2017 NRL Round 21 preview and expert tipsPosted on 26/07 by Joe Gann
Weekly Expert Betting Tips - Join our free mailing listNRL Round 21 expert tips and best bets - 2017
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Penrith Panthers v Canterbury Bulldogs betting
The injury to Matt Moylan comes at the worst possible time, just as his combination with Nathan Cleary is beginning to bear fruit, they will be hoping for the skipper to make a speedy recovery. Victory on Saturday saw the mountain men draw level on points with the Dragons temporarily although the Red V regained their lead on the back of their thumping win over the Sea Eagles the following day – Penrith have now won seven of their last nine without yet really finding top gear.
They can look forward to two attractive fixtures against the Dogs and Tigers next, and they will need to extract maximum points before they undertake a more challenging set of fixtures from Round 23 onwards.
The Bulldogs have been busy accumulating an unwanted list of statistics as their dreadful season limps to its miserable conclusion. They have now lost seven of their eight away trips, including the last five straight, their worst run since 2008. Not since 1989, have Canterbury offered so little in attack with a mere 12.7 points scored per game. Des Hasler has delivered finals football in each of his last five seasons including grand final appearances in 2012 and 2014, but they have lost eleven times this season - the fifth consecutive season they have done so - and lie in twelfth with only a mathematical chance of finals participation.
The stark figures reflect a grim season at Canterbury.
Selection: Panthers to win
New Zealand Warriors v Cronulla Sharks betting
|New Zealand Warriors|
That doesn’t help his club much though, and although they still boast the talents of Kieran Foran and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, the absence of Johnson significantly weakens the effectiveness of this side. The onus is on Mason Lino as he attempts to fill the void left by the influential skipper, an unenviable task for a team struggling to keep pace in the race for a top-eight berth.
The defeat at the hands of the Panthers at the weekend was catastrophic to their hopes; their traditional strong form during the Origin period has failed to materialise this year, winning three from six, a frailty that may come back to haunt them.
Cronulla kept up their top-four pursuit with a solid 26-12 over the Rabbitohs in Round 20. With rivals the Cowboys, Broncos and Roosters maintaining their consistent form coming into the business end of the season, any slip will be pounced upon. They have kept their place in the top-four courtesy of the Dragons’ destruction of the Sea Eagles, but with James Maloney forced out of the action for a minimum of the next three rounds after suffering a hand fracture, the Sharks will desperately need a contingency plan to cover his absence.
That may come in the form of regular centre Jack Bird, who is considered the favourite to be deployed in the halves alongside Chad Townsend, satisfying his appetite to be ‘closer to the action’; the primary reason for his decision to join the Broncos next year.
It could prove to be an inspired switch, one that reawakens the Premiers from their slumber this season.
Selection: Sharks to win
Parramatta Eels v Brisbane Broncos betting
The season ending ACL injury sustained by Clint Gutherson has come as a crippling blow to both player and club; after making the full-back role his own this season, his absence will be a huge loss for the Eels finals charge. They are certainly capable of winning the three of six games they will likely require to confirm their finals place, although they face an extremely tough encounter this round against an impressive Broncos team.
Andrew McCullough has received praise this week after a tremendous attacking performance in the Broncos’ Thursday night win over the Bulldogs. It was an area of his game that has been identified as having the potential for improvement by Australia coach Mal Meninga, and the Kangaroos selectors can’t help but be impressed by the hooker’s development.
Although five of the Broncos' last six games are against teams currently in the top eight, only one game is outside Queensland in their run to the finals, and that arrives this week against the Eels. It is hard to back against Wayne Bennett’s men claiming one of the precious places that will earn them home ground advantage and a crucial second chance in the elimination phase; Corey Oates and Herman Ese Ese should be back this week from thumb and knee injuries respectively to boost their chances.
Selection: Broncos to win
Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons betting
|St George Illawarra Dragons|
A contentious decision from the bunker to award a try to Daniel Tupou helped shift momentum the way of the Tricolours, and it was extremely harsh on a Knights side that had more than held their own up to that point. The blow took the wind out of the Novocastrians' sails, and it was their 2018 recruit Connor Watson who rubbed salt in the wounds of his next club by crossing the whitewash to seal the game.
The Dragons breathed new life into their season with a stunning win over top four candidates the Sea Eagles. It was a match that witnessed a bizarre flurry of points scoring – the Dragons were 30-0 up at half-time before a ferocious Sea Eagles fightback saw them score four tries in the opening ten minutes of the second, three of which were scored while reduced to twelve men.
Gareth Widdop delivered yet another phenomenal performance and was at the heart of everything good for the Dragons, producing three try assists, a ninety-metre intercept try, a 40/20, a forced a goal-line dropout and contributed fourteen individual points, all before half time. His form and fitness are inextricably linked to the Dragons chances of success this year.
The win has released the pressure that had begun to build following a lean spell of four defeats from six- they will need to win three of their last six to guarantee a finals place.
Selection: Dragons to win
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Canberra Raiders betting
|South Sydney Rabbitohs|
The Bunnies remain stuck in fourteenth place, a position where they will, in all probability, finish the season.
Jordan Rapana is facing a one-week suspension for a shoulder charge on Nelson Asofa-Solomona, joining teammate Josh Papalii who is serving the second week of his suspension following his shoulder charge on Josh Dugan. Sia Soliola has been referred straight to the judiciary on a dangerous contact charge for his assault on Billy Slater and will have his case heard on Tuesday evening.
Selection: Raiders to win
Sydney Roosters v Nth Queensland Cowboys betting
|Nth Queensland Cowboys|
The Tricolours were beneficiaries of a dubious bunker decision to run out winners against the luckless Knights, cementing their chances of a top-two spot. With a critical series of games on the horizon - starting with the Cowboys this week, followed by Manly, Storm and the Sharks before the season is out - the incentive of home advantage in the finals is an enormous motivation to finish the regular season in the best possible fashion. This week's opponents remain hot on their heels.
The Cowboys’ big guns have rallied since Johnathan Thurston's injury to ignite their faltering campaign - and they are now one of the competition's form teams on the back of four wins in a row. This is crunch time for Paul Green’s troops, they find themselves comfortably in the top eight but are tantalisingly close to an infinitely more desirable fourth place.
They also have a tricky run of fixtures coming up, with the Storm, Panthers, Sharks and Broncos all waiting in the wings to attempt to halt their considerable recent progress. Powerful running from the forwards – namely Jason Taumololo and Coen Hess has laid the groundwork for the purple patch as the Cowboys' resurgence continues apace.
Selection: Cowboys to win
Melbourne Storm v Manly Sea Eagles betting
|Manly Sea Eagles|
A pectoral injury forced the captain from the field – although it was later revealed to be more of a precautionary measure, the veteran rake is a doubt for this round, in what will be his milestone 350th appearance. It was the first time Smith has featured in less than fifty minutes for the club since 2009 – a testament to his fitness and consistency.
With the possibility of having to do without two such vital members of the team, the Storm will need to be especially wary of a wounded Sea Eagles this weekend. Bad blood between the two stretches way back and the traditional animosity will no doubt be present again at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Sunday’s harrowing loss to the Dragons prompted Silvertails supremo Trent Barrett to describe the outing as ‘embarrassing’ and ‘NYC standard’. As a consequence, they crashed out of the top four placings, with every defeat having the potential to be extremely costly at this stage.
Timing is all-important as they attempt to build the momentum necessary to peak at the optimum time of this campaign and although one defeat hardly constitutes a crisis, a substantial loss can easily lead to a dip in form and confidence. The Sea Eagles perversely looked a better outfit with twelve men against St George, running in three unanswered tries after the break despite the inferior numbers. They need to rebound and prove that this was a rare off day – however, no team has ever won the title after conceding fifty points in a game in the same season.
Manly are up against history, but the first thing Barrett will expect is that his team has learned their lesson with a trip to the league leaders next up.
Selection: Storm to win
Gold Coast Titans v Wests Tigers betting
|Gold Coast Titans|
They now require an unlikely five wins from the next six games, and with Konrad Hurrell exiting the game with a serious hamstring injury, their chances of success have been hampered further. It now leaves their goal of a top eight finish out of reach, and it would take a massive shift in circumstances for them to have any chance of making up the ground – the insurmountable gulf of six points now stands between themselves and the Dragons.
The Tigers managed another strong effort against the Eels on Sunday. Unfortunately, their endeavour went unrewarded in a narrow loss - a story that epitomises their season. Ivan Cleary announced that he is happy with improved recent performances, running the Sea Eagles, Sharks and Eels close, and winning the basement clash against the Knights.
Their better goal line defence has been key in Wests remaining competitive throughout the tail end of the season, and although it 's hard to see them climbing any further up the ladder before the year is out, the foundations are being built for a more positive campaign in 2018.
Selection: Titans to win
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