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2017 NRL Round 18 preview and expert tips

Posted on 05/07 by Joe Gann

2017 NRL Round 18 preview and expert tips

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Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs betting
Team Odds
Sydney Roosters $2.30 Bet Now
South Sydney Rabbitohs $1.65 Bet Now
The Roosters are reeling from the battering they received at the hands of a rejuvenated Sharks this week. Although Cronulla laid on a near-perfect display, it was still a defeat that will have hurt the Tricolours, and it provided a sobering assessment of their title aspirations.

Boyd Cordner was in the stands, and the Chooks will have to make do without the NSW skipper again this week for a match in which they will be keen redeem themselves and eradicate the memories of last week. It was a combination of the Roosters worst display of the season, and Cronulla’s best, with coach Trent Robinson conceding that his side was powerless to stop a marauding Sharks outfit.

To rub salt in the wounds, the Roosters have now slipped to fourth on the ladder, with the Sharks leapfrogged them into second place. A record crowd of 20,060 attended the match on the Central Coast to witness the Roosters ninth consecutive loss at the venue. It was a real boost to the game to see the enthusiasm from crowds outside of Sydney turn out and a pleasant change for the fixture to be played in front of an appreciative audience rather than in the atmosphere vacuum that is the soulless ANZ Stadium. With the form that the Sea Eagles and the Cowboys are in, the race for a top four place is about to heat up - the Roosters will need to bounce back immediately.

A scintillating performance from South Sydney put the Panthers to the sword at the weekend, and the mountain men’s season looks to have run its course as a result.

They were marshalled superbly by Sam Burgess and Adam Reynolds who delivered excellent performances, but it was Alex Johnston who stole the show - the winger became just the eighth player in club history to achieve the feat of scoring five tries in a single match. Judging solely on last week’s results, the Rabbitohs would be favourites for this one, but the Roosters will have regrouped this week after their traumatic loss.

The Bunnies are unaffected by Origin unlike their opponents who will need to compensate for the absence of big names Boyd Cordner, Dylan Napa and Mitchell Pearce; Souths have gained a new-found confidence and will be buoyant this week ahead of another stern test.

Selection: Roosters to win

Penrith Panthers v Manly Sea Eagles betting
Team Odds
Penrith Panthers $1.91 Bet Now
Manly Sea Eagles $1.91 Bet Now
To say the Panthers season has been a disappointment would be a massive understatement and the annihilation at the hands of the Rabbitohs in the last round would appear to be the final nail in the coffin of their finals hopes.

After winning four straight between rounds ten to fourteen to put themselves back into contention for a finals place, the wheels have come off in recent weeks and they are now facing the prospect of having to win at least six of their remaining nine games to stand any chance of extending their season beyond September. With a four point gulf opening up between Parramatta in eighth and Rabbitohs, Panthers and Warriors, who are all tied on sixteen points, it could be that the finals places have already been decided.

The Sea Eagles made it five wins in a row for the first time since 2013 at the weekend, helping to cement their reputation as the competition’s in-form team following a hard-fought victory over the Warriors in Perth. They will have the luxury of being able to name Daly Cherry-Evans this week, the captain has been exemplary in recent weeks and has been inexplicably ignored for the Maroons squad.

The Silvertails have scored more points down the middle of the park than any other team with their direct style serving them well this campaign; only the league leaders Melbourne Storm have scored more points so far. Their 22-16 triumph over the Warriors was achieved despite getting off the worst possible start in which they conceded three early tries.

However, the Sea Eagles stormed back to rack up twenty-six unanswered points and help ease their way up to third on the ladder. They should extend their terrific away record against a vulnerable Panthers side this week.

Selection: Sea Eagles to win

Melbourne Storm v Parramatta Eels betting
Team Odds
Melbourne Storm $2.45 Bet Now
Parramatta Eels $1.58 Bet Now
The Storm was magnificent last week as they brushed aside the Broncos at Suncorp. The crunch games bring the best out of this squad, and they produced some sublime plays in Brisbane. They were on top of their game at both ends of the field, and some fierce defence helped lay a platform for an attacking masterclass.

The whirlwind start is a hallmark of the Storm’s approach to big matches; their intent is to blow their opponents away early doors, and they cut a previously dangerous Brisbane side to ribbons. Suliasi Vunivalu again demonstrated his finishing prowess; the Fijian flyer now has a staggering 37 tries from his 36 NRL appearances. The whirlwind start is a hallmark of the Storm’s approach to big matches as they proceed to blow their opponents away early doors.

The champions-elect ooze class when they are in this frame of mind, and at times they looked untouchable. With the Origin stars missing this week, the Eels may fancy their chances at weekend. However the youngsters have exhibited the necessary qualities to suggest they have what it takes to make the step up to first grade on a permanent basis; Craig Bellamy has handed debuts to nine players already this term, the most since 2013.

They need to work on their focus at the close of games though, they have let leads slip against the Cowboys and the Roosters in previous rounds, the latter proving costly. A pleasing week was rounded off by the Roosters defeat by the Sharks that has now allowed a four-point gap to develop at the top of the ladder.

The Eels haven’t played finals football since 2009, but are making a case for their inclusion this year. The recent decline of the Dragons may aid Parramatta’s attempts to claim a coveted top-eight finish, and they will be hoping to pull off a shock win against the title favourites here.

Although unconvincing against the Bulldogs, particularly after the half-time break, it was an essential two points gained for Brad Arthur’s side. The dismal second half showing, in which they almost handed victory to the Bulldogs after surrendering a ten-point advantage, saw the Canterbury side camped in their half for extended periods. In the end, they will count themselves lucky that they prevailed in the face of an opposition who were dominant in possession.

It was Mitchell Moses who showed his mettle with a gutsy display, probably his best since joining the club, before holding his nerve to slot over a golden point match-winning drop goal. His halves partnership with Corey Norman is showing promising signs, with the duo developing a good understanding. The Injury toll worsens, however, with Manu Ma’u joining the casualty ward; the back-rower left the field injured with a leg problem after just 12 minutes and failed to return.

Selection: Storm to win

Canterbury Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights betting
Team Odds
Canterbury Bulldogs $1.45 Bet Now
Newcastle Knights $2.85 Bet Now
The Bulldogs possess an awful first half record this season; they have managed to register only 62 points on the scoreboard in the first 40 minutes of games this year, which is an average of less than one try per game.

On top of that, they have been held scoreless on five occasions, and in the last four matches, they have scored a combined total of four first-half points. It is bleak reading for coach Des Hasler, and it points to an underlying problem with motivation and match-readiness.

Second half showings are a vast improvement, but they are giving themselves an uphill task that is proving insurmountable. They are wallowing in the thirteenth and look completely bereft of self-belief, triggered by an inability to score points. Their fifth tackle options have been poor, they have no real kicking threat and continue to produce predictable set plays. The playing roster is about to be revamped, this week news filtered out that Sam Kasiano is going to Melbourne from next year as the Bulldogs continue to cull their squad in anticipation of new arrivals in 2018.

Newcastle failed miserably in their self-proclaimed Grand Final this week, and a trouncing at the hands of nearest rivals Wests leaves the Knights facing up to the all-too-real prospect of a third consecutive wooden spoon. They can point to a couple of dubious officiating calls that went against them as legitimate gripes, but they were second best for most of the afternoon.

The painful loss leaves Nathan Brown’s team stuck on the measly tally of eight competition points with a daunting list of fixtures remaining in this campaign. A season that had offered optimism in earlier rounds now threatens to fizzle out; they now lie two points adrift of the Tigers who have a bye round in hand.

Selection: Bulldogs to win

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