It’s been a few years since we included a weekly punting write-up on the site, but you guys wanted it, so here you go!
This year we are very happy to have the boys at Punter Problems providing the weekly previews. The following has been written by Troy Whittaker.
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Round 4 Preview
It’s been an exhilarating start to the NRL season and round four promises to be no different. The Punter Problems boys cast their view across the Easter weekend of footy and have formulated their best bets to help punters bring home the chocolates.
North Queensland Cowboys v Penrith Panthers
The absence of injured halfback Nathan Cleary will cruel the Panthers hopes of upsetting a classy Cowboys outfit desperate to bounce back from consecutive defeats.
Cleary’s injury pushes James Maloney into the No.7 jumper as chief organiser and takes away from his strength of running the ball. Penrith may have snatched victory in the opening two rounds after trailing 14-nil, and fell just short against the Bulldogs last week, but without their star playmaker it’s hard to see them clawing back again if they concede early points against the Cowboys tonight.
North Queensland were extremely unlucky a fortnight ago against Brisbane – coach Paul Green will still be cursing the Suncorp Stadium goalpost that denied Scott Bolton a match-winning try – and went down to a well-oiled Melbourne machine last Thursday.
The Panthers rank third in the NRL for missed tackles (115) and fifth for handling errors (12). If these statistics are anything to go by, Penrith will find themselves on the end of a lopsided scoreline as North Queensland takes full advantage of their opponent’s mistakes.
Tip: North Queensland Cowboys -10.5 @ $1.91 (Centrebet)
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canterbury Bulldogs
The traditional Good Friday battle between South Sydney and Canterbury looms as a cracker.
Souths were sublime last week as they put Manly to the sword in a scintillating 34-point attacking romp, and the Dogs held on to pip Penrith for a well-earned win.
These teams each host a number of game-breaking players, so don’t be surprised to see some enterprising football played.
Canterbury has conceded the most points out of any team this season, averaging a whopping 28 points per game, while the Rabbitohs’ matches have already twice eclipsed 40 total points. Dry afternoon conditions in Sydney bode well for expansive ball movement, and we’re confident the points will flow.
Tip: Over 44.5 points @ $1.90 (Sportsbet)
Cronulla Sharks v Melbourne Storm
This shapes up as one of the best matches of the round. Cronulla and Melbourne have a long rivalry, dating back well before their 2016 grand final clash, and there’s sure to be some feeling during the game.
Both sides are coming off last-start wins and will be hell-bent on securing another two points. Melbourne were slick in toppling the Cowboys after a shock loss to the Tigers a week earlier, while the Sharks finally notched their first victory of the season against the Eels to kick-start their 2018 campaign.
Star Cronulla recruit Matt Moylan is back after a missing last week with a hamstring complaint and adds plenty of firepower in attack.
Games between Cronulla and Melbourne are traditionally low-scoring: their last six matches have totaled less than 33 points. The Sharks only average 14 points a game this year, so if they are to win it’ll likely be tight. We expect another grinding forwards battle with tries hard to come by at Shark Park.
Tip: Under 38 points @ 1.90 (Sportsbet)
Sydney Roosters v New Zealand Warriors
Can the Warriors continue to surprise NRL pundits with their undefeated run? It looks a tough ask against a clinical Roosters team.
The Eastern Suburbs boys were outstanding as they crushed Newcastle last Sunday. New halves partners Luke Keary and Cooper Cronk combined brilliantly to lay on an avalanche of tries – worrying signs for future opponents.
New Zealand somehow got out of jail against the Raiders in round three, scoring a converted try and then kicking consecutive fields goals all inside the last three minutes for a 20-19 win.
It’s worth noting that the Warriors are yet to face a true premiership-contending side: they’ve beaten South Sydney, a lacklustre Titans outfit and the winless Raiders. Playing the star-studded Roosters is by far their biggest test.
The Warriors don’t travel well at all, having won just one from 10 matches outside New Zealand in 2017. The Roosters should lead from start to finish at home.
Tip: Sydney Roosters halftime/fulltime @ 1.80 (Bet365)
Manly Sea Eagles v Canberra Raiders
In the wake of their salary cap breach sanctions earlier this week, Manly will be determined to put their woes aside with a strong performance on the field. At the same time, Canberra need to win at all costs after an 0-3 start to the year.
It’s the forwards who hold the keys to this match. Manly’s big men were meek against Souths on the weekend and Canberra’s humongous pack haven’t dominated the ruck all season. The side whose forwards rise to the occasion will go a long way towards victory.
The Raiders certainly have points in the, and are the fourth best attacking team in the comp (75 points). Manly are in second place (78), but that’s largely thanks to their 54-point demolition of Parramatta. One area where Canberra are superior, however, is set completion. Ricky Stuart’s men sit at 78 per cent; third-best in the competition.
After being so close to winning three weeks in a row, we’re banking that Canberra can cover the spread at +5.5.
Tip: Canberra Raiders +5.5 @ 1.91 (Centrebet)
St George Illawarra Dragons v Newcastle Knights
The first-placed Dragons enter this match brimming with confidence after trouncing the Titans 54-8 to continue their unbeaten start to the year. Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop put on a playmaking masterclass, but it was their uncompromising forwards who laid the platform for the halves’ theatrics.
Meanwhile, Newcastle suffered its first loss at the hands of the Roosters. The Novocastrians tried hard but were blown off the park by a superior team. The defeat was compounded by news five-eighth Connor Watson is out for up to 12 weeks with a shoulder injury.
Newcastle will be desperate to avoid two defeats in a row, but it won’t be easy: St George Illawarra lead the competition statistically in points scored (108), tries scored (17) and try assists (14). The Saints are also the third-best defensive side in the NRL, conceding just 36 points.
On the other hand, Newcastle are the third-worst offenders for handling errors (15) and equal-third for ineffective tackles (58). Their wins in rounds one and two were dogged, but the Knights will need to up to ante considerably to compete with the Dragons. Play it safe and take the Dragons straight up here as a nice odds booster for any Saturday multi you play.
Tip: St George Illawarra Dragons @ 1.38
Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans
They may both be based in Queensland, but these teams are worlds apart right now. After a copping a shellacking in round one, Wayne Bennett’s Broncos have claimed back-to-back victories to re-establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
The Titans, after sneaking home by two points in round one, have been nothing short of dismal. They couldn’t score a try until the 70th minute in their round two loss against the Warriors and were then brutally mauled by a Dragons side that didn’t even hit top gear.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Titans. The Broncos are the Gold Coast’s bogey team – they haven’t beaten Brisbane in their last six meetings.
The Titans may improve on last week’s performance, but we don’t think they’ll do enough to get near the Broncos on Sunday.
Tip: Broncos halftime/fulltime @ 1.62
Wests Tigers v Parramatta Eels
Two dour teams that have yielded extremely different results over the opening rounds.
While the Tigers have strangled teams to death with watertight defence, and should still be undefeated if not for the refereeing blunder that cost them in golden point last Friday, the Eels have imploded in attack and hardly looked like crossing the try-line as they remain winless at the foot of the ladder.
The Tigers have scored only one try in each of their three matches and kicked a handful of penalty goals for a measly total of 27 points, while the Eels have scored just 18 points the entire season – and 14 of those came in round one!
Based off these meagre attacking stats, we’re confident of taking the unders here, and will happily circle it as the best bet of the round!
Tip: Under 38 total match points (Sportsbet)
For more in-depth analysis and focus pieces throughout the weekend, make sure you’re following @punter_problems on twitter for all the weekend’s top plays.
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