Wed, Aug 21, 7:23am by Rob Sheeley
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With just three rounds remaining in the regular season the battle for playoffs positions is on in earnest, with six teams all vying for the final two spots. Just three competition points separate seventh and thirteenth on the ladder, and not only wins and draws are crucial, but points differentials are also set to prove vital.
In terms of premiership betting we have three equal favourites in the Roosters, Storm and Rabbitohs who are all at $3.75. It is hard to envisage this years competition winner coming from outside those three or the Sea Eagles given the current form of that quartet. If someone else is to emerge as a serious contender, now is the time to put their case forward.
With the Sharks pulling of a great escape against the Dragons which has almost assured them a top eight finish, it is really just seventh and eighth positions that remain up for grabs. They are currently occupied by the Knights (25 points) and Titans (24 points) but there is a bevy of rivals ready to challenge for the positions.
The Raiders (24 points) and Broncos (23 points) look to be the main teams in contention if they can win at least two of their last three games. But the Cowboys, Panthers and Warriors (all on 22 points) are also chances should they keep winning for the last three rounds.
When it comes to multi’s, my suggested anchors for this week would be the Storm, Rabbitohs, Roosters and Sea Eagles.
Let’s take a closer look at Round 24 with full previews of four crucial matches to be previewed right here in the coming days. Those matches are the big games between the Rabbitohs and Bulldogs, Cowboys and Knights, Raiders and Sea Eagles, and the Sharks versus Roosters. Previews will include all head to head, margin and line betting markets, along with free tips and in-depth analysis.
7:35, Friday 23rd August at Centrebet Stadium
The Panthers cling to a slim hope of making the playoffs due to a successful trip across the Tasman last weekend. For round 24 they take on a Broncos side who are still a very real top eight chance, and who have everything to play for.
Penrith defied the odds last week when they managed to overcome the Warriors in New Zealand in a thrilling 28-24 win. It was a win that Penrith not only desperately needed, but form that must leave coach Ivan Cleary wondering where it has been for the last five weeks. The twelfth placed Panthers aren’t given much hope by punters, who need to win their next three in a row. They are $34 to make the top eight and a massive $251 to win the premiership.
The Broncos got the job done last week against Parramatta with a 22-12 win, albeit a little uninspiring. If the Brisbane outfit can exhibit consistency over the next three weeks (something that has eluded them for most of 2013) they are a real top eight proposition. They currently sit in tenth just one win out of the top eight, with a reasonable points differential of -24. Punters have far from written them off and they are $3.00 to make the top eight with IASbet. As far as premiership betting goes, the Brisbane side is $67.
Prediction – Penrith by 6.
7:35, Friday 23rd August at ANZ Stadium
This could be the match of the round. The Rabbitohs rediscovered their rugby league mojo last week while the understrength Bulldogs managed to penetrate fortress Canberra. With the Bulldogs still having a crack at a top four position, they have it all to play for here. It will also give us a gauge of where they sit in terms of premiership credentials.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs overcame a tenacious Manly Sea Eagles to win 22-10 in an often bruising affair. It was a big win for the Rabbitohs who had struggled in the month preceding that game. They look a much stronger outfit courtesy of the return from injury of stars Greg Inglis and John Sutton. The win has seen punters back the South Sydney team right back in to $3.75 equal premiership favourites.
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The Bulldogs kept their top four hopes alive last weekend when they travelled to Canberra and upset the Raiders 28-16 despite missing a handful of players through injury. With the Sea Eagles losing, the Bulldogs are now just three competition points off the top four and will still harbor hopes of getting there, albeit slim ones. The Bulldogs remain steady at $12 in premiership betting.
Prediction – Rabbitohs by 12.
3:00pm, Saturday 24th August at Sydney Cricket Ground
Rugby league turns back the clock this weekend when the Dragons and Tigers return to the hallowed turf of the SCG. The match will be a modern day re-enactment of the classic Saturday afternoon “match of the day” type scenario. It is to honour the fifty year anniversary of the 1963 grand final between the two clubs, the match which produced the immortal “gladiators” image by John O’Grady now on the premiership trophy. Unfortunately, in 2013, these two teams are much closer to mediocrity than immortality.
The Dragons led the Sharks for all bar the last few seconds of the match last weekend and were probably unlucky to lose. When you look at that, coupled with the fact that they have recently beaten South Sydney, then their form isn’t hopeless despite sitting in fourteenth. They meet a side that they would expect to beat here. Last time they met, the Dragons managed to sneak home by a solitary point.
The Tigers season of discontent continued last Monday night when they were hammered 56-14 by the Sydney Roosters. What is scary about that result is the fact that they were still in the match at half time when they trailed by just six points; it could have been even worse. The Tigers will be desperate to restore some pride this weekend.
Prediction – Dragons by 7.
5:30pm, Saturday 24th August at Skilled Park
This looms as a battle between two teams scrambling for eighth place on the ladder. The Titans sit on twenty four competition points in eighth place and will more than likely need to win two of their last three matches to make it into the playoffs. The scenario for the Warriors is simple, win or their slim playoff chances are over.
The Titans made their post season hopes just that little more difficult last week when they were defeated 22-10 by an in form Cowboys in Townsville. They remain in eighth place but face a very tough run home with their last two matches being against the Roosters and Storm. It is for that reason that punters have gone cold on the Titans who are a cool $9.00 just to make the top eight, and a massive $251 to win the competition.
The Warriors playoff hopes suffered a major blow last week when they lost their home game to the Panthers 28-24 despite starting the match well. They still sit in thirteenth place but a win could springboard them up to the fringe of the playoff zone. The Warriors have a reasonable run into the post season with a home game against the Raiders followed by an away match against the Dragons. Punters still think they are some sort of chance of making it and are currently $3.25 to make the top eight. They are $67 to win the premiership.
Prediction – Titans by 8.
7:30pm, Saturday 24th August at 1300 SMILES Stadium
The Cowboys will look to continue their rich vein of form in front of a large, parochial Townsville crowd this Saturday night as they garner momentum for a last ditch charge towards the playoffs. They come up against the Knights who will be looking to get that one last win that will secure their place in the top eight too.
The Cowboys were too good for the Titans last week and really look to be playing better than they have all season. If they can maintain their form they have the luxury of a good points differential which could mean the difference between making the top eight and missing out. Punters have supported the Cowboys top eight chances with some confidence and they are currently $3.00. They are $67 to win the premiership which, should they make the playoffs, they could be a real dark horse. It may be worth waiting to see if they make it before investing though as there will still be reasonable odds available if they do.
The Knights were unable to cope with the power of the Melbourne Storm last week as they went down 23-10 in a spiteful encounter. The Newcastle team will need at least one more win to be a playoffs participant but they do have a reasonable run home, including a match against the last placed Eels in Round 26. They are at the very short quote of $1.25 to make the top eight and $41 to win the premiership.
Prediction – Cowboys by 10.
2:00pm, Sunday 25th August at Canberra Stadium
The Raiders shocked the rugby league community on Tuesday when they sacked their coach David Furner. They cited off field relations with players and dissatisfaction with results as their reasoning behind the shock dismissal. The Raiders now play host to a Manly Sea Eagles outfit hungry for a win.
The Raiders were defeated by an understrength Bulldogs in Canberra last weekend in a game they were short priced favourites to win. It was a dent to the Raiders playoff aspirations who face a tricky run home. Punters are a little hesitant to back the Raiders who are $4.00 to make the top eight and $101 to win the competition.
The Sea Eagles lost their first match in seven outings last week and coach Geoff Toovey certainly didn’t hold back when it came to his appraisal of the refereeing. Toovey unleashed a first class tirade on the back of his teams 22-10 loss to the Rabbitohs. They may have also lost star back rower Anthony Watmough to injury this week as they look to hang on to a top four spot. The Sea Eagles have drifted to $5.50 in premiership betting on the back of last weeks loss.
Prediction – Sea Eagles by 10.
3:00pm, Sunday 25th August at AAMI Stadium
This game looks to be the mismatch of the weekend. A red hot Storm coming off three wins in a row come up against the hapless Parramatta Eels who have won just one of their last twelve.
The Storm continued their superb late season momentum when they defeated the Knights in Newcastle last weekend by 23-10 in a controversial and at times brutal match. They will expect that run of wins to continue this weekend. Punters have backed the Storm in to equal premiership favourites at $3.75 with IASbet. That looks a good price for a bet now given their reasonable run into the playoffs, they are only likely to shorten from here on in.
The Eels returned to their losing ways last week when they went down to the Broncos by 22-12. But it gets worse for Parramatta fans. Their superstar five eighth Jarryd Hayne was injured in the loss and will sit this weekend out. This match could be a very one sided affair.
Prediction – Storm by 22.
7:00pm, Monday 26th August at Remondis Stadium
The Sharks return home this weekend to take on the Roosters after all but assuring themselves a place in the top eight with a last minute win over the Dragons last week. They meet a rampaging Roosters who ran riot over the Tigers last Monday and who are arguably the form team of the competition.
Last weekend the Sharks pulled off the greatest escape since Steve McQueen famously mounted a motorcycle under the guise of Captain Virgil Hilts. Andrew Fifita’s try in the dying seconds of the match could prove a god send for the Sharks as they look fairly safe in terms of making the top eight now. Punters are still far from convinced that the Sharks are genuine title contenders with the Cronulla team currently $34.
The Roosters remain the form team of the NRL after another clinical win last weekend. Punters love the Roosters and, after seven straight wins, the Roosters are equal premiership favourites at $3.75 with IASbet.com. The Roosters look set to continue their scintillating run in this match. They look enormous value at $1.45.
Prediction – Roosters by 12.
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