The effects of a brutal round three in the 2021 NRL season will be felt for months to come. The Roosters’ premiership hopes were ruined with Luke Keary suffering an ACL tear, while the Sharks and Raiders played more than 40 minutes with no interchange players.
While there were more injuries than most of us have had hot dinners, two games had some of the most unbelievable finishes in recent memory. At the other end of the spectrum, the Bulldogs and Broncos put on a contest we’d rather forget.
If the final weekend in March was anything to go by, the premiership race becomes a day-to-day cliffhanger.
Panthers 1210 Storm
Both teams were missing star players, but that didn’t stop this match from living up to high expectations. The hand of Penrith Panthers forward Viliame Kikau ultimately decided the outcome after it looked as though Justin Olam was going to cross for a game-winning try on the final play of the game. The pace and brutality of the first 60 minutes made for complete chaos at the back end, and you’ll have to watch a lot of footy this year to see a better game.
Surprisingly, the NRL betting markets didn’t swing hard to the Storm once Nathan Cleary was ruled out, suggesting the punters believe in the depth of the squad and the ability of Matt Burton, which will be important come Origin time. Unfortunately, with Ryan Papenhuyzen out and the Panthers securing a win at the death, we had a bit of a nightmare finding some winners in this game.
Dragons 3812 Sea Eagles
Remember in the pre-season when we told you Zac Lomax was a good outsider to be the NRL 2021 top pointscorer at $12? He is well and truly in the race after a 20-point outing against the Sea Eagles in Wollongong, taking his tally to 40 points in three games.
Manly produced another horror defensive display and have now conceded the most points across the first three games of a season since 1998. Des Hasler keeps saying they’ll dig their way out, but it’s impossible to see how they do that in the short term. The St George Illawarra Dragons are limited, but you’ll win plenty of cash if you keep backing Lomax, Cody Ramsey and Matt Dufty for the tryscorer legs in your NRL multis, as all three got across the stripe in this game.
Rabbitohs 2616 Roosters
The South Sydney Rabbitohs showed after a patchy opening fortnight that their premiership hopes are absolutely for real. In the first 50 minutes they destroyed the Chooks, who showed that missing their key players matters only against the best teams. How this ended as a 1-12 result we will never know, and Josh Morris scoring on full-time would have swung a huge chunk of money.
Injury reared its ugly head and effectively ruined the Roosters’ title aspirations, with Luke Keary being ruled out for the season with an ACL tear. Until we see how they react in the coming month, they are going to be very hard to tip. We liked Dane Gagai to cross the stripe and he did so, but not many predicted just how poor the Roosters would be and it left a bit to be desired on our tip sheet.
Raiders 3134 Warriors
This is one we can feel good about! Luck played a factor with an obvious forward pass leading to a New Zealand Warriors try which proved the difference, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we loved the underdogs to cause havoc in this one. At 31-10 we felt not so great, but a stunning resurgence against a Raiders team with no substitutes saved our bacon. Canberra performed bravely and almost stole the game back on the final play, only for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to impersonate Viliame Kikau and save the game with his right hand.
Jack Wighton and Elliott Whitehead both got across the line as we predicted, but much like the Roosters scoring in garbage time, the Warriors’ historic comeback would have seen money swing dramatically. Canberra shouldn’t lose too many players for more than a week, with several failing HIA rather than sustaining soft tissue injuries. Continue to back the Raiders in the coming weeks.
Broncos 240 Bulldogs
The less said about this game, the better. You understand the Bulldogs not scoring a point against Penrith, but to not look like troubling the scorers against a Brisbane Broncos team who have routinely thrown in the towel and made defence look like a chore, they should be ashamed of their performance. Many experts thought they’d be competitive and turn it around this year, but it looks as though we’ve failed to see just how big of a hole they are in and the enormity of the job Trent Barrett has in front of him. Xavier Coates continues to make us money, and in the short term everyone might be better off if they just bet against Canterbury.
Eels 284 Sharks
In stark contrast to the previous game, this contest was a belter. It was played at three times the pace and five times the skill level, and had Cronulla not been reduced to 13 players for the second half, they may have finally ended their losing streak against top-eight sides. The Parramatta Eels were without Mitchell Moses for the second half also and it showed big time, with their red-zone attack struggling for long periods after the break.
It was only when Cronulla were completely out of gas that Parramatta ran away with it, and despite the scoreline, most people probably walked away feeling better about the Sharks’ performance. The late surge in points did give us our 13+ margin prediction, but sadly Maika Sivo could only cross once, leaving us short on our same-game multi tip.
Knights 2024 Tigers
Everyone’s tips are ruined as a result of the Wests Tigers sneaking home in Newcastle, which makes it four wins in their last five games in the Hunter. It seemed fait accompli with a big crowd for Mitchell Pearce’s 300th game, but quite often in the last decade the Knights have shown a propensity to fall short when expectation is put on them to take care of business.
The only thing we got right from this game was our prediction that the Tigers would need at least 24 points to be a chance to win, and they scored exactly that amount. Until Newcastle get some troops to return to their backline, they will struggle to score points and could be in some strife all of a sudden.
Cowboys 844 Titans
This one went exactly as we thought result-wise, but we gave the Cowboys too much credit. They were absolutely lapped and are genuinely looking at winning the wooden spoon. With no Jason Taumalolo they might not win a game, and out of the blue they could see Michael Morgan retire. The signs are not good.
The Gold Coast Titans moved into the top four for the first time since round four of 2016, but they need to continue to show more if they want to remain there. It’s going to be hard to judge if their high scoring is for real, but they will face a stiff test next week against Canberra.
Valentine Holmes failing to score meant we missed out on an $11 same-game multi. Had he not shifted to the wing, he would have been there to finish off the try Murray Taulagi scored in the 57th minute.
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