By Troy Whittaker (@troywhittaker98)
Despite only four NRL matches being played this weekend in an Origin-affected round, there’s still plenty of value across the board.
Find out where Punter Problems believes the money is for Round 13 and State of Origin I in the previews below.
Manly Sea Eagles v North Queensland Cowboys
Both teams suffered heart-breaking one-point losses last weekend and will hope to rebound strongly. The Sea Eagles, currently in 12th position, are still in finals contention but badly need to string wins together as the back-end of the season approaches. Their task becomes more difficult against the Cowboys given the absences of Tom and Jake Trbojevic, who are both in Origin camp.
North Queensland also has three rep players missing – Michael Morgan, Coen Hess and Gavin Cooper – but importantly, halfback Johnathan Thurston is on deck. Expect the champion halfback to prove he’s still a force. Premiership-winning North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote returns to the top grade and will be out to impress.
The Cowboys have been much improved in recent rounds and should be on a two-game winning streak if it wasn’t for extreme bad luck. They’ve won five of their last six against Manly and have nothing to lose if they throw caution to the wind. Take the Cows with the start.
Tip: North Queensland Cowboys +2.5 @ $1.91 (Palmer Bet)
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Cronulla Sharks
Cronulla is the hottest team in the competition right now, having collected six consecutive wins. Scarily for every other team, they haven’t had a full-strength squad on the park since Round 7. Apart from losing prolific try-scorer Valentine Holmes – who is ably replaced by Sosaia Feki – the Sharks are virtually unaffected by Origin.
The same can’t be said for South Sydney, with captain Greg Inglis, hooker Damien Cook, centre Dane Gagai and back-rower Angus Crichton all out on rep duty. South Sydney is also in sizzling form but the loss of these four stars cannot be underestimated.
Prop Andrew Fifita returns for Cronulla and will be refreshed after a week’s rest. Five-eighth Matt Moylan enters this match following a career-high performance of six try assists in the Sharks’ 48-10 demolition of Newcastle. He plays his 100th NRL match on Friday and will be keen to continue his rejuvenation after a slow start to the year. Also adding to the Sharks’ advantage is the fact they’ve won three of their last four against Souths.
Given the firepower missing for South Sydney and Cronulla’s irresistible form, we simply can’t see the Sharks losing this one.
Tip: Cronulla Sharks @ $1.63 (Unibet)
Parramatta Eels v Newcastle Knights
They might have lost their past four matches and still remain tethered to the bottom of the ladder, but the Eels start this match as heavy favourites. For us, this is great news, as we really favour the Knights here.
Newcastle was utterly smacked by the Sharks in Round 12, but the Novocastrians have proven they’re a quality football side when on-song. They hold an iron-tight grip on the Eels, winning eight of the teams’ last 10 match-ups. The Eels have also been swamped in drama this week with Corey Norman dropped due to breaking a club alcohol ban. The plucky fullback/five-eighth is a massive source of attacking creativity for the Eels and his absence will be felt.
The Knights haven’t defended well in the past month, but against an abhorrent Eels outfit, they should get the job done.
Tip: Newcastle Knights @ $2.70 (Unibet)
Sydney Roosters v Wests Tigers
Looking at the scoreboard alone, you’d think the Roosters were coming off a resounding victory over the Titans. And while they did attack brilliantly at times in the second stanza, they started the game very sluggishly – going into half-time down 14-6. If they do the same against the Tigers, the result may not end as favourably. The Tigers, too, struggled in the first half against the Bulldogs before sneaking home in the final 20 minutes.
These teams met in Round 1 this season, with the Tigers causing a shock upset on that occasion by two points. They’re in the box seat again here given the Tri-Colours are missing rep stars Dylan Napa, Latrell Mitchell, James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner – although they do get winger Daniel Tupou back. Regardless, Wests don’t have any players involved in Origin and are at full strength.
We think it will be close – but the Tigers should take the chocolates on Sunday.
Tip: Wests Tigers @ $1.83 (Unibet)
NSW Blues v Queensland Maroons
It’s hard to pick a straight-out winner here given the huge changes across both sides. However, one thing we think we can count on is a tight contest. Each game in last year’s series totalled under 35 points, and five of the past six have been below that mark.
If you’re looking for safe value, take Under 38.5 points at $1.50 (Sportsbet). It might not strike you as an enticing price, but it’s a very bankable option – especially since we won’t know much about how either side performs until after the series opener.
Tip: Under 38.5 points @ $1.50 (Sportsbet)