The Storm have their fingertips on another minor premiership as they look to make it 19 regular season wins in a row on Thursday against the Titans. Melbourne has also carved out a healthy six-game winning streak over the Gold Coast dating back to 2018, and it is no surprise to find the premiership favourites heavy favourites heading into this round 23 clash. The Storm have come up against stiff opposition in the Raiders and Sea Eagles in recent weeks, however have still got the job done despite being off their best and Craig Bellamy will what them tuned up going into the finals. The Titans, on the other hand, come into this game looking to bounce-back from a humbling loss to the Rabbitohs and will be without Aj Brimson, Moeaki Fotuaika and Toby Sexton. The Storm are simply too good to go against and they should account for the Titans comfortably on Thursday night.
The Sea Eagles will be looking to atone for the 30-16 loss at the hands of the Raiders earlier this year and continue their pursuit of the all important 4th spot. Tommy Turbo has been named for Manly despite an injury scare, while the Raiders will welcome the return of Charnze Nicoll-Klostad off the interchange bench in a boost to their finals chances. The Green Machine played admirably in their 10 point loss to the Storm last weekend and if they can repeat that effort, the line on offer looks too good to ignore.
The main event on Friday night is one of the potential matchups in the first week of the finals with both teams locked up on 38 points. Penrith currently occupies second on for and against, while the bookies also fancy the Panthers despite South Sydney’s growing 10-game winning streak. The Rabbitohs have looked almost unstoppable over the last month, outscoring their last four opponents by an average of more than 30 points. The return of Dane Gagai and Alex Johnston bolsters their already lethal left edge, with Cody Walker on track to break single season try assist and linebreak assist record. Penrith has held five of its last six opponents to under 20 points, so Capewell’s inclusion only serves to strengthen one of the best second rows in the league. As far as betting goes, there is plenty on offer head-to-head, but I’m struggling to pick a winner after envisioning multiple ways the game can go, so with plenty on the line, it could be a more traditional low scoring fixture.
Both teams are fighting for the last 2 spots in the top 8, with the loser of this game out of contention. The Sharks come into the game having lost their last 3 games, yet line up favourites against the wildly inconsistent Tigers. The Tigers, on the other hand, have kept their season alive with two straight wins over the Bulldogs and Cowboys, adding further intrigue to the battle going on at the fringe of the eight. Wests have won only one game over Cronulla in their last five meetings, but this does feel like a more evenly matched contest than the current market suggests and despite these struggles, I’m willing to back them here, albeit with little confidence.
The Knights can almost certainly lock up a finals berth with a fourth consecutive win over wooden spoon favourites Canterbury. Newcastle has surged into seventh with the Kalyn Ponga and Bradman Best back in form, and should have no trouble disposing of the Dogs in similar fashion to their 32-16 win when they met back in March. While there is not much value in the head to head market and I’m loath to back either side at the line, it is interesting to note the sides rank last and second last in points score this season, with 18 and 13 points per fixture, and the total points market looking way off the mark.
The Eels were just awful last week and their plummet down the ladder is worrying, but a match up with the struggling Cowboys is what the doctor ordered if they are too mount a series effort in the finals. The Cowboys also seem to believe the season ends in June having fallen off a cliff in the back third of the season, ruining any chance of finals football and will more than likely be without Jason Taumalolo and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow again this week. The line sets look pretty accurate from the bookmakers, but with both sides struggling to put points on the board over the past month, including the Eels averaging only single figures over their last 4 games, I envision a low scoring game on Saturday night.
Sunday 22nd August 2:00PM, Clive Berghofer Stadium
The Roosters will be hoping for a repeat of their Round 7, ANZAC Day blowout over St George on Sunday following last week’s win over the Broncos. A late penalty goal helped Sydney back inside the top four, but head coach Trent Robinson will be calling for a much more thorough effort this week after his side gave up the lead inside the final 10 minutes. The Dragons have had their finals hopes dashed thanks to a slew of a recent injuries, but they still stand a chance at making the eight if results go their way. While Matt Dufty being named at full back is a positive move, the Dragons have given up more than 150 points across the last three rounds and combined with 6 consecutive losses against the Roosters, I’m looking at this as one of the best bets of the weekend.
I am low key excited for this game as both sides have played entertaining football in recent weeks. Three straight wins has the Warriors very much in finals contention, while the Broncos were luckless in going down by a single point to the Roosters, but Kevin Walters has to be pleased with the way his side has played against two genuine top-eight sides over the last fortnight. Defensively, the Warriors have been very impressive holding their last three opponents to under 20 points, with relative newcomer Josh Curran impressing with his work rate. The Broncos, however, seem to have found a spark on attack, and this game is certainly within their grasp if they can manage to find a share of the footy, unlike last week. As noted, this will be another close game but I’m sticking with the home side to end the Warriors recent inspired run.
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