A four-point divide between the top five clubs in the 2021 NRL Premiership and the rest of the chasing pack is only making the class gap bigger, but the Dragons and Sea Eagles have a chance to pull it back somewhat when they take on the Sharks and Parramatta in their respective rivalry games in round 11.
The opening games of the week have big implications for the finals race, with the Knights, Cowboys, Warriors and Tigers all facing off in games that will inflate the hopes of the winners and be soul-crushing for the losers.
How does the competition as a whole look in the second week of the crackdown on high contact? Magic Round showed how unpredictable games can become at different stages from even the most accidental contact with the head.
NRL Round 11 matches & odds
Cowboys vs Knights
The North Queensland Cowboys showed plenty of spirit in their 30-16 loss against the Roosters and will rightly start as the $1.55 favourite when they return to Queensland Country Bank Stadium for Thursday Night Football. Their defence was pulled apart by one of the best attacking teams in the competition last week, but the Newcastle Knights without Kalyn Ponga can be extremely predictable. The Knights’ recent record in Queensland is abhorrent, and their performance against the Wests Tigers in a must-win game was nothing short of insipid. The current $2.45 price for Newcastle will no doubt drift the closer the game gets to kick off.
Warriors vs Tigers
If the Wests Tigers can produce the same consistency and ruthlessness they produced in Magic Round, they’d be the bet of the round at $2.60 with Sportsbet. But as we’ve come to know about the Tigers, they’re just as likely to give up 36 points and make the New Zealand Warriors look like the Harlem Globetrotters. The Warriors are the $1.50 favourite, and that is likely influenced by their strong record at Central Coast Stadium. This has the feel of a game where there will be plenty of drama, and both fan bases will be absolutely petrified of the consequences should they miss out on two extremely valuable competition points.
Sharks vs Dragons
If this were any other season where the Bulldogs weren’t absolutely terrible, the Cronulla Sharks would be a huge chance to collect the wooden spoon. The administration gave up on the season when they sacked John Morris, and it feels as though the players have taken the soft option. Nevertheless, the Sharks will starts as favourites against a St George Illawarra side missing Tyrell Fuimaono, Josh McGuire, Mikaele Ravalawa and Tariq Sims all to suspension. If Cronulla can’t get up for this one, put a line through them for the rest of the year.
Titans vs Bulldogs
The price for the Bulldogs last week painted a bleak picture, but seeing the Titans at $1.20 with top online bookies in this game should have alarm bells ringing for Canterbury players and powerbrokers. This is the same Titans who have conceded scores of 36, 40, 36, 28 and 48 in their past five games, yet no one is giving the Bulldogs a hope of beating one of the competition’s real enigmas. The Doggies did manage to get to a 12-8 lead against Canberra before crashing and burning in spectacular fashion, and losing a game like that for a team already low on confidence could see them get smoked at Cbus Super Stadium. Canterbury are averaging just 11 points per game under Trent Barrett, which is worrying for a coach whose modus operandi was to fix the attack.
Roosters vs Broncos
The $5.50 for the Brisbane Broncos is going to blow out considerably as the week goes on. They’ve struggled away from home for some time, and they’ll get a Sydney Roosters side back at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It’s a recipe for a disastrous day at the office. The $1.15 for the Roosters might be the best head-to-head price you’ll get for them this week, as they could drop below $1.10 by kickoff. Brisbane were blown away in the second half last start and conceded the dreaded 50 points, while the Roosters once again looked terrific in attack against the Cowboys. Unfortunately for fans north of the border, it’s shaping up as a long night for the Broncos.
Raiders vs Storm
Was being forced to win a game when reduced to 12 men the circuit breaker the Raiders needed to start their climb up the ladder? A clash at GIO Stadium against the Melbourne Storm is about as far away from a grinding affair against Canterbury as you’ll get, but will some punters be brave enough to take on the $4.50 price? The Storm are a short $1.20 to get the win and have won 15 of their last 20 regular-season games away from AAMI Park. The only losses have come against fellow competition heavyweights, with the exception of a random defeat to the Dragons in round 20 last year when Melbourne were resting players for the finals series. Canberra are going to have to make an enormous jump to get the chocolates in this one.
Rabbitohs vs Panthers
This contest at Apex Oval in Dubbo has the potential to be a barn burner. Souths may have disappointed in their last game against a premiership contender, but they’ll no doubt be right up for this one. As a $3.10 outsider, they offer a little bit of value at the +8.5 line and can put up the best challenge Penrith have had in almost two months. Panthers captain Isaah Yeo returning to his home town as the skipper of an NRL side in a genuine blockbuster is going to be one of the stories of the week, and if they can secure an 11th win to start the season, the talk will continue to grow about their chances of going undefeated.
Eels vs Sea Eagles
Here we go again! Manly and Parra! This contest is going to cap off what will no doubt be one of the best Sunday afternoons of the regular season. Too often in recent years, the only way for this classic rivalry from yesteryear to garner any attention was in reference to some classic beer commercials, but in the blink of an eye that has quickly changed. Parramatta are looking for their 10th win of the season, and Manly are one of the stories of the competition as they continue their incredible resurgence. The $1.50 price for the Eels at Bankwest Stadium is longer than usual, but with Tom Trbojevic in the form he is currently, he could single-handedly beat about 10 teams in the NRL and no one would blink an eye. The Sea Eagles offer great upset potential at the $2.60 mark, and the fluctuations in the market for this game will be interesting to see.
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