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NRL Round 18 Preview

Twelve teams have been relocated to Southeast Queensland as the final push to the NRL finals begins in Round 18.

Gold Coast Titans vs Parramatta Eels

This is shaping up as a battle of the Titans’ inconsistent defence against Parramatta’s attack. The Gold Coast has let in more than 30 points in four of their last seven games, while the Eels have scored more than 30 in three of their last four.

The creativity of Reed Mahoney is also set to return from injury for Brad Arthur’s side, with the hooker having 12 try assists in 13 games this year. The only factor pointing towards the Titans is that they are one of the few clubs not adjusting to bubble life. The Eels are too professional to let that bother them though.

Eels by 14. $2.85 at PlayUp


Manly Sea Eagles vs St George Illawarra Dragons

This will be the Dragons’ first game since 13 players were caught partying. They have invoked suspensions for Matt Dufty, Tyrell Fuimaono and Kaide Ellis this week, while Zac Lomax and Daniel Alvaro are not in the bubble yet, to go with Ben Hunt and Tariq Sims backing up from Origin on 48 hours rest. That is plenty of disruption, and yet, the Dragons have won three of their last four.

It’s a defence that has let them down though, sitting fourth on the missed tackle charts. Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans may not back up from Origin either, but the Sea Eagles have made the second-most line breaks in the competition. They too will be seething after a loss to Canberra last week and should turn it around here.

Sea Eagles by 8. $1.12 at PlayUp


Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla Sharks

The Raiders, despite upsetting Manly without Tom Trbojevic last week, have been the season’s great disappointment. Sitting well down the ladder, their defence has been, at times, woeful. It may not be a surprise to see them on the back foot so often given they sit 13th for run metres and make almost 11 errors per game.

Disappointment will be painted in the camp this week too, with Canberra forced to relocate to Queensland despite no COVID cases in the nation’s capital. The Sharks too, have been disappointing, making more missed tackles than any other side, but they sit sixth for run metres, in the top eight for line breaks and have won five of their last six. Expect them to continue that run in a scrappy one.

Sharks by 4. $3.15 at PlayUp


North Queensland Cowboys vs Sydney Roosters

The Cowboys have had a habit of surprising teams at home this season, winning five on the trot before losing a tight one to the Sharks last time. That means the Cowboys have lost four on the hop though, with the scores not exactly pleasant, conceding 160 points in those games. The Roosters will be seething from almost being brought undone by the Bulldogs last week too.

There are no bleedingly obvious points of difference for the Roosters, but they are outrageously well-rounded and consistent across the board and have lost just a single game against the 11 teams below them on the ladder all season – and they had to deal with two sin bins and injuries on that occasion.

Roosters by 12. $3.20 at PlayUp


Melbourne Storm vs Newcastle Knights

The Knights have had one of the poorest attacks in the competition this year, and it can be hardly said that flying to Queensland, followed by a day trip to Melbourne just 72 hours later is going to help their cause. As it stands, Newcastle averages just 17.4 points per game, the competition’s third-worst record.

Their defence has been solid without being spectacular, but that won’t be enough against the Storm, who average a ridiculous 36.5 points per game from their perch atop the ladder. Newcastle averages 85 metres less per game than Melbourne, and combined with an extra error per game, the pressure on their defence will be unbearable.

Storm by 24. $1.52 at PlayUp


New Zealand Warriors vs Penrith Panthers

The Warriors are used to travelling and playing in their own bubble, so do have a distinct advantage in that respect. They also have the advantage of playing the Panthers without Nathan Cleary or Jarome Luai. Matt Burton and Tyrone May struggled when tasked with taking over Penrith’s attack during the Origin window and now must do it again.

Still, the Panthers’ defensive record is what has them at the top of the table, still averaging under ten points per game. The Warriors may hang onto the ball, but they are 12th inline breaks, 11th in tackle busts and 10th in try assists. It’s hard to see them having the attacking arsenal to stop Penrith, even if this is closer than it otherwise would have been.

Panthers by 10. $2.95 at PlayUp


Brisbane Broncos vs Wests Tigers

The Broncos were the surprise packet last weekend, getting the better of the Cronulla Sharks. It was a gritty victory not able to be described by numbers given they had less possession, line breaks, offloads and tackled less effectively, however it was their third win on the trot in a home game not played on a Thursday or Friday.

The Tigers, on the other hand, resemble a rabble. Their coach wants to find men who will be accountable, and it’s not a surprise after they missed a staggering 43 tackles last start against the Rabbitohs. The Tigers have the fourth-worst defensive record in the competition, and playing at Suncorp on a Sunday should be too much for them in a gritty encounter.

Broncos by 6. $3.20 at PlayUp


South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Canterbury Bulldogs

Seemingly the easiest game to tip each week is anyone against the Bulldogs. While the men in blue and white gave the Roosters a run for their money last week, the previous four games saw Trent Barrett’s side lose by a combined 160 points to 20, an average of 40 to 5 across the month.

The Rabbitohs have named all their Origin stars to back up too and with a bubble to keep them from celebrating all that hard, they will be looking to continue their attacking form, which has seen them score 130 points in the last three weeks. South Sydney lead the competition for line engagements, which is a massive issue for Canterbury, who sit 5th in missed tackles.

Rabbitohs by 32. $1.28 at PlayUp


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