Wed, Apr 16, 12:22pm by Rob Sheeley
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JUST four competition points separate second and 15th place on the NRL ladder after six rounds of the 2014 competition.
The two exceptions are the Gold Coast Titans, who just keep on winning (yes that is not a typo) and the Cronulla Sharks who, well, just keep on not winning.
High-drama closed out round six with the Melbourne Storm defeating the St George Illawarra Dragons with some conjecture over the timing of the last play-the-ball in relation to the final siren. This prompted www.sportsbet.com.au to refund all head-to-head bets on the match as a gesture of good will in its “Justice Refund” promotion.
The Titans made it five-from-six on the weekend when they came from the clouds to sink the Brisbane Broncos 12-8 after not scoring a point for the first hour of the match. The Titans are still an astounding $21 to win the premiership despite their stellar start to the year.
The Cronulla Sharks on the other hand went down 24-4 to the Manly Sea-Eagles in another disappointing display. They could be staring down the barrel of the wooden-spoon if they cannot find some sort of combination soon.
If the ladder continues to take shape in the current way, there could be some early value for premiership investors.
The Roosters are $5.00 favourites despite their loss to the Eels last week. They have drifted slightly from their $4.50 quote in round six. The Rabbitohs are on the second-line at $6.00 after their win over the Panthers. The Sea-Eagles have been well-backed into $6.50 after their impressive display against the Sharks. The Storm round out the top-four in betting at $7.50 with four wins from their six matches, leaving them in sixth on the table.
The Sea-Eagles are the only side currently in the top-four who are also in the top four of betting. The top three sides are all in double figures with the Titans (1st) $21, the Bulldogs (2nd) $11 and the Tigers (3rd) $21. So there is value there if you think they can go all the way in 2014.
The Easter weekend will see three games played on Friday, two on Saturday, just one on Sunday and two more on Monday.
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Let’s take a look at Round 7;
4:00pm, Friday, April 18 at ANZ Stadium
There can be no better way to kick off Easter weekend then with the Bunnies hosting the Bulldogs at home.
The Rabbitohs will start favourites on the back of their consecutive wins against the Dragons and Panthers. Last week it was an 18-2 effort against the Panthers, while they defeated the Dragons 26-6. The positive sign there is their defensive effort, which has seen them score 44 points and only concede eight in those two matches. That could be the difference here.
The Bulldogs escaped against the Warriors last week, winning 21-20 in a solid, come-from-behind performance. A week earlier they pulled off a similar result with a 9-8 win over the Roosters. They are hard to ignore if this game becomes a close contest, the main concern being whether or not they can stay in touch with the Rabbitohs.
Prediction – Rabbitohs by 10 @ $1.80 with all bookmakers
7:40pm, Friday April 18 at Hunter Stadium
The Newcastle Knights return to Hunter Stadium this week after a successful venture to Canberra. They take on a Broncos team who have lost two in a row and look desperate for a win after a good start to the season.
The Knights made it a one-act affair in the nation’s capital last weekend when they dominated the Raiders in a 26-12 victory. They looked good with the return of their star play-maker Jarrod Mullin having an immediate impact. They will take some beating again this weekend if they can replicate that showing.
The Broncos are now staring down the barrel of a third straight defeat after they let an eight-point lead slip away from them in the final 20 minutes of their match with the Titans last week. They eventually lost the match 12-8 and look somewhat out of sorts as they struggle to regain the form they showed early in the season.
Prediction – Knights by 8 @ $1.66 with Sportingbet.com.au
7:40pm, Friday April 18 at Bluetongue Stadium
The Manly Sea Eagles take their home game to the Central Coast this weekend where they welcome the North Queensland Cowboys.
The Sea Eagles atoned for a dismal showing a fortnight ago by hammering the Sharks last Sunday while the Cowboys were abhorrent against the Tigers in Campbelltown.
Manly made light work of a struggling Sharks with a 24-4 flogging at Brookvale Oval last Sunday. The Sea Eagles were always in control of the match and looked a different team to the one who lost to the Tigers a week earlier. On form, they look a good bet in this match.
The Cowboys were nothing short of woeful against the Tigers in their 16-4 loss on Saturday night. The amazing thing being that they were still right in the match until the dying minutes. Expect a marked improvement this week and possibly an upset.
Prediction – Cowboys by 10 @ $3.05 with IASbet.com
5:30pm, Saturday, April 19 at WIN Jubilee Oval
The St George Illawarra Dragons will be smarting from their controversial loss against the Storm in a game that they should never have let get away from them. This week they are back to Kogarah where they take on the Warriors, a team who they have already beaten back in round two of this season.
The Dragons had the game against the Storm all but wrapped up last Monday when they led by 14 points deep into the second half. Somehow, they put themselves in a position to lose the match and the Storm obliged, snatching a 28-24 win after the final siren. The Dragons will be out to avenge that loss this week in front of their home fans. The Dragons look good value at $1.61.
The Warriors looked as though they were going to pull off a win for their new caretaker coach Andrew McFadden last week when they led the Bulldogs by eight with just 22 minutes remaining. But it was not to be as they went down by a point after a 78th minute Trent Hodkinson field goal sealed their fate. They went down 31-12 to the Dragons in Round Two and will need to improve to reverse that result here.
Prediction – Dragons by 12 @ $1.62 with Centrebet.com and Sportingbet.
7:30pm, Saturday, April 19 at Remondis Stadium
A horribly out-of-form Cronulla Sharks are at home to the reigning premiers, the Sydney Roosters, this week. The Sharks sit in last place and have won just one match from six so far in 2014. It doesn’t look any easier in this one and the Roosters loom as the best bet of the week at $1.48 with Sportsbet.com.au and IASbet.com
The Sharks were handed their fifth defeat of the season last week when the Sea-Eagles dominated them in a 24-4 drubbing. They look to be lacking in both combination and in confidence as they look for their second win of the season. This game is not going to be an easy one for them to turn their form around in.
The Roosters lost their second close match in a row last week when they could not get the job done against the Eels, going down 14-12. The worrying sign in that match was the almost panic-stricken style the Roosters played with when they got behind. They will look to win this match from in front and stick to their usually methodical and defence-orientated game plan. They should be too good here and are well worth a bet.
Prediction – Roosters by 14 @ $1.48 with Sportsbet.com.au and IASbet.com
3:00pm, Sunday, April 20 at GIO Stadium
The Canberra Raiders have proven themselves almost unbeatable in Canberra in recent years, but all that seems to have come crashing down in 2014 with the green-machine already dropping both matches they have played there. They will look to re-establish the “fortress” reputation that they had built over many years, starting this weekend against the Melbourne Storm.
The Raiders were out-played by the Newcastle Knights last week in a game that they were expected to win and win well. The task does not get any easier for them this week when they face the Storm, who have won four-form-six this season and are coming off a courageous victory against the Dragons last Monday night.
The Storm came from 14 points down to defeat the Dragons 28-24 right on the final siren and will be brimming with confidence after that Houdini-esque victory. It may not have been a pretty win, but it is the win that could give the ultra-consistent Melbourne team some momentum to go on with. It’s very hard to see anything other than a Storm victory in this game.
Prediction – Storm by 10 @ $1.66 with Centrebet.com and Sportingbet.com.au
4:00pm, Monday, April 21 at ANZ Stadium
Who would have thought six weeks ago that this match would be the match of the round at anytime this season?
Two teams who once look destined for the bottom few places on the table have certainly grabbed the attention of many, courtesy of their early season form. The Eels, who sit in fifth place on the ladder, will play host to the third-placed Tigers in a game that should provide a great spectacle, given both teams’ open styles of play.
The Eels made it three-in-a-row last weekend with a huge upset 14-12 win over the Roosters. The Parramatta side had to dig deep in that match with the Roosters having a myriad of chances late in the game to overrun them. They are a much more refreshing looking side in 2014 to the one who took out the wooden-spoon last season. No player has impressed more than their block-busting winger Semi Radradra, who is always worth considering a bet on in all try-scoring markets.
The Tigers have been a revelation so far this year. Their blend of youth and experience looks to be gelling well with the only issue this week being the absence of Robbie Farah via injury. If they can overcome that, then they are every chance.
Prediction – Eels by 8 @ $1.45 with all bookmakers.
7:00pm AEDT, Monday, April 21 at Spotingbet Stadium
The competition-leading Gold Coast Titans make the trek to the foot of the mountains in Penrith to tackle the Panthers in, what should be, a great game to close out the Easter weekend. The Titans have been the biggest surprise package of the season-to-date while the Panthers have also looked an improved team. This looks the toughest match of the weekend to pick on paper.
The Panthers struggled against a strong Rabbitohs defensive unit last week, going down 18-2. The form of Penrith has been good in patches, but has lacked consistency so far in 2014. This is the sort of game that will provide a real test.
The Titans have, on the other hand, oozed consistency and keep finding a way to win. They have a forward pack that can match it with almost any in the competition and are playing with plenty of confidence. They look good value to cause an upset in this match.
Prediction – Titans by 4 @ $2.25 with www.sportsbet.com.au
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