It was a shortened round of footy over the weekend, with the State of Origin beginning to occupy the minds of rugby league fans around the nation. Nonetheless there was plenty at stake for the eight teams who took to the park, and though the first three games weren’t exactly among the most memorable that we’ll see this season, Sunday afternoon’s billing well and truly lived up to all expectations.
Thursday Night: Gold Coast Titans vs North Queensland Cowboys
After a disappointing loss to the Panthers the week prior, the Cowboys entered Thursday night’s game looking to reaffirm their status as a legitimate Premiership contender against a bottom eight side – and that’s exactly what they did. After conceding the first try to the struggling Titans, North Queensland scored the remaining six of the game, to earn themselves a 32-6 win. The win saw them maintain a one-game gap in third place ahead of the Broncos and the Eels – both of whom have played one game less – while the Titans slid to 15th in a year which has seen them fail miserably to live up to expectations.
Next Match for the Gold Coast: Titans ($2.80) vs Rabbitohs ($1.44)
The Rabbitohs aren’t the team they were last year, but nonetheless it’ll be a tough ask for the Titans to beat them given the form they are in themselves.
Next Match for North Queensland: Cowboys ($1.20) vs Dragons ($4.50)
The Cowboys are looking to solidify their spot in the top four, and they get what looms as a fairly easy kill against the Dragons this weekend, with betting sites installing them as a heavy favourite.
Friday Night: Penrith Panthers vs Canterbury Bulldogs
If ever the Panthers were going to be stopped, a week in which a number of their stars were missing due to Origin duties was when it was going to happen. Against the bottom placed Bulldogs it was still unlikely, though odds on the betting apps suggested it wouldn’t be as one-sided as it might have been had both sides been at full strength. By half-time, however, any chances of an upset had been largely snuffed out, with the ineffable Panthers jumping out to a 22-6 lead. The Bulldogs fought back a little in the second half but it was too little too late, with the best team in the league holding on for a 32-6 lead.
Next Match for Penrith: Knights ($4.50) vs Panthers ($1.20)
Given how easily they’ve disposed of even the best teams in the league this year, Penrith shouldn’t have too many problems against the Knights next weekend.
Next Match for Canterbury: Bulldogs ($4.50) vs Eels ($1.20)
The Bulldogs have another tough clash as they attempt to wrestle themselves off the bottom of the ladder, and it’s hard to see them troubling the Eels.
Saturday Night: Manly Sea Eagles vs New Zealand Warriors
Though the Sea Eagles entered this season with far greater expectations than the Warriors, their form lines have followed similar paths and the NRL betting sites suggested this one could be relatively close. Manly, however, keen to prove critics that they can still have some say in the season without Turbo Tom Trbojevic, quickly flexed their collective muscle, scoring four tries in the first half an hour and leading 24-0 at half-time. They extended the lead even further in the second half, ending up 44-12 winners to remain in touch with the top eight and send the Warriors two games and a significant amount of goal difference back.
Next Match for Manly: Tigers ($2.55) vs Sea Eagles ($1.52)
The Sea Eagles haven’t strung together consecutive wins for close to two months, but they get a great chance to do so next weekend when they face the Tigers.
Next Match for New Zealand: Warriors ($4.80) vs Sharks ($1.19)
The Sharks have faltered a little in recent weeks after a fantastic start to the season, but they’ll still prove a difficult test for the Warriors.
Sunday Afternoon: Canberra Raiders vs Sydney Roosters
After what had been a one-sided shortened round of footy, the last game of the round loomed as the best, and with little separating these sides on the betting apps it seemed that the bookies agreed. Two in-form sides looking to close the gap on the top eight and top four respectively came out of the gates with an intensity indicative of the importance of this game, and after trading tries in the first half the Raiders went into the break with a 12-6 lead. An early second half try to Sebastian Kris gave them a 12-point lead, but when the Roosters crossed the line twice in four minutes soon thereafter, suddenly it was a two-point game. Matthew Timoko then scored to settle things for the Raiders, but a failed conversion meant it remained just a six-point game for the last ten minutes. Despite all their efforts, however, the Roosters couldn’t find the equaliser, and the Raiders earned themselves what could easily be looked back upon as their most significant win of the season.
Next Match for Canberra: Broncos ($1.45) vs Raiders ($2.75)
The Raiders have now won three of their last four – and against quality sides no less – and though they’ll have their work cut out against one of the only teams in better form than them, the team from the nation’s capital will certainly make the Broncos work for it.
Next Match for Sydney: Roosters ($2.65) vs Storm ($1.48)
The Roosters need to keep winning to remain in the top eight, but they have a tough ask doing so this weekend when they welcome the Storm to the SCG.