By Troy Whittaker (Twitter: @troywhittaker98)
The State of Origin fanfare is over and the spotlight is firmly back on the NRL as the finals approach.
While we didn’t have much luck across our NRLSCTalk picks last round, we’re back and ready for redemption with our best bets of the weekend.
Punter Problems’ analytical guru Chris Green has already highlighted two games where we have a strong lean on the points totals, which you can check out on our website.
Following on, here are another two NRL Round 18 tips that we’re confident will cash. Make sure to also keep an eye on our site for further plays.
South Sydney Rabbitohs halftime/fulltime v Canterbury Bulldogs @ $1.70 (Bet365)
At this stage, all of South Sydney’s Origin contingent (Damien Cook, Angus Crichton and Dane Gagai) have been named to back up against the Bulldogs.
And while David Klemmer is also slated to take his place in the Canterbury line-up, this is a genuine mismatch on paper.
The Bulldogs have improved markedly in recent weeks, no question. They were strong against the Knights in Round 16 and were the better team against the Raiders for all of 75 minutes last week.
But it’s a different ball game when they take on the Rabbitohs. Souths have rocketed into first place on the ladder and are easily the NRL’s most dangerous attacking side.
The stats really do tell the of the gulf between the sides.
- In attack, the Rabbitohs have made the most running metres of any team (22,876). That’s over 500m more than the Dogs.
- Souths have produced 97 line breaks, again the most in the competition, a whopping 44 more than Canterbury.
- Defence is the telling factor here. The Bulldogs have conceded the second-most run metres in the NRL. Up against the biggest metre-eaters in the comp, expect them to have to defend their own line a lot.
- And the stats say constant defence on their own line will lead to leaked points. Canterbury averages 21 conceded points per game, while Souths are scoring a tick over 25 per game.
- Of the previous eight matches that Souths have won, they led at half-time in six. If they can gain the ascendancy at the break against the Dogs, history suggests they won’t lose.
Canterbury has struggled to play premiership contenders this season. The Dogs did beat Penrith by two points in Round 4 (in a match where Nathan Cleary went off injured early) but have lost every other encounter with the current top four in 2018.
South Sydney is a very short price to collect its ninth straight win here for good reason. Though Anthony Seibold’s representative men might be a touch lethargic, his team is simply too classy not to capitalise on Canterbury’s shoddy defence.
The Rabbitohs should lead throughout this one.
Newcastle Knights head-to-head v Parramatta Eels @ $2.20 (Bet365)
The Knights may be without Kalyn Ponga, but we can’t for the life us figure out why the bookies have them such rank outsiders.
Newcastle is aided by the return of star halfback Mitchell Pearce, who will undoubtedly add direction and attacking finesse to the side. While they were beaten soundly the past two weeks, the Knights were fantastic in a tight 18-16 loss to the fifth-placed Roosters in Round 15.
They might not have won since Round 13, but the Eels aren’t travelling much better. Brad Arthur’s team has claimed just one scalp in their past eight games and three for the entire season. Coming off a bye, they may lose any momentum they had conjured.
The yearly statistics for these teams are poor on both sides of the ledger. However, it’s worth remembering that only six weeks ago the Knights thrashed the Eels 30-4. Scars will surely remain from that match.
Newcastle has won seven of its past nine against Parramatta and typically performs valiantly at home. With Pearce back on deck, we have them pencilled in to snare this one.