Cronulla Sharks and North Queensland Cowboys get NRL Round 19 underway on Thursday night.
Penrith Panthers will be bidding for an eighth straight win in the final game of the round on Sunday when they host Canberra Raiders.
We preview all eight games and pick out the value bets.
Cronulla Sharks vs North Queensland Cowboys
Both the Sharks and Cowboys will be desperate for the two points on Thursday night as they attempt to keep pace with the top eight.Cronulla have been in dismal form over the last month or so, losing their last five games and falling from a relatively comfortable position inside the top eight to 11th spot on the ladder. The Cowboys produced a great display to beat reigning premiers the Roosters 15-12 two weeks ago, while they pushed the Rabbitohs all the way in R18 before going down by 12 points. That’s two impressive displays against top four opposition, but these are the kinds of games that North Queensland have to win if they are to mount a challenge for the top eight. Cronulla have won the last two games between the teams, but they are down on confidence and struggling for consistency. The Cowboys are playing well at the moment, but I’m thinking the Sharks surely have to break this losing run soon. I’m going to back them home in a tight one.
Prediction: Sharks by 1-12 ($2.85 TopBetta)
Newcastle Knights vs Wests Tigers
Under pressure after three losses in a row, the Knights and Tigers know this is a must-win game if they want to push for a finals spot. Newcastle were looking good for a top four spot just a few weeks ago, but they’ve since slipped to eighth spot and are now fighting for top eight survival. The Tigers have put together yet another erratic and inconsistent season and are sitting in 12th position on the table as a result, but they are just two points behind the Knights – and if they can win on Friday, Michael Maguire’s side will re-establish themselves as finals contenders. It’s a must-win game for both sides, but this is a clash the Knights really should be winning. Newcastle have played the better football this season and at home with their star players back, they should have too much firepower for the inconsisent Tigers.
Prediction: Knights by 1-12 ($2.78 TopBetta)
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs St George Illawarra Dragons
These two big rivals have played out some thrilling matches over the last few years, but it’s tough to see anything but a comfortable South Sydney victory on Friday night. St George Illawarra have all but kissed goodbye to their finals chances over the last two months, losing nine of their last 11 games and slipping to 14th spot on the ladder as a result. The Rabbitohs have fought hard for their last two victories, overcoming Manly by one point before taking out the Cowboys in a tough game in Townsville last week. It’s difficult to see any way the Dragons can win this one – and if they don’t tighten up their defence, Souths could be on their way to a big victory.
Prediction: Rabbitohs by 13+ ($2.48 TopBetta)
Parramatta Eels vs New Zealand Warriors
The Eels were high-flying a fortnight ago and coming off three straight wins they came crashing back to earth with a 36-24 loss to the Sea Eagles at Lottoland last Sunday. The Warriors have only lost one game in the past month and while their victories have been ugly, they were wins just the same. Last week, they got away with a 19-18 win over the Sharks with Blake Green kicking his first NRL field goal to snatch victory in the dying minutes. The Bankwest Stadium crowd is worth at least six points to the home team Eels and they will need it, if the Warriors turn up again and play their best football. Their completion rate last week in the wet conditions was remarkable. The Eels need to stay focused here and not ‘clock-off’ like they appeared to against the Sea Eagles. If they can get off to a good start and maintain an 8 to 10-point lead, they are more than capable of taking this out.
Prediction: Eels by 1-12 ($3.10 TopBetta)
Gold Coast Titans vs Brisbane Broncos
Another home-ground loss to the Titans last week, going down 38-18 to an under-strength Melbourne Storm side. That made it six losses at home from their eight games played at Cbus Super Stadium. The Broncos had something to celebrate as they won their third match in a row for the first time this season, putting the Bulldogs away 28-6 at Suncorp Stadium. The Titans are in turmoil at the moment, after losing their head coach and they are still missing their million-dollar halfback Ash Taylor who is still making his comeback in the lower grades. The Broncos are getting better every week with their young rookies standing-up to every test thrown their way of late. Their run metres and defensive efforts were first class last week and if they reproduce that effort here, it should a comfortable win for the Brisbane side.
Prediction: Broncos -6.5 ($1.85 TopBetta)
Melbourne Storm vs Manly Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles has come of age in recent weeks with Des Hasler waving his magic wand and they have been no more impressive than last week where they did a job on the Eels, sending them home on the losing end of a 36-24 scoreline. Meanwhile competition front-runners the Melbourne Storm were just as impressive in their 38-18 demolition of the Titans, and they did it without five of their Origin stars who were rested from that game. While the Storm won the last encounter, just six weeks earlier, Manly did a job on Melbourne at AAMI Stadium, winning that match 24-4. This looks the match of the round and it will be on for young and old from the opening whistle. The Sea Eagles need to stay focused for the full 80 minutes as they have a tendency to drop off late in their matches. The Storm are an 80-minute side and won’t be forced into panic mode, should they be behind on the scoreboard in back half of the match. It’s because of this I see the home side getting away with this one.
Prediction: Storm by 1-12 ($2.80 TopBetta)
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Sydney Roosters
This is a must-win game for the Roosters as they clash with the lowly Bulldogs on Sunday. The Roosters started the year with a bang but have fallen behind Melbourne and Souths over the last couple of months – and things looked like they were getting worse as they went down to North Queensland a fortnight ago. However, the Roosters bounced back in strong fashion last week, crushing Newcastle by a 48-10 scoreline. Canterbury’s primary aim for the remainder of the season is to avoid the wooden spoon – and they’ve made solid progress in that regard, defeating Newcastle and Cronulla before they were brought back down to earth by the Broncos last week, losing 28-6. Even if they are on song in defence, it’s hard to see how the Bulldogs are going to outscore a Roosters side.
Prediction: Roosters by 13+ ($1.55 TopBetta)
Penrith Panthers vs Canberra Raiders
The last game of Round 19 could be the best of the bunch as the in-form Panthers tackle fourth-placed Canberra at the foot of the mountains. Penrith are in brilliant form and will be confident of navigating any challenge put in front of them after thrashing the Dragons by 22 points last week. Meanwhile, the Raiders have been trucking along nicely all season and have won their last two matches against the Dragons and Tigers to occupy fourth spot on the ladder. This promises to be a cracking game if both sides bring their best form to Panthers Stadium. Penrith are on an outstanding run, but it does have to end at some stage. If Canberra are rock solid in defence, I think they have enough attacking quality to outlast the home side and emerge triumphant in a thriller.
Prediction: Raiders by 1-12 ($3.10 TopBetta)