By Troy Whittaker (@troywhittaker98)
We’re officially past the quarter mark of the 2018 season, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s to expect the unexpected. The shock results are gradually calming down, making punting that little bit easier.
There’s plenty of value to be had in Round 7 – and as always, you can find it in the Punter Problems Cheat Sheet.
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Canterbury Bulldogs v Sydney Roosters
It’s hard to get an accurate read on the Roosters. One week they’re unstoppable; the next dismal. They were the latter last week against South Sydney and were very lucky to only lose by 12.
After their previous two losses this season, the Roosters rebounded the next match to win by 30 points and 18 points respectively. Under-fire coach Trent Robinson will desperately hope the trend continues.
The Bulldogs are coming off their best performance of the year to date, a slick 27-10 upset over North Queensland. However, it was only the club’s second win so far and will mean little if it isn’t backed up with another strong display.
This is the second meeting between these clubs this season: they faced off in round two when the Roosters ran out 30-12 victors. The last six matches involving the Roosters and Bulldogs have totalled over 40 points. We’re expecting another high-scoring affair tonight.
Tip: Over 40 match points @ $1.88 (Centrebet)
New Zealand Warriors v St George Illawarra Dragons
This match was supposed to be the battle of the undefeated, and all was going to script when the Dragons dismantled Cronulla last Friday night.
But the Warriors endured a shock loss to the Broncos, leaving the Dragons in outright first place as the only perfect team left.
St George Illawarra leads the competition for points, tries and line breaks, and is ranked second defensively. While both teams have been impressive, the Dragons are the more complete outfit across the park. They will again field an unchanged side.
The Dragons have won 13 of 14 matches against the Warriors since 2008 and 20 of 25 overall. It should be a cracking game, but we’re backing the big Red V to extend its winning streak to seven.
Tip: St George Illawarra Dragons @ $1.83 (Bet365)
Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm
Following mixed starts to the season, the Broncos and Storm looked their old selves on the weekend with resounding wins. Melbourne trounced the Knights 40-14 while Brisbane ended the Warriors’ undefeated season with a 27-18 triumph.
The Storm pieced together a near-flawless opening 40 minutes against the Knights and will be difficult to stop if they maintain that form. Halfback Ryley Jacks directed the side well in his first game of the year, laying on two try assists and taking considerable pressure off Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.
Brisbane will be tested on the edges and the absence of back-rower Matt Gillett will take a toll. Though the Broncos’ attack is slowly improving, it’s still among the worst in the competition (96 points scored, 14th in NRL).
Melbourne has won 25 of the last 31 games against the Broncos, including seven in a row at Suncorp Stadium. Given these stats, it’s tough to overlook Melbourne here.
Tip: Melbourne Storm -3.5 @ $1.91 (Centrebet)
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canberra Raiders
The Rabbitohs were very impressive against the Roosters in round six, utterly dominating in the forwards. Sam Burgess is back from suspension and Cameron Murray is likely to return from injury, adding more power to the imposing Souths pack.
Despite losing their opening four games, the Raiders are now shooting for a third-straight win. An in-form South Sydney side presents the biggest challenge of late for the Green Machine, who are yet to win away from home.
Souths lead the NRL in all run metres, post-contact metres and tackle breaks. If the Bunnies can continually roll downfield in this one, expect Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds to exploit Canberra’s brittle edge defence.
It’s set to be a dry track in Gosford on Saturday afternoon and expansive football will be on the cards. South Sydney has too much strike-power in key positions and should do enough to win against the spread.
Tip: South Sydney Rabbitohs -3.5 @ $1.70 (Sportsbet)
Newcastle Knights v Wests Tigers
The Tigers are bursting with confidence after demolishing Manly to record a 5-1 start in 2018. The Knights were soundly beaten by the Storm last week, but showed some promising signs and will quietly fancy their chances here.
Though the Tigers won the previous two matches between the clubs, the Knights took out five of six matches before then. Newcastle’s gritty style of play could drag the Tigers into an arm-wrestle, providing home side with its best chance of snaring a win.
Wests have only passed 12 points on two occasions this season – against last-placed Parramatta and 12th placed Manly – while the Knights haven’t scored more than three tries in a match.
We expect Newcastle to rise to the task on Saturday night, and if they do, over 40.5 match points looks a lofty total. We’re happy to take the value on the Unders.
Tip: Under 40.5 match points @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
North Queensland Cowboys v Gold Coast Titans
Who would’ve thought the Titans would be four competition points clear of the Cowboys come Round 7?
North Queensland sunk to an embarrassing loss to the Bulldogs on home turf last week, leaving them languishing in 15th place with a lone win. Meanwhile, the Titans remain one spot adrift of the top-eight after their two-game winning streak was comfortably snapped by Penrith.
We’ve mentioned it in every weekly preview so far, but the Titans’ missed tackle count in defence is what worries us most about their ability to win consistently. With 206 misses, the Gold Coast is the only team to crack the unfortunate double-century milestone in 2018.
Field position and extended time in the opposition’s 20m zone is needed for the Cowboys’ bumbling attack to click, and they should have plenty of both if the Titans continue to allow easy metres. We’re taking the Cowboys in this one as a nice multi-booster.
Tip: North Queensland Cowboys @ $1.53 (Centrebet)
Parramatta Eels v Manly Sea Eagles
When these teams met in round two, it was a bloodbath by way of a 54-0 romp to the Sea Eagles.
Since then, both clubs have hit major turbulence. The Eels, of course, because of their horrid winless form, and the Sea Eagles for a mixture of poor performance and off-field chaos.
It’s a clash of desperation and we expect it to go down to the wire. Four of the last five matches between Parramatta and Manly have totalled less than 36 points.
We’re backing history to repeat and will lock in the Unders in this one.
Tip: Under 40.5 match points @ $1.90 (Bet365)
Cronulla Sharks v Penrith Panthers
The high-flying Panthers head to the Shire on Sunday as they look for a fourth consecutive win.
Cronulla limps into this game after having four key players leave the field injured against the Dragons last week – Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham and Andrew Fifita. Lewis and Fifita have been named for this clash pending fitness tests and will be aided by the long turnaround, but Graham and Gallen are out.
In the Sharks’ favour is a good record over the Panthers. They’ve won the last three against the mountain men and eight of the last 10.
Cronulla has also won the previous three matches with the Panthers held at Shark Park. We think they’ll do enough again at home to win with the start.
Tip: Cronulla Sharks +6 @ $2 (Bet365)