While some games could mirror the margins we saw last week, there is plenty more to be optimistic about as we approach round five of the 2021 NRL Premiership.
Penrith taking on the Raiders at the foot of the mountains will be an absolute belter, and it could be another case of the Panthers being pushed to their absolute limits like they were against the Storm.
What about the Dragons at $3.75 with some NRL bookmakers? Regardless of who they’ve beaten or how injury situations have helped them, three wins are exactly that and make them terrific value against the Eels. It’s an early call, but we might see if the Dragons are for real.
And think about this: if Chad Townsend hadn’t kicked one from four against the Raiders, Cronulla would be third on the ladder. The hoodoo against top-eight sides in the past two seasons is real, but they are closer than most people think to cracking through and being a real thorn in a lot of teams’ sides.
Let’s take a look at how the rest of round five lines up.
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Brisbane Broncos vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Brisbane Broncos have shown tremendous effort at different stages under Kevin Walters in 2021, but coming up against their legendary mentor Wayne Bennett, who has arguably the hottest attack in the NRL, is a frightening proposition.
The +21.5 line for the second week in a row is the best illustration of what the Broncos will face. In their last two trips to Stadium Australia to face the South Sydney Rabbitohs, they’ve conceded 33 points on average, and when you look at the ease in which the Rabbitohs’ left edge scores, there is no reason the Bunnies won’t win big.
NZ Warriors vs Manly Sea Eagles
Only once in their decorated history have the Manly Sea Eagles started a season worse. Normally, ‘panic stations’ is a term used for teams who harbour plans to make finals and start slow, but they’re so far beyond being a realistic finals hope that they simply need a win to get the monkey off the back.
The New Zealand Warriors have proven since the start of 2020 that they are quite fond of playing at the Central Coast. Manly don’t have the cattle or confidence to tip with any certainty, which leaves us believing in the Warriors – and that is fraught with danger.
Penrith Panthers vs Canberra Raiders
These two sides had the biggest rivalry in the NSWRL around 30 years ago, and there is every reason to believe this could be the decider come October. The Penrith Panthers are defending at historically absurd levels, while the Raiders, when they have an interchange bench, are lucky to have more than 12 put past them.
Both clubs appear to be in the defensive sweet spot to mount a challenge for the title, but the Canberra Raiders have a little more to prove regarding their title aspirations. Can their unusual style upset the Panthers, or will the likes of Kikau and To’o run amok down the left once more?
Gold Coast Titans vs Newcastle Knights
The Gold Coast Titans have a great record at Cbus Super Stadium against the Knights in recent season, and with Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien admitting that simply fielding a team this week will be a challenge, the Queenslanders have absolutely no excuse not to win. They scored 38 and 36 in their past two wins against the Knights, with both involving some absolute Harlem Globetrotter-esque stuff.
If the game isn’t relocated to NSW and goes ahead up on the Gold Coast as originally scheduled, we could see the home side run up another big score. That would leave the injury-riddled Newcastle Knights in a precarious state when just three weeks ago they looked primed for a winning run.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Melbourne Storm
Surely the Canterbury Bulldogs can’t go a fourth week of not scoring a single point? Logic would suggest they shouldn’t, but against a Storm side who are notorious for their incredible defence year to year, the scoreless win is on the cards. At $4 with Sportsbet, why not back the Storm to win to nil and make your Saturday dinner taste all the more delicious?
Believe it or not, the Bulldogs are the only club that the Melbourne Storm don’t have the wood on historically. At 21 wins, 21 losses and two draws, it appears a fait accompli the Victorian side will finally conquer this demon.
Sydney Roosters vs Cronulla Sharks
The Cronulla Sharks have been terrific to start their 2021 campaign, but the hoodoo of not beating a top-eight side since 2019 hangs heavier on them by the week. It’s quite possibly the one thing holding the club back from extending the contract of head coach John Morris.
The Sydney Roosters, despite their reputation of being a glamour club, showed a bucket load of desire and toughness in their win over the Warriors. They had to get exemptions from the NRL to name 21 players, yet they were non-fussed in a 20-point win with an 18-year-old halfback steering the side. Brett Morris has nine tries in four games this year and has scored more times on Cronulla in his career than against any other club, so get him in your multis.
West Tigers vs North Queensland Cowboys
If the Wests Tigers are to mount any type of run at the top eight in 2021, they cannot squander chances like this. They should be putting a cricket score on the Cowboys in their current state, but with the line at just 9.5, there isn’t a lot of faith from the punters but that could the longer the week goes.
Since 2017, the North Queensland Cowboys have won only four games on the road in Sydney during the regular season. Missing $2 million of their salary cap hurts them tremendously, but finding a reason they’ll win this game is akin to searching for the Loch Ness monster.
Parramatta Eels vs St George Illawarra Dragons
The Parramatta Eels have only won five games in a row to start a season twice in their 74-year history, and it just so happened to be in years where they won premierships. The Eels have the longest current title drought in the competition, so if you’re a Blue and Gold fan, cling to this stat and cheer them home as if your life depended on it this Sunday evening.
Despite missing the likes of Ben Hunt and Jack Bird, the St George Illawarra Dragons could prove to be nuisance value once again as they push for their fourth win on the bounce. If they can hand Parramatta their first defeat of the year, do they all of a sudden become a legitimate finals contender?
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