Competition leaders Melbourne Storm and in-form Newcastle Knights square off on Saturday night at AAMI Park in the match of NRL Round 14.
Things get underway with a showdown between Canberra Raiders and Cronulla Sharks on Thursday night.
With eight games to look forward to, we guide you through the Round 14 action:
Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks
Canberra Raiders will look to cement their place in NRL’s top four and make the most of home advantage when Cronulla Sharks visit the nation’s capital on Thursday night. Both teams head into this encounter on the back of last-start victories, with Cronulla beating Parramatta Eels 42-22 at home in a high-scoring affair and the Raiders having taken care of Wests Tigers with a 28-0 shutout. Cronulla won both meetings last season and it is now wins in four of the last five head to heads for the Sharks, but they go in as underdogs with the Raiders looking good value to end that run on home turf.
Prediction: Raiders win ($1.80 TopBetta)
Gold Coast Titans v New Zealand Warriors
The Titans caught the Broncos on a bad day and completed a 26-18 shock win at Suncorp last Sunday. Meanwhile the Warriors held a 10-point lead on The Storm before suffering yet another second-half collapse to go down 32-10 in front of their home crowd. Things have changed somewhat since their last encounter, a 36-12 win for Gold Coast in Round 20 last year, with Titans playmaker Ash Taylor still on a leave of absence, Michael Gordon out injured and now a bold move switching Tyrone Peachey from the centres to the back-row. It’s make or break time for the New Zealand boys who must win away games like this if they are to be any threat to gaining a top-eight spot this year.
Prediction: Warriors win ($1.87 TopBetta)
North Queensland Cowboys v Wests Tigers
What appeared to be a winning half-time lead turned sour in the second forty minutes for the Cowboys as they watched a 20-12 lead turn into a 22-20 loss to the Manly Sea Eagles last week. The Tigers followed a 51-6 hiding by the Eels with another loss as the Raiders did something similar with a 28-0 win. The week off in between those defeats did the Tigers no favours as they failed to score a point against the Raiders. This will have to change drastically if they are to keep pace with a Cowboys side who can score plenty in front of their home crowd. The Cowboys’ home ground record isn’t too flash this year, losing four so far. But they do have a very useful bench here and that could prove the difference between the two sides.
Prediction: Cowboys by 1-12 ($2.80 TopBetta)
Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights
Can the Knights win seven consecutive games for the first time when they travel south to face top-of-the-table Melbourne on Saturday afternoon? Melbourne have won their last six games against Newcastle and their last four by a margin of 18 points or more. The Knights should be able to make it closer this time, but winning seven on the trot away from home against a team they traditionally struggle against by prove a step too far. I’m backing Melbourne home in a tight one.
Prediction: Storm by 1-12 ($2.95 TopBetta)
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Penrith Panthers
The Panthers put on their best performance of the season to defeat the reigning premiers 19-10, making it three-straight losses for the Roosters. Meanwhile the Rabbitohs became another scalp for the high-flying Newcastle Knights, who scored a convincing 19-10 win over Wayne Bennett’s men. They’re not quite the same team as they were last year, but the Panthers have won their past three games and are improving every week. Another win here would put them right in contention for a top eight spot and this is a golden opportunity for them as they face a severely weakened Rabbitohs line-up. It’s hard to ignore the Panthers at the line.
Prediction: Panthers +5.5 ($1.90 TopBetta)
Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos
After disappointing losses last week, who will step up and return to the winners circle when the Eels and Broncos clash on Saturday night? The Eels will relish a return to BankWest Stadium and will be hoping a big home crowd can spur them on to victory. These two sides have split their last four meetings at two wins apiece, and going by their respective performances last week, this one is anyone’s guess. I give the slight advantage to Parramatta at home.
Prediction: Eels win ($1.73 TopBetta)
Manly Sea Eagles v St George Illawarra Dragons
Manly will be out for revenge and to break a four-match losing run to the Dragons when the two sides square off on Sunday afternoon at Lottoland. It should be another tight game, but I fancy the Sea Eagles at home. I’m not convinced the Dragons are back after a win over a poor Bulldogs side, while Manly showcased big mettle to outlast the Cowboys away last week. With Trbojevic back and Cherry-Evans confident, the Sea Eagles should be able to dig out the win here and avenge their Round 6 loss in the process.
Prediction: Manly by 1-12 ($2.95 TopBetta)
Sydney Roosters v Canterbury Bulldogs
What better way than to recapture your groove by facing the NRL’s cellar dwellers? At least that’s what the Roosters will be hoping as they attempt to snap a three-match losing streak when they face old rivals Canterbury on Sunday. Canterbury were blown away by a 36-12 scoreline against the Dragons last week and could be in for another throttling against a Roosters side determined to re-establish themselves as a force.
Prediction: Roosters by 13+ ($1.80 TopBetta)