Fri, Jul 11, 1:13pm by Rob Sheeley
The next few rounds will prove integral for teams vying for a top eight position to either cement the place they have already worked hard to obtain, or to try to build momentum so they can force their way into playoff contention.
Six games are scheduled for the final truncated round with the Cowboys, Dragons, Rabbitohs and Roosters the last four teams to benefit from a bye in 2014.
There may have never been a closer competition at this stage of the year, with just four points separating the top 10 teams on the ladder.
The Panthers now sit in first place on the ladder on point difference from the Sea Eagles and Bulldogs. All three teams are on 24 competition points. The next seven teams all sit on 20 competition points, but it is the Rabbitohs who cling onto fourth place on a points differential. They are followed by the Roosters, Broncos, Warriors and Storm, who round out the top eight. The Eels and Tigers are ninth and 10th respectively.
The Sea Eagles hold down favouritism in premiership betting. The boys from Manly-Warringah are currently $4.25 at Sportsbet to hoist the Provan-Summons trophy aloft in October. The Roosters are hot on their heels at $4.50, followed by the Bulldogs at $5.50. The table-topping Panthers are still relatively unwanted by punters on the fourth line at $13.
The Sharks have been the biggest surprise package of the last fortnight when they became the first side in history to come from 20-point deficits to win two matches in a row.
Those wins have meant the Cronulla team has drifted in wooden spoon betting, going out to $2.00, but still remain favourites in front of the Raiders at $2.30. The Knights are the only other team in single figures at $5.50.
AustralianGambling always seeks out the best prices for each suggested bet and the odds listed in this article are the best of all the top bookmakers. It’s well worth your while to have multiple accounts to allow yourself the opportunity to get the best price you can on each bet.
Here is a look at all six Round 18 matches;
7:45pm, Friday, July 11 at Brookvale Oval
The second-placed Manly Sea Eagles take on the 10th-placed Wests Tigers to kick off the round. The Sea Eagles will be hoping for a similar result to their 34-18 Round Five win over the Tigers, while the Wests will being doing their utmost to stay in touch with the top eight.
The Sea Eagles will be close to full strength with only Anthony Watmough missing due to suspension. Daly Cherry-Evans backs up after State of Origin where he only played a limited role in game three. The Sea Eagles would be smarting from their 23-16 loss to the Bulldogs last week and should come out firing in front of their home fans here. They look too good in this one.
The Tigers recent form resembles a yo-yo. They have won and/or lost every second game for their last seven matches. They have been winning the games they should be and not troubling the sides placed above them too much. Their last three wins have come against the Sharks, Knights and Raiders – in other words, the three bottom teams. Their losses have been to the Panthers, Broncos, Rabbitohs and Titans. They have Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods backing up from Origin for this game. For believers in superstition and symmetry, they are due to win, on form they look next to no chance.
Prediction – Sea Eagles by 16 @ $1.24 with IASbet.
5:30pm, Saturday, July 12 at Mount Smart Stadium
The New Zealand Warriors and Parramatta Eels clash in the land of the long white cloud after both sides had last week off to freshen up. The seventh-placed Warriors look to cement their top eight position while the Eels, who sit in ninth, are knocking on the door for playoff contention.
The Warriors have a real air of momentum about them and have won four of their last five matches, including a solid 30-20 win over the Panthers a fortnight ago. If there is a genuine premiership dark horse, it could be them and they are worth speculating on in title betting markets at $15 with Sportingbet. I expect them to steam roll the Eels in this match.
The Eels biggest downfall in 2014 has been their consistency, or lack thereof. They have lost their last two matches, including a 16-10 defeat at the hands of the Knights last time out. They are hard to have in a game like this based on that sort of effort.
Prediction – Warriors by 16 @ $1.25 with all Sportsbet.
7:30pm, Saturday, July 12 at AAMI Park
A resurgent Melbourne Storm return to full strength just in time for their 2012 grand final replay with the Canterbury Bulldogs on Saturday night. The Bulldogs hammered the Storm 40-12 back in Round Four, but Melbourne will not be keen to see a repeat of that result.
The Storm have snuck back into the top eight after winning two of their last three matches. They were upset by the Dragons in Wollongong last time out but will be buoyed by the return of star playmaker Cooper Cronk from a broken arm for this game. The biggest worry for the Stormis having four players backing up from Wednesday night’s Origin match, but expect a bold showing from the men in purple.
A heavily-depleted Bulldogs side were exceptional in their 23-16 win over the Sea Eagles last week. With their all-conquering halves pairing of Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson returning this week, along with try-scoring machine Brett Morris, they will be a force to be reckoned with. They look good enough to make it three wins in a row here at very alluring odds.
Prediction – Bulldogs by 7 @ $2.65 with Sportsbet.
2:00pm, Sunday, July 13 at Cbus Super Stadium
The Gold Coast Titans snapped a losing streak in style last Monday night and get the opportunity to continue winning on Sunday afternoon when they host the struggling Canberra Raiders.
The Titans caused the upset of the round last Monday evening when they knocked off the South Sydney Rabbitohs 14-10 in a stunning come-from-behind effort. They will see this as their opportunity to get their season back on track after it started with a bang and has gone sour ever since. If they replicate Monday night’s showing, they should bolt in.
Ricky Stuart must be having nightmares after rivals, the Sharks, have started to hit form. His Canberra Raiders are now dangerously close to last place which could see him become the first coach in history to win consecutive wooden spoons at different clubs. The Raiders had last week off and went down by a point the week before against the Tigers in a game they had plenty of chances to win. They need to be better than that if they want to win this one.
Prediction – Titans by 8 @ $1.66 with Centrebet (better than $1.60 with IASbet).
3:00pm, Sunday, July 13 at Remondis Stadium
The Cronulla Sharks sit in 16th place but have been the most exciting team in the NRL in the last two weeks. The boys from The Shire have erased two consecutive 20-point deficits to win in efforts that make Houdini look like a rank amateur.
The Sharks will have their State of Origin stars back this week but can ill afford to start as slowly again this week. They have given the impression that they have been underachieving for most of the year, so this sort of game is definitely winnable if they can continue to show the fighting spirit that they have in the second half of their last two encounters.
The saga of the Newcastle Knights took another twist this week when super coach Wayne Bennett announced that he will not be at the club next year. That was topped off by another one of Darius Boyd’s trademark Marcel Marceau-like interviews. Form-wise, the Knights are not actually travelling too badly with consecutive wins to their name. They come off a bye last week and should be ready to fire.
Prediction – Knights by 10 @ $1.80 with Sportingbet (better than $1.73 with Sportsbet)
7:00pm, Monday, July 14 at Sportingbet Stadium
An encapsulating affair caps a solid Round 18 of rugby league when the top-of-the-table Panthers take on the sixth placed Broncos at the foot of the mountains in Penrith.
The Panthers continue to be discarded by punters and experts alike as they fly under the radar in first place. They have some great combinations forming and loom largely as the real deal. They outclassed the Tigers last week in a convincing 26-10 victory and will be very hard to topple on a cool evening in Sydney’s west on Monday night. They appear pretty good value at $1.66.
The Broncos will finally have some stability in their camp now that the State of Origin series has drawn to a close. They come into this match after a bye with two losses and a bye prior to that. Given their last start capitulation at the hands of Cronulla, they are going to need to find a fair bit extra if they expect to win this.
Prediction – Panthers by 12 @ $1.66 with Centrebet (better than $1.60 with IASbet).
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