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NRL Round 21 Preview

There are finals ramifications everywhere you look in Round 21. Here is the preview ahead of an enormous round of NRL.

Newcastle Knights vs Brisbane Broncos

Have the Broncos turned a corner? Competitive against the Panthers a fortnight ago, Kevin Walters’ side ran up their highest score of the season last week against the Cowboys. Going further in Brisbane’s favour is the unprecedented four-day turnaround for the Knights.

They might have picked up a surprise win over the Raiders on Sunday, but with five-day turnarounds, the generally accepted minimum and incredibly tough to back up from, the Knights winning this would surprise. That is even more so the case when you consider they are so reliant on their defence, with the second-worst attack in the competition.

Broncos by 12. $6.10 at PlayUp

Canberra Raiders vs St George Illawarra Dragons

The Dragons are in an absolute rut, having conceded 114 points in the last three weeks. Maybe it shouldn’t come as such a surprise though, given they make more tackles than any other team, but also miss the second-highest amount in the competition. It means they spend far too much time without the ball to be competitive against good sides who can attack.

Before Canberra’s loss to the Knights on Sunday, they seemed to have turned things around with three straight wins. Still, they have put up 100 points in their last four games, and given the Dragons’ defensive issues, it should be enough to get the job done.

Raiders by 8. $3.20 at PlayUp

 Parramatta Eels vs South Sydney Rabbitohs

The Eels have struggled badly without their skipper, but Mitchell Moses is back this week. With him, he brings 13 try assists in 16 games and over 350 kicking metres per contest. It’s a much-needed infusion of attacking might for the blue and gold.

But in a potential shootout, the Rabbitohs have them covered from all angles with the second-best attacking record in the competition. If their defence can hold up well enough (and it was better on Sunday, holding the Dragons to just 14 points), then they should take the chocolates.

Rabbitohs by 6. $3.10 at PlayUp

 New Zealand Warriors vs Cronulla Sharks

The Warriors are still in the midst of an enormous injury crisis, and while they managed to get the better of the Wests Tigers last week, it will be a different battle against the desperate Sharks.

Cronulla misses the most tackles in the competition, but they have run up 104 points in the last four games, even with two of them going down in the loss column. Given the Warriors’ lack of regular players is in the middle third, and that their edge defensive combinations suffer as a result of Euan Aitken being moved into the second row, it should be simple for Connor Tracey and Will Kennedy to build on their 11 tries apiece in a victory.

 Sharks by 16. $2.26 at PlayUp

 Sydney Roosters vs Penrith Panthers

The Sydney Roosters welcome Dale Copley to the club this week as they attempt to battle their backline injury crisis. That allows the dangerous Joseph Manu, who has eight tries and seven assists, to go back to his more preferred centre position. While that’ll improve the Roosters’ attack, it’s their defense that has been the talking point after holding the Parramatta Eels to nil last week.

Nathan Cleary is racing the clock to be fit for the Panthers, and if he plays, they will become instant favorites, but coming off a loss to the Storm last week and without James Fisher-Harris’s enormous output totaling 173 metres per game, the Roosters look likely.

Roosters by 4. $4.60 at PlayUp

 Manly Sea Eagles vs Melbourne Storm

In the ten-year anniversary of the infamous Battle of Brookvale, the Sea Eagles and Storm will clash with plenty on the line. Manly can still make the top four but can ill-afford to drop many more games. The Storm, on the other hand, is two points clear at the top of the table.

This match essentially comes down to Tom Trbojevic against the Melbourne defence. The Storm is letting in just 11.7 points per game, but slowing down Trbojevic, who averages more than three try involvements per game, will be a struggle. Melbourne does have the competition’s best attack as well, but a shootout would make this game intriguing. It’s still impossible to tip against Melbourne.

Storm by 8. $3.20 at PlayUp

 Canterbury Bulldogs vs Wests Tigers

The Bulldogs are a team that could frustrate the Tigers. Given the Tigers lost to the understrength Warriors next week, they have very little going for them right now, and with the competition’s fourth-worst defensive record, it’s not hard to see why they sit in the bottom four.

The joint venture will also have to contend with Canterbury’s excellent routine in completing sets this week, with the Bulldogs leading the competition in that metric. With more reports emerging that Michael Maguire’s job is on the line, the Tigers are clearly looking ahead to 2022, while Bulldogs’ players have spots to play for given the clean-out which is hitting the club. Expect them to pick up the upset here.

Bulldogs by 8. $4.30 at PlayUp

Gold Coast Titans vs North Queensland Cowboys

The Cowboy’s defence was woeful last week in letting in 37 points to the Broncos. It has been for much of the season with the second-worst record. While Valentine Holmes returns, his high error rate won’t help them get onto the front foot on a consistent basis, which is what they will need against the Titans.

The Gold Coast has snuck into the top eight and averages over 24 points per game. They have come into form at the right part of the year too, scoring 66 in the last two weeks. With the Cowboys still only recording one win away from Townsville this year, they are impossible to tip.

Titans by 20. $1.95 at PlayUp


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