 points. The Titans have been respectable in the last few weeks. This week they travel to Sydney, which is significant given the Titans are 1-5 in away games this year.
Tip: The Sharks have everything to play for, so taking the Sharks -10.0 and Over 43.5.
North Queensland Cowboys vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs
3:30 a.m. ET Saturday, Queensland Country Bank Stadium, North Queensland
Cowboys + 8.0 (-110) Rabbitohs -8.0 (-110)
The Cowboys slumped to their sixth straight loss last week against the Titans. Not offering much in either attack or defense, the Cowboys were down 20-0 at halftime, lost 30-10 and were lucky it was not more of a blowout.
The Rabbitohs were comfortable 28-10 winners against the Broncos. The Rabbitohs have averaged 30 points the last two weeks and won both games. Latrell Mitchell’s return has definitely helped them step up a gear in offense. The Rabbitohs will be keen to win to stay in the playoff picture.
Tip: Rabbitohs -8.0 and Under 41.5.
Canberra Raiders vs. Brisbane Broncos
5:35 a.m. ET Saturday, GIO Stadium, Canberra
Raiders -16.5 (-110) Broncos + 16.5 (-110)
The Raiders faced the competition’s best last week, losing to the Panthers 28-12. The Raiders played well, with minimal handling errors and penalties, but still lacked enough to compete. They had previously won three in a row despite a large injury list.
The Broncos’ nightmare season continued with another loss, player dysfunction — and now a player and staff member breaking COVID protocols and being forced to quarantine. This is not a team you want your money on.
Tip: Raiders -16.5.
Newcastle Knights vs. Manly Sea Eagles
Midnight ET Saturday, McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Knights -7.5 (-115) Sea Eagles + 7.5 (-110)
The Knights had a real showing last week, demolishing the Tigers 44-4. I expected a comfortable Knights victory but did not think it would be so one-sided. Blake Green made his debut for the Knights after signing midweek, and the Knights were rewarded. This was much needed for the Knights, who had lost their last two games.
Manly was expected to take care of the Warriors last week but lost 26-22 at home. The Eagles also suffered two key injuries, extending an already long list. Manly had two impressive wins but now has lost two in a row, and I get the sense the injuries are starting to take their toll.
Tip: I believe the Knights can put on back-to-back solid performances and cover -7.5 against an understrength Manly side.
Wests Tigers vs. Canterbury Bulldogs
2:05 a.m. ET Sunday, Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
Tigers -6.5 (-110) Bulldogs + 6.5 (-110)
After losing to the Warriors two weeks ago, the Tigers had the opportunity to bounce back and prove they deserve to play in the final. Instead, the Knights walked right through their defense, scoring eight tries to the Tigers’ one. The Tigers have been extremely disappointing this season, but I do see them getting a slight victory against the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs had been competitive in July, but they fell apart last week against the Storm. They conceded four tries in the first 25 minutes and never got back into the contest. They will also be without playmaker Lachlan Lewis due to suspension. The Bulldogs will miss his creativity and do not have the depth for a seamless replacement.
Tip: Tigers -6.5 only because Lewis is sitting out this week. Over 39.5.
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