The 2021 NRL Premiership is already a quarter of the way through, and the last fortnight has seen some clubs turn their season while others have hit a crossroads.
Cronulla sacked a coach and had a heartbreaking loss against Newcastle, but they get the advantage of taking on the lowly ranked Bulldogs as they looks for their first win under caretaker coach Josh Hannay.
Canberra have endured a rough fortnight and face a difficult road trip to Townsville to take on the North Queensland Cowboys, who are all of a sudden shooting for three wins in a row. Is this the type of game where getting away for a few days can help the Raiders fix a few issues, or do they leave the Far North in an even bigger hole?
The NRL will commemorate ANZAC Day with an enormous triple header, headlined by the traditional Roosters vs Dragons clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday afternoon.
For all of that and more, let’s look at every clash for the week ahead.
Penrith Panthers vs Newcastle Knights
The Penrith Panthers are gunning for a 22nd consecutive regular-season win as they take on the Newcastle Knights at BlueBet Stadium on Thursday evening. The bad news for the Knights is the away team has lost the last 11 games at Penrith, and Hymel Hunt joins the ever-growing Newcastle injury after tearing his hamstring against Cronulla in the opening minutes. It’s almost unthinkable that a team with Kalyn Ponga at fullback, coming off an incredible performance, is $6.50 in the head-to-head market, but that is the respect being given to Penrith even after a game in Brisbane which was a mile closer than it should have been.
Gold Coast Titans vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
This game all depends on which version of the Gold Coast Titans decides to show up at Friday 6pm at Cbus Super Stadium. If they get the version that last played at home and not the team that dished up a horror show against the Sea Eagles, then the South Sydney Rabbitohs are going to have their hands full. The Titans have proven with a small sample size that they’re a buzzsaw at home and struggle on the road, which plays into the $2.90 price they’re being given by online bookmakers. The Rabbitohs have a terrific record on the Gold Coast, where they have not lost since 2009, and it is more than enough to give them $1.42 favouritism despite a patchy performance against the Wests Tigers.
Parramatta Eels vs Brisbane Broncos
TIO Stadium in Darwin will host a Parramatta Eels home game when they take on the Brisbane Broncos in the main event on Friday Night Football. Brisbane were shockingly good against Penrith last week and almost caused one of the biggest upsets in NRL history, but how do they rebound and put up that same effort against a top-four contender in the Eels? Parramatta were outstanding against Canberra and proved why they should be counted among the premiership contenders, but if they go to Darwin as $1.20 favourites and lose the game, all of their critics will come from the hills. Brisbane were $13 last week but are just $4.50 in the head-to-head market for this clash. What a difference a week makes.
Cronulla Sharks vs Canterbury Bulldogs
Cronulla were left heartbroken after losing to Newcastle despite dominating the second half of that game, while the Bulldogs are the only team still without a win and are shortening by the day to win the wooden spoon. Canterbury are a $5 outsider and are being given a 14.5-point start by the bookmakers, which is an incredible figure when you consider the Sharks are 11th on the ladder. The good news for the Bulldogs is they scored 18 points for a second week in a row, so there’s some semblance of consistency at the very least.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Canberra Raiders
North Queensland are going for three wins in a row, while the Canberra Raiders are looking to avoid three straight defeats. The $1.25 price is very short for the Raiders, who have been badly beaten by the Panthers and Eels in consecutive weeks, while the $4 feels long for the Cowboys, who have been at shorter prices this season on the back of conceding 40 points. It will be interesting to see if Canberra coach Ricky Stuart makes any changes to his team after some damning comments in his post-game press conference last week. It promises to be an intriguing match on Saturday night.
Wests Tigers vs Manly Sea Eagles
The Wests Tigers put up a fantastic effort against the Rabbitohs in their last match, but they only have a gut-wrenching loss to show for it. The Sea Eagles have rebounded from a rough start to win their last two games and have rocketed into $1.47 favouritism following Tom Trbojevic’s impressive return to action. A win this week would have their season back on track, while another loss for the Tigers would put one more nail in the coffin for a season that promised so much. Wests found a way to win in round three when everyone was writing them off, but can they do it again as the $2.70 outsider to keep their season alive?
Sydney Roosters vs St George Illawarra Dragons
The most important game of the regular season takes place this Sunday at the SCG, where the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra Dragons will lock horns in front of a huge crowd for the ANZAC Day Cup. The Dragons will feel that, despite a disappointing loss to the Warriors, they stand a great chance against the Roosters and hold some value as a $2.50 outsider. The Chooks had a rough night down in Melbourne last start, but rest assured, they won’t make 15 errors again.
Melbourne Storm vs New Zealand Warriors
It’s been 12 years since these two sides first clashed on ANZAC Day, and it is a fixture that’s been dominated by the Melbourne Storm. They roared back to their best against the Roosters on the back of an impactful performance from Harry Grant and the usual brilliance of Ryan Papenhuyzen. Throw in the difficulty that any team faces when travelling to Melbourne, and it is no surprise to see the home side as the $1.12 favourite. It might be just a quirky stat that doesn’t mean anything behind their $6.50 head-to-head price, but Warriors coach Nathan Brown hasn’t beaten the Storm since 2008 – his last season as coach of the Dragons.
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